Deer Proof: Boot Camp for Humans

Tired of waging war on wild deer? Plants are expensive, making that venison roaming your yard some pretty pricey stuff. So, it’s no surprise you want to make it deer proof, but to win the battle you need to understand Bambi and his habits. Like any proper soldier, it helps to know the best way to approach your enemy and win. Troops don’t go to the front without time spent in training camp, and you need a little educating to be victorious over those doggone deer who think your yard is a diner.

Understanding Deer Pressure

When there’s lots of things for deer to eat, your yard is actually under less pressure than when food is scarce. When most plants go dormant for the cold season, or in times of prolonged drought, your suburban yard is much more appetizing than when food is more plentiful and variety is greater. Faced with dried twigs and spicy evergreen shrubs they would normally pass over, that less palatable, juicy arborvitae foliage is at least more interesting than half dried leafless stems.

But you can train your neighborhood deer, and the best time to start is at the season’s change – when the pressure is at it’s greatest. It’s the perfect opportunity to get the upper hand. And if you do it right, it is possible to gain long-term control over deer with a lot less effort.

Timing Is Everything

Fall and spring are the most dramatic changes in a deer’s diet. This is the best time to teach them what’s what. Break out the deer repellents, which work because deer judge whether food is harmful or not by taste and smell. Notice that no mention of fear was made? Because it’s not the approach that’s going to win this battle for you.

If you spray thoroughly in fall as dormancy is coming on, and in spring when new growth is appearing – they will learn that there’s nothing of interest here at a crucial point in habit development. If nothing smells good as they browse for the next hot spot to feed, they mosey off to other places and don’t bother to return until it’s time to hunt down new sources of food again.

It’s not true that the secret to having a deer proof garden or landscaping is having a bunch of different ways and sprays for effective protection. You don’t need to switch up on them! Here’s the reason why those old-time deer repellent tactics are so short-lived. Deer might not be brilliant, but they aren’t stupid. Spooking them with aluminum pans, radios, urine, soap, or hair only works for a few days or weeks. The tantalizing aromas are still there, and as soon as the deer realize the threat is not real, they’ll waltz right past whatever you’ve rigged up, and commence to chow down.

Of course, deer repellent sprays that wash off in every rain are no good either. At least the pie pans don’t melt under the sprinkler or a cloudburst. No one has time for constant reapplication of smelly preparations, and if you’re buying it, it’s certainly not a cost effective way of keeping deer away from your flower garden or landscaping. But not all deer repellents are the same! There are a few that have excellent staying power, don’t stink to high heavens, and are highly effective. Check out our Best Deer Repellent Review for details.

Follow The Directions

Don’t spray deer repellent on wet leaves and expect it to work – it can’t stick like it should, and the excess moisture will dilute the solution. Don’t spray if it’s going to rain before the application can dry as long as the label says it must to be water resistant. It should be a no-brainer that you can’t do any watering while the repellent is drying and curing. Pay close attention to how the label says to apply it. Depending on the product you’ve chosen it could be some thing like: “to the point of run-off”, “thoroughly wet all over”, or “a good mist over the surface of the plant”. They wrote it that way for a reason, just like they listed a drying time for a reason.

Check the weather before you spray. If rain arrives without warning, reapply it as soon as the plants are thoroughly dry again. Don’t try to stretch out what’s in the bottle to save money when it should be applied heavier – it’s not saving a penny when the stuff isn’t on heavy enough to be effective. Be prepared to reapply a few days to a week earlier than the label states, AND to touch-up spray new growth as it emerges… which is a little light spray to the tops of stems and branches about every 5-7 days early in the season, and more like 10-14 days later in the summer.

Winter Deer Proofing

In many places there will be times when it is impossible to spray as a deer deterrent. Freezing temperatures in winter certainly won’t make applying repellents possible, but you can create a temporary barrier for very little money. Wrap the evergreens they eat over the winter in burlap pinned in place with nails. It might not have the aesthetic value you wanted from those evergreens, but it’s certainly better looking than half eaten shrubs! Especially if you do a neat and tidy job of wrapping. And it is an effective way to keep deer from eating everything that doesn’t go dormant in your yard. It is also likely to be allowed in HOA by-laws where fencing would not be allowed.

Then there is the damage to tree trunks in early fall from horn rubs. Since they’re not eating it, deer repellent doesn’t work to protect them. Burlap won’t be of much use in this situation either, but your can temporarily wrap your tree trunks in hardware cloth to stop bucks rubbing their horns from ripping up the bark. It’s generally the small trees they choose for this purpose – anything with a bare trunk that is 3″ wide or less. Make sure it can’t slide around so the wire mesh doesn’t tear off bark while being rubbed on.

Image courtesy of slgckgc

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