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How to Keep Deer Out of Your Yard & Garden: A Complete Guide [2023]

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how to get rid of deer

Deer are everywhere. Today, you can’t take a drive or go a day without seeing them standing in a field, grazing in someone’s yard, or hopping across the road.

While deer may be harmless to most people, gardeners know them as voracious nuisance pests that can destroy flowers and vegetables in no time.

If you, like many homeowners, are wondering how to keep deer out of your yard and away from your garden, you’ve come to the right place.

In this blog, we’ll break down the top DIY and conventional deer control methods and help you select the right choice for your property.

Safety Considerations

  1. When applying repellents, ensure they are not accessible to children and pets. 
  2. Securely erect fencing or electric fences to prevent accidents, and perform regular maintenance to avoid injuries to both humans and deer.
  3. Refrain from using inhumane or dangerous methods like poisoning, which is illegal in many areas and poses risks to other wildlife and pets.
  4. For severe issues, consider hiring a wildlife management company.

How to Keep Deer Out of Your Yard & Garden

Try these natural, humane, DIY options to get rid of nuisance deer:

1. Exclude Deer

Fencing

A good fence is the most effective way to keep deer out of your yard. Remember that deer are agile jumpers, and adults can easily leap 7’ or more, so good deer fences must be at least 8’ tall.

Additionally, deer can squeeze through small gaps, so the spaces in your fence must be smaller than 6”x6”. Fencing your entire property is a great way to enjoy extra privacy and deter deer from entering.

If there are areas you’d like to protect, install an electric fence. This will keep deer away without the cost of a full-blown deer fence.

Electric fences can be especially helpful in the spring when deer are nursing fawns and looking for food to help them regain the weight they lost during the winter.

During this time, they’ll consume as much high-protein, high-moisture vegetation as possible, making vegetable gardens a very likely target. If you plant things like lettuce and beans, install an electric fence around your garden to protect it from deer. The same goes for orchards, as deer love to feed on tender young buds.

Additionally, keep your yard and garden clean. Trim tall grass to reduce shelter for deer, pick fruit and vegetables as soon as they’re ripe, and clean up any fruit that falls from trees. Discard all crops immediately after harvest.

Pros: Effective, long-lasting, humane

Cons: High-quality, deer-proof fences are expensive and time-consuming to install

Netting and Cloche Wire

If you want to protect individual plants, bulbs, or bushes, you can wrap them in netting or use cloche wire baskets to protect them.

To protect young trees, use store-bought trunk wraps to prevent deer from feasting on the bark.

Pros: Effective, suitable for small areas that need protection, such as garden beds

Cons: Not appropriate for larger spaces

Fishing Line

If you’re looking for a cheap, localized exclusion option, consider stringing fishing line around your beds. For best results, run several lines of fishing monofilament about 2-3’ above ground level.

The deer will feel the tension of the line but be unable to see it, which will encourage them to choose another area to feed.

Pros: Easy, cheap, humane

Cons: Should be used in conjunction with other exclusion methods

2. Repel Deer

Deer have a strong sense of smell, which you can take advantage of to keep them out of your yard. Here are a few tips to use a deer’s sensitivity and eating habits to your advantage:

  • Plant strong-smelling perennials to create a natural border. Use herbs like mint, lavender, garlic, and chives to repel deer naturally and mask the smell of more appealing annuals.
  • Plant thorny, prickly, or hairy foliage. Deer won’t eat what they can’t reach. Plant prickly borders to keep them out of your garden (barberries are a great option) that discourage them from entering.
  • Choose deer-resistant plants. Instead of planting hostas, plant heucheras. Use boxwoods, bamboo, and nandina for vibrant green backdrops. Swap roses for peonies or ornamental grasses, and trade common spring bulbs for alliums.
  • Use repellent formulas to protect plants. To keep deer from destroying your garden, use repellents (such as this one) on favored flower varieties. These repellents smell or taste bad and can keep deer from ruining your garden.

In addition to foliage repellents, homemade deer repellents can be as effective as store-bought varieties if you use them correctly.

Here are a few of our favorite DIY deep repellents:

  • Hot peppers or hot sauce
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Garlic powder
  • Rotten eggs
  • Coyote urine
  • Fabric softener trips or wrapped bars of strong-smelling soap (hang them from fruit trees to discourage deer predation)
  • Garlic
  • Ammonia
  • Blood meal

If you’d prefer to purchase a pre-made repellent, there are dozens of non-toxic commercial varieties available.

There are two tricks to keep in mind when using scent-based repellents.

First, be sure to switch your repellents up frequently. This keeps the deer on high alert and prevents them from getting used to a particular smell.

Second, apply the repellent generously and often, especially after you water your garden or whenever it rains.

In addition to scent-based repellents, we also recommend considering scare tactics. Motion-activated light, sound, or water-emitting products (like sprinklers) can keep deer out of high-interest areas without harming them or damaging non-target species.

We’ve found this product to be particularly effective in our field test. It’s a durable weather-resistant, motion-activated sensor that releases a surge of water to naturally repels nuisance animals like chipmunks, dogs, deer, groundhogs, and more.

Pros: Affordable, non-toxic, humane, safe for deer and non-target species

Cons: Requires regular re-application, can be expensive if you’re purchasing store-bought deterrents

How to Prevent Deer in Your Yard

Plants under a protective net

Here are a few of our favorite ways to keep deer out of your yard in the first place:

  • Protect your vegetable garden, especially in the spring. At this time of year, deer are nursing fawns and looking for food to help them regain the weight they lost during the winter. As such, they’ll consume as much high-protein, high-moisture vegetation as possible, making vegetable gardens a very likely target. If you plant things like lettuce and beans, install an electric fence around your garden to protect it from deer. The same goes for orchards, as deer love to feed on tender young buds.
  • Plant strong-smelling perennials to create a natural border. Use herbs like mint, lavender, garlic, and chives to repel deer naturally and mask the smell of more appealing annuals.
  • Plant thorny, prickly, or hairy foliage. Deer won’t eat what they can’t reach. Plant prickly borders to keep them out of your garden (barberries are a great option) that discourage them from entering.
  • Choose deer-resistant plants. Instead of planting hostas, plant heucheras. Use boxwoods, bamboo, and nandina for vibrant green backdrops. Swap roses for peonies or ornamental grasses, and trade common spring bulbs for alliums.
  • Keep your yard and garden clean. Trim tall grass to reduce shelter for deer, pick fruit and vegetables as soon as they’re ripe, and clean up any fruit that falls from trees. Discard all crops immediately after harvest.

What About Deer Poison?

When it comes to controlling deer, exclusion and repellent methods are the best and most effective options.

While some people try to get rid of deer via poisoning or shooting, these options are dangerous, inhumane, cruel, and ill-advised.

Poisoning deer introduces highly toxic substances that are unsafe for use around kids or pets.

Additionally, deer are highly diverse and flexible eaters, so it can be challenging to get them to consume the poison.

Finally, using poison to kill deer is inhumane and illegal in many states.

Shooting deer presents similar problems. Even skilled hunters can botch shots, causing pain and suffering for deer and lethal danger for animals and people in the surrounding areas.

Additionally, it’s illegal to shoot deer without a permit to do so, either during hunting season or during the general season.

How do Wildlife Removal Companies Get Rid of Deer?

Worker is installing a net

If you’re tired of dealing with your deer infestation on your own, you may hire a wildlife removal company to help with the process.

Here’s what you can expect from an expert team:

Step 1: Inspection

While deer live everywhere, no two deer infestations are the same.

Because of that, wildlife removal companies start their services with a comprehensive inspection.

During this inspection, the team will visit your property, assess the current level of deer predation, and create a treatment plan.

Step 2: Treatment

Next, the wildlife removal company will deploy their chosen control methods, whether they’re using exclusion or repellent options.

These treatments will be tailored to your needs and your property specifically.

Step 3: Follow-up

As needed, your wildlife removal company will deliver follow-up treatments to keep deer off your property and help you reclaim your space.

Are Deer Invading Your Backyard? We’re Here to Help

Deer can be a gardener’s worst nightmare. Despite their placid appearance, these pests are voracious eaters that can destroy an entire summer’s harvest in a single night.

Fortunately, you don’t have to resign yourself to deer predation forever.

Whether your DIY efforts have failed, or you just want more support, contacting a wildlife control expert to help can be a great idea.

Fortunately, we have a broad network of reputable partners in your area that can help you get rid of deer quickly and humanely.

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Deer Control FAQs

Wondering why your backyard is suddenly a deer sanctuary? Here are a few things that may be attracting them:

1. Food

Deer eat about 6-8% of their body weight in green foliage daily, so they tend to show up in backyards that offer plenty of food.

While deer can (and do) eat almost anything, their favorite foods include fruit trees, rhododendrons, taxus, hawthorn, flowering dogwood shrubs, juniper, blackberry, sunflower, geraniums, and spicebush.

If you’ve got any of these in your landscaping, deer will likely see your yard as an all-you-can-eat buffet.

2. Water

Deer also need a reliable water source, but they’re not picky about how they find it. They’ll happily drink out of kiddie pools, birdbaths, ponds, and anything else they can find.

3. Shelter

As prey animals, deer prioritize shelter. They like to sleep and feed on residential lawns that border wooded areas, fields, thickets, and grasslands since those areas provide them safety and shelter in which to live, sleep, and raise their babies.

Deer can be extremely damaging to your lawn and garden. Here’s how they can impact your property:

  • Deer populations can strip vegetation and cause starvation for other species. When deer populations grow out of control, they can over-browse vegetation and change the natural composition of an area. This reduces plant diversity and can cause food scarcity and eventual starvation for other animals.
  • Deer carry diseases. There are seven subspecies of deer native to North America, and two of the most common are the black-tailed deer and the mule deer. Both species are vulnerable to ticks, which carry diseases like Lyme disease—as such, having deer in your yard may increase the risk that you, your kids, or your domestic pets will come into contact with infected ticks.
  • Deer can damage trees and plants. Deer will damage trees by rubbing their antlers against them. They also feed voraciously on plants and vegetables common in backyards and can decimate a vegetable or flower garden in a single night. In rare cases, deer can damage yards by digging for grubs.
  • Deer can cause dangerous accidents. Deer living in backyards in urban areas can cause dangerous and potentially deadly car accidents by leaping in front of moving cars as they cross roads.

A deer in a backyard

Need help determining if you have deer on your property? Look for these signs:

  • Signs of deer predation. When deer have been feeding in the area, you’ll notice missing leaves or cleaned stems on your plants up to a deer’s maximum reach (about 6’ in height). You may also see that your plants are missing new growth.
  • Droppings. Deer scat in your yard will look like tiny brown/black pellets. If the deer have been consuming lots of leafy greens, the excrement may clump together.
  • Scrapes. In the weeks leading up to the breeding season, deer will make “scrapes.” Scrapes are bare, triangle- or oval-shaped patches of ground under overhanging branches. The deer form the scrapes by pawing away leaves and debris covering the soil. Once they’ve made a scrape, they rub their scent onto it, so other deer will know they’re in the area.
  • Rubs. Male deer mark their territory by rubbing their antlers against trees. This creates “rubs” (areas of exposed wood or scarring on trees) that are easy to spot with the naked eye.
  • Deer tracks. Deer tracks are heart-shaped when viewed upside down. The side of the track is convex, and the tips of the hooves bend toward the inside of the track.

While there’s no scientific evidence to support the claim that coffee grounds keep deer away, deer do have a strong sense of smell. Fortunately, coffee grounds pack a bitter punch.

If you’d like to try this home remedy, consider adding it to your lineup of store-bought and DIY repellents.

Even if the coffee grounds aren’t the most effective deer repellent option, they are nutrient-rich, packing high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which are good for your garden!

Deer are skittish prey animals, so sudden noises can be a great deterrent option. For sound-based deterrents to be effective, though, they must be sudden. We recommend motion-activated alarms that go off when they sense deer in the area.

Deer carry a variety of diseases, including Q fever, chlamydiosis, leptospirosis, campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis, cryptosporidiosis, and giardiasis. Deer also carry fleas and ticks, which may be infected with Lyme Disease. 

zachary smith crop

Author Bio: Zachary Smith

Zachary Smith is the founder of PestDude.com. Zachary is a licensed pest control professional with 20+ years of hands on experience eradicating pests from homes and businesses. Zachary earned his Bachelor of Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2002. He specializes in rodent and insect infestation management of structures and landscapes. His passion is to share his extensive knowledge with the world.

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