TONY MELTON: Electric fence can foil deer

March 17, 2019

This is that “Deer, Deer, Deer” time of year. Deer are out searching for something green, lush, and tasty to eat.

I am always out way before sunup and nothing is more disheartening than running 10-15 deer out of a field of strawberries, snapbeans, English peas, etc. Last week I took a group of farmers on a tour of my vegetable area at the Pee Dee Research & Education Center and my deer fence and deer control was one of the highlights.

First. we looked at my deer fence, which surprised the crowd since it was only 5 feet tall and not 10 feet tall like most would think and only consisted of two main and three secondary electrified wires. In fact, I could just get by with the two main wires one at 1.5 feet 3 feet to the outside of one 3 feet tall on the inside. This works because unless a deer is being chased by a dog or coyote they enter a field with their heads down, so they can detect something good to eat. Therefore, the deer’s head will contact the low wire and if she misses it her head will hit the taller wire on the inside. Most of the deer will be does and their heads are the most sensitive to electric shock.

Next, the secret to this fence is to have the fence installed and the electricity on before you ever plant any crop in the field. Never allow the deer to get a taste of something good to eat in the field or it becomes very difficult to keep them out. Even with my complaining, other folks that work in my area tend to leave the gates down and not turn on the electricity, so I have a continuous fight to keep deer out of my area. So, I get me a jar of peanut butter and ride around my fence applying a small amount on the outside wire about every 10 feet. Deer like people cannot resist the smell of peanut butter so when they lick the wire it knocks them to their knees and they don’t come back for a while.

Next, deer like some crops more the others. I have found that deer will walk across all other crops to eat sweet potatoes and snapbeans. If you can get sweet potatoes past the transplant stage to where the plant is running, then they can take a good amount of foraging. When snapbeans are small deer will wipe out a good stand quickly; however, before fruiting they can take a small amount of foraging. Also, think about your cover crops. For instance, I call clover “deer candy” and it is one of the reasons we have so many deer killed on our roads. Today you can purchase many commercial products containing hot peppers, rosemary oil, mint oils, onions, etc., to keep deer out of fields.

Finally, if all else fails, farmers can get special depredation permits from DNR to reduce the number of deer in their fields.

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political belief, sexual orientation, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer. Email Melton at amelton@clemson.edu.