Fencing Out the Deer!

by Gary Mount

When I started farming 21 years ago, deer were “horrible” in North Jersey, “bad” in Central, and “no problem” in the South. Now farmers statewide find it hard to live with the critters.

Since I’m not much of a shooter (neither through inclination nor effectiveness!), I’ve relied on fences to keep deer at bay for the past 18 years. At first I tried electric fencing. By golly, it worked. . . for a while! Unfortunately, the deer learned to defeat the permanent electric fence, and it became less effective each year.

In the past few years, I’ve been more successful in the never ending “deer wars.” One approach is a “temporary” electric fence. The fence is temporary since the property owner from whom I rent 25 acres to grow sweet corn, pumpkins, etc. insisted that any fence be taken down each year after the harvest. He also rents the same land to deer hunters, who pay more than I do! I was amazed by how well this combination of electric fencing/no fencing kept out the deer!

After the harvest, the fence wires are unhooked from the insulators, taped to prevent tangling, and laid on the ground. The deer run through the fields, eat the left-over pumpkins and sweet corn, and take their chances with the hunters. The next spring, as crops emerge, it takes two people about two hours to restore the fence. This system appears to be a good solution for annual crops. It seems to owe its success to the fact that each year the fence is “new” to the deer! So, for the cost of about $1660, I’ve had good deer control for the past three years.

For permanent plantings, such as apples, fences are needed all year. Therefore, in our 26-acre apple orchard, I put up a second type of fence – an eight-foot high woven wire barrier. Debate about this type of barrier fence usually focuses on height. How high should it be in order to be effective? After all, deer can jump an eight-foot fence. But, in my experience, they just don’t. This fence is not “high tech”, and it does add a “penitentiary” look to the farm. However, at a cost of $11,754, it is permanent, low maintenance, and has been very effective in keeping out the deer, which, after all, is the main idea.