Georgia Wildlife Resources Division
2067 U.S. Hwy. 278, SE, Social Circle, GA 30025
Repellents are the most commonly used method of preventing unwanted deer browsing on small acreages. Both home remedies and commercial repellents have been used with varying degrees of success. There are two general types of repellents: 1) area repellents that produce a noxious odor and 2) contact repellents that are offensive-tasting to deer. Both types of repellents are more effective if applied before deer browsing begins. It is much easier to discourage deer from feeding on certain plants than to interrupt established feeding patterns. A variety of repellents are available for discouraging deer, but most are effective only on small acreages such as home gardens. Expense, inconsistent effectiveness, and limitations on application make most repellents a poor choice for large-scale agricultural crops.
Human hair is used by some as a repellent, however its' effectiveness is uncertain and/or short-lived. Hair should be placed in mesh bags or socks and suspended from plants to be protected or hung around the perimeter of cultivated areas. Bags containing about 1 handful of hair are placed at a height of 2 to 3 feet and spaced about 3 feet apart. Bags should be replaced several times during the growing season. Hair can be obtained easily and inexpensively from barbershops or beauty salons.
Instead of using hair, use the whole animal! A dog confined by an invisible fence or tethered in the yard or around the garden may frighten away deer or other intruders.
Milorganite is partially composted sewage that has been dried at an intense heat. It is also a high quality, slow-release fertilizer. Apply about 5 lbs. per 100 square feet at two to four week intervals. It is reported to work well in spring and summer, but may be less effective in winter. Milorganite may be purchased from most landscape and garden supply stores.
Animal wastes or by-products, such as rotten meat scraps, blood meal and feather meal are placed in cheesecloth, nylon bags or such and suspended from plants or posts. These substances also can be spread on the ground or mixed with water for direct spray-application. Blood meal will act as a deer repellent and can fertilize your plants at the same time. Some success has been reported but many of these substances are found in nature and their effectiveness is uncertain.
About 4 to 6 raw eggs thoroughly mixed with one gallon of water can be sprayed directly on plants to repel deer. This simple, inexpensive treatment is often very effective, particularly for ornamentals, nursery stock, or small gardens. Try mixing raw eggs with liquid soap, hot cayenne pepper and garlic. Be sure to strain the mixture carefully before running it through your garden sprayer. Always test the mixture sparingly on a plant before making a wholesale application. The mix may damage some tender plants.
Some orchards have discouraged deer browsing by hanging bars of soap from trees or shrubs once per season. One paper-wrapped, motel-sized bar of deodorant soap per tree or shrub will work for individual trees. Drill a hole in the soap, tie a string or fishing line to the hole and suspend soap from a limb so that it hangs about 4 feet above the ground. Effective area of protection is about 3-feet. Irish Spring soap hung in a nylon stocking seems to be a popular favorite, but any scented soap probably will work. Deer may be more repelled by the animal fats used in soap making than with the actual perfume scent of the soap. Scented soap melted in water and sprayed directly on plant leaves also is reportedly effective.
Mothballs (naphthalene) or flakes also may be suspended in mesh bags or spread on the ground as area repellents. Mothballs should be replaced as they evaporate. Their effectiveness is questionable outdoors because the odor dissipates rapidly. Household ammonia is a general wildlife repellent. Rags are saturated with ammonia and put into milk jugs with cutout holes. These jugs are placed around the perimeter of a garden or small orchard and may serve to repel deer.
There are generally two categories of commercial repellents: odor and taste. Each type has different benefits depending on the situation. Other factors to consider when choosing a repellent include: if it is appropriate for edible plants, how easily it "sticks" to the plant, durability (how long it stays on the plant), and expense. Repellents are more effective when applied before browsing begins and effectiveness of almost all repellents can be increased by use of a commercial sticker/spreader. Effectiveness will vary depending on weather conditions, amount of deer pressure, type of plants to be protected, and persistence and ingenuity of the applicator.
When selecting a repellent, determine its ingredients-both active and inert. Several tests of repellents show that those emitting a sulfurous odor (e.g. predator urine, meat proteins, garlic, eggs) were most effective in repelling deer, particularly during the summer time. If you are protecting edible plants, most odor-based repellents that use garlic or egg-based are quite safe for edible plants and do not impact the fruit. Taste repellents (typically containing bittering agents) not only make the plant taste bad to deer, but may make produce taste bad to people. Some taste repellents are systematic in function, meaning the repellent is absorbed by the roots and spread throughout the plant thereby lasting 2-3 years with one application. Additionally, be sure to determine how often the repellent should be applied and if repeat applications are necessary following a rain or watering event. Repellents in granular forms or in dispensers (such as garlic oil clip on dispensers) may be more desirable from an application standpoint. Lastly, determining the cost of the amount of repellent necessary to temporarily protect your plants is strong consideration for most.
Remember, variety is important when it comes to repelling deer by not letting them become accustomed to any one smell or condition. A combination of repellents and scare tactics is usually the most reliable, temporary deterrent to deer browsing. However, hunting and electric fencing have proven to be the most cost effective deer protection in the long-term. Many varieties of commercial repellents may be purchased locally at department, hardware, lawn and garden, or farm supply stores as well as online or contact the local WRD Game Management office for suggested retailers.