Eradication: The first line of defense is to minimize the size of the deer herd. Allowing all legal hunting means and methods does this. Secondly, if possible, a deer damage permit is to be obtained annually from ODNR for the maximum number of permits obtainable. This permit allows any type of deer to be taken any day, any hour, and with any type of weapon.
Protection: All valuable trees, plants and shrubs should be fenced to prevent browsing and rubbing. This protective fence should be kept in place year around unless it is just to protect from rubbing and then the fence should be place in late August and kept in place until the end of the rut or until spring.
Prevention:Wireless Deer Fence (WDF): This device has proven very nearly to be 100% effective. It utilizes a deer attractant pellet to attract the deer to the area you wish to protect and to the WDF. Once they are attracted to the device their habit would be to smell or lick the device. In either case they are rendered an electrical shock that trains them to stay away from the protected area. This could be a twenty-five foot radius of the device. The batteries need to be changed annually and the attractant pellets every 30 days. This scheduled must be maintained otherwise the pellets loose their ‘attractant ability’ and the deer (with somewhat of a limited memory span) will again start browsing the area without getting shocked. Because of the frequency required to replace the attractant pellets on sixty WDF devices, we have ceased using this device in favor of Tree Guard Deer repellent spray. This is a very economical device as you only have to purchase it once and the batteries and pellets are very inexpensive and the labor is minimal. Also, it is effective in the winter and heavy rains don’t affect its ability to maintain its effectiveness. The score for both effectiveness and cost is “A”. To purchase, or for additional information visit www.wirelessdeerfence.com.
Tree Guard repellent spray: Tree Guard is the most effective spray repellent we have used. It is the most bitter substance yet invented by man and the deer don’t like it! It needs to be applied just as soon as there is new growth on the plants that deer like and two additional times on the new growth and then again in early September. Then, you are pretty well set for the season. We also make an application in November on rhododendrons, ornamental conifers and shrubs that deer like to browse in the winter. It is somewhat problematic to apply, as you don’t want to do it in the wind, as you want the material to stick to the plant. The carrier for this bitter substance is a clear latex material that does not ‘rain off’ and actually enhances the appearance of the plant. No material can be left in the sprayer as it will get hard like latex paint and ruin your equipment. It is fairly expensive and somewhat problematic to apply. I would rate it an “A” for effectiveness and a “B” for cost and application requirements. To purchase, or for additional information, go to www.bugpage.com. This is the only product we are currently using and are having 100% success.
Electronic Deer Deterrent: This product is a solar powered sound emitting device that has the lowest life cycle cost, requires no servicing or maintenance, and is stated to work year around in all weather conditions. It is about the size of a small birdhouse, is not unattractive, and is mounted about five feet high on a 4 x 4 wood post. The area of coverage is projected to be one half acre. This product sounds the best of all products but as this is written ours have been installed for two years and the results have been 100% ineffectiveness. Deer come directly up to them as if attracted as opposed to being deterred. We give this product and “F” for both cost and effectiveness. To purchase, or for additional information, contact Ivy Products, LLC, P.O. Box 7933, Wilmington, N.C. 28406. Telephone 800-472-9401.
Deer Scram: Deer Scram is a granular material that emits the odor of dead deer to other deer and causes them not to enter the area that has been protected by the material. It is applied by a drop type lawn fertilizer spreader and is expected to last thirty to forty-five days. It is also said to be effective through up to eighteen inches of snow. It also has fertilizing properties. One of its greatest weaknesses is that a hard and heavy rain can wash it into the ground and cause it to be ineffective and will then require it to be reapplied to be effective. This is both time consuming and expensive.
We first started using this material November 1, 2004. To date our experience has been less than perfect. Let me explain. After a January 1, 2005 application, which we had hoped and expected, to last ninety days as we were in the south and even if we were here application in the heart of winter is not what I desire to be doing. In January we had nearly nine inches of rain and therefore had no protection until we were able to reapply on April 1, 2005. We had a moderate amount of browse damage on rare conifers and ornamental trees. After the April 1 application we had three inches of rain and again lost our protection and have had more than a moderate amount of browse damage on hostas and ornamentals, which then necessitated an additional application.
The material is somewhat expensive, fairly easy to apply (but requires application every 30-45 days and after heavy rains) and has unacceptable results to date as a result of not being able to reapply immediately after heavy rains. Rated effectiveness is “C” when you have the ability to follow the application instructions, ease of application is “B”, frequency of application is “C” and cost is “C”. To purchase, or for additional information, go to www.deerscram.com. We have ceased using this product entirely as of this date.
Conclusion: Over the years, many other products have been tried with limited or no success. The products described above have performed so as to provide very effective deer control. Every method (or better yet, combination of methods) requires dedication, commitment and the expenditure of funds and labor. Less than total commitment and you will get less than satisfactory results.
During the elapsed time (5.5 years) since this was initially written we have distilled our deer control methods to three. They are as follows:
1. Eradication: Obviously this isn’t always possible, but if it is, it is an important leg of this ‘tree legged stool’.
2. Fencing: Even though this is a costly process in both labor and material, it is 100% effective. We continue to fence hundreds of plants and trees every fall to prevent browse and scrape problems.
3. Repellent application: Application of DEER GUARD (previously called TREE GUARD) starting early in the spring when the Hostas first emerge and as needed during the season provides us 99.9% success against deer browse.
It is regret that I must report the only truly effective deer control product (Deer Guard) is no longer available and most likely will not be in the future. In the spring of 2011 there was a flood that crippled the manufacturing facility in Wisconsin.
As part of the permitting process for rebuilding EPA insisted on such onerous restrictions that the company determined that it would not be possible to continue in business as it would no longer be viable.
The formula of the product was a latex carrier that would remain on the plant throughout the season and the secret ingredient was a very very bitter substance called Bitterex. There is no company today that makes a similar product. Should there be a product that can be utilized with the same effectiveness that becomes available we will post it on this site—after effectiveness testing.
UPDATE – JULY 4, 2016
Much time has elapsed since my last update on our deer control program. That does not mean that we have been inactive in our deer control program or that there is any less pressure from the ever increasing deer herd in our area.
Our program for winter browse and scrape protection is totally the use of Plantskydd soluble-Powder Concentrate. We apply in late October and it provides protection through April when we switch to our summer program. Go to their web site ( www.plantskydd.com) for further details.
The same product works equally well from spring through fall but only lasts three to four months. You may require three applications during the season. Go for it!
We no longer need to fence any plants for winter protection.
We have been successful in securing the recipe for the original TREE GUARD an/or DEER GUARD product as well as the sources for the ingredients. We mix our own solution and have been utilizing it the past two years with complete success. Unfortunately, to secure this information it was necessary for me to sign confidentially agreements which precludes me from sharing this information.