Georgia Wildlife Resources Division
2070 U.S. Hwy. 278, SE, Social Circle, GA 30025
In some cases, significantly reducing deer populations may not be practical, and even low numbers of deer sometimes cause problems with cultivated plants. The most reliable way to prevent deer damage over the long term is to fence deer out with either a conventional deer proof fence or an electric fence. Ideally, fences should be constructed prior to nuisance deer problems. This may minimize any established feeding behavior.
An ideal deer proof fence should be constructed of woven wire at least 8 feet high. Building and maintaining a deer proof fence can be expensive ($6 to $10 per foot) and labor intensive, but a well-constructed fence will last for many years. Shorter fences may be appropriate in certain situations and can be constructed out of less expensive materials but effectiveness may be compromised. Temporary fencing material may work well in certain situations. Several factors should be considered when choosing a fence including fence design and costs, deer density, crop or landscape value, and aesthetics. Plans for fence designs are available at Game Management offices statewide.
Amore economical method of excluding deer may be with an electric fence. Electric fences should be constructed of highly visible polytape wire and quality fencing components. Tying or stapling together broken polytape strands will easily repair damaged fences. For best results, a New Zealand style charger delivering a minimum of 5,000 volts should be used to power the fence. They provide high voltage for good shocking power and low impedance that helps avoid shorting out by vegetation or ground contact. Chargers are available for AC (household current), DC battery (6-volt, 9-volt, or 12-volt), or solar power. Several fence designs are available using from 1 to 5 or more strands of charged wire. Higher deer populations typically require more charged wires because deer are hungrier and more difficult to deter.
The Peanut Butter Fence, a single or multiple strand electric fence using high visibility polytape with peanut butter smeared on it, may be used on a temporary basis for low-density deer populations. In some cases, a single strand fence has proven effective for several years. The fence should be checked daily for breaks in the wire until deer learn to avoid it. The single polytape wire should be 34 inches above the ground and attached to stakes or posts spaced about 25 feet apart. The bait, spread directly on the fence or dabbed on aluminum tags attached to the fence, lures deer to touch the wire with their noses or tongues and receive a memorable shock. Bait should be applied as needed but at least every 3 to 4 weeks. A variation of this fence substitutes Hinder or Deer Away repellent for peanut butter, and in recent studies is shown to be effective at repelling deer. Polytape fences are portable, have a life expectancy of more than 15 years and can be installed for $0.10 to $0.25 per foot.
The Pennsylvania Five Wire fence has proven effective even in areas with high deer populations. The bottom wire should be no more than 10 inches from the ground with the remaining wires 12 inches apart. If the bottom wire is more than 10 inches high, deer can crawl underneath. Posts should be widely spaced (30 feet) to avoid the appearance of a fence. This will encourage deer to walk up to the fence and be shocked rather than jumping over it. With pressure-treated pine posts, this type of fence can last for 35-40 years, making it a low cost, low maintenance device. Installation and material costs range from $0.50 to $2 per foot. Fences can be constructed on a slant to increase the width of the fence. The slant will increase effectiveness but is more complicated to construct and requires additional vegetative control.
Perceived high cost is the major objection of many farmers and gardeners to electric fences. However, simple designs are often inexpensive and effective in controlling deer damage. Designs using electroplastic wire and high output chargers are also affordable. A single strand fence can cost only 15 cents per linear foot for materials. A more effective three-strand fence costs only a few cents more per foot. For example, a 500 X 500-foot field containing almost 6 acres could be fenced with a single strand of electroplastic, high visibility wire for about $300, or with a three-strand fence for about $400. This investment would last many years and should give good control of deer damage. Assuming a 10-year life expectancy, even a three-strand fence would cost only $40 per year or about $7 per acre. Such a fence certainly would be cost effective for control of browsing on high value crops such as orchards, vegetables, or ornamental shrubbery.
Deer often are attracted to freshly plowed fields. Electric fences erected after plowing but before planting may condition deer to avoid fields before they begin browsing on new growth. With any electric fence design, maintenance is crucial. Vegetation should be cleared for 3 to 4 feet around the edge of the wire with herbicides or weedeater. This cleared strip will encourage deer to come in contact with the fence instead of jumping the vegetation and fence. If batteries are used, they should be replaced often to maintain full power. Information on electric fencing components and designs is available at many agricultural supply and hardware stores as well as from your local DNR Game Management or County Extension Office.
Wrapping trees or placing tubes or tree shelters around the trunk of the tree will effectively reduce browsing. This protection also reduces antler-rubbing damage which typically occurs in the fall as bucks are entering the breeding season and marking their territory. Effective tree wraps or shelters range from commercially-available plastic wraps to home remedies such as burlap, a cylinder of wire, or 4-6 inch diameter plastic drain tile. This type of exclusion is particularly important for protecting high-value individual plants such as nursery, orchard or landscape trees. Remember, it is very important to protect the terminal bud; so building a 5-foot tall cylinder around a 2-foot tall seedling makes good sense.