Growing and maintaining agricultural fields, no matter what the crop, can be an incredibly rewarding experience. However, every farmer out there has likely experienced the frustration of dealing with pests trying to take advantage of their hard work. Deer in particular can cause a substantial amount of damage. During the growing season a typical adult deer will eat anywhere from 6 to 10 pounds of food per day, making the issue of how to best keep them at bay a popular topic in the ag industry.
There are several different methods of protecting your crops from deer, some certainly more effective than others, but worth touching on nonetheless.
There are many different types of deer repellents thought to detract deer from destroying crops. Certain aromatic plants, such as marigolds and rosemary, have been suggested as natural repellent options. Predator urine or other chemical based substances - available in many hunting and agricultural supply stores - also can be sprayed on or near agricultural fields. However, the main issue with repellents such as these is that more often than not, they simply don't work or the deer become desensitized enough to simply ignore them. As a result deer repellants fail to provide a long term solution and require re-application which can become burdensome and costly.
Shooting and Hunting
The way it used to work many years ago, is that if a pest was damaging your property you had the right to eliminate the threat by shooting it on site. However, overtime laws and regulations became more strict, making this option not viable in many states and counties without the fear of legal repercussions.
Many states offer hunting seasons where you can pay to help maintain a healthy and sustainable deer population. The hack with this method, however, is that it really does nothing to protect your fields on a day-to-day basis. Hunting seasons are limited, leaving your crops vulnerable for most of the year. So while hunting may be an enjoyable pastime and responsible conservation process, it doesn’t provide the year round protection that agricultural fields require.
Perimeter Deer Fencing
Truly the best long term solution to protecting your fields and avoiding devastating damage to your crops is perimeter deer fencing. When planning your deer fence it’s important to bear in mind that deer can jump considerable heights - clearing a 10’ tall barrier wouldn’t be difficult for an adult deer. Deer can also squeeze through small spaces so avoid leaving too much space between the fence and the ground - 10 to 12 inches for electric barriers and about 6 inches for non-electric fences - and no gaps should be present at any point in the perimeter fence.
You'll find that the best deer fences are made with tall, appropriately-sized wood posts paired with thick gauge wire fencing/netting. Keep in mind that your posts will need to be sunk into the ground about 2' - or according to local building codes - so plan appropriately if you're aiming for an 8' to 10' tall deer fence.
Stick with 5" round posts for the corners for maximum longevity and 4" elsewhere, though you may want 5" on all posts if you have deer, elk, or even moose that put a lot of pressure on fencing. Sourcing quality treated wood posts for your deer fence is extremely important. We recommend Agri Max treated wood posts, which are treated for ground contact and kiln dried before treatment to ensure maximum life expectancy.
Also don’t skimp on the quality of wire or netting. Deer are strong and if motivated can break through barriers that are built with inferior products, not suited to keep wildlife at bay - 12.5 gauge high-tensile wire is your best bet.
Also when designing your perimeter fence make sure to alot for suitable clearance between the forest's edge and the deer fence - 5 to 6 feet of space is ideal. This perimeter space will help improve visibility and avoid deer blindly running into the fence, risking damage to your barrier and harm to the deer, if your deer fence is placed too close to the wooded areas.
So while there are many different options out there for maintaining the integrity of your fields by keeping deer away, only a strong perimeter deer fence provides a long term, durable solution. Just be sure to choose materials that are designed for maximum longevity and are strong enough to handle accidental impact if a bold deer decides to give it a try. Agri Max treated wood posts in combination with high gauge wire, both supplied by Pine River Group, will give you the strong support for a tough, effective fence to finally end deer-related damage to your fields and crops.