Gardening

Dad’s trick: how to keep deer out of your garden or yard (with video!)

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Trying to figure out how to keep deer out of your garden or yard? Thankfully, my clever dad figured out a simple trick that only costs a few dollars and has been 100% effective at keeping deer out. No matter your circumstances or budget, the information in this guide will help you figure out the best ways to deter deer for your unique circumstances!


Before diving into the humorous story of how our family (thanks to my dad) finally figured out how to keep deer from destroying our plants, let’s take a look at the big picture… That’s because there isn’t one SINGLE way to keep deer out of your yard, garden, or property. Silver bullets may work on werewolves, but not on deer. 

Rather, there are a number of effective methods, strategies, and products that can repel deer. How YOU get the best results deterring deer is going to be unique to your specific circumstances. So you’ll need to choose what makes sense in your situation AND know a bit about how deer “work.” 

"Can you show me the way to the tomato plants, please?" Photo CC license credit Heath A on flickr. / dad's trick: how to keep deer out of your garden or yard

“Can you please show me the way to your tomato plants?” (Photo CC BY 2.0 license credit Heath A on flickr.)

7 questions to ask yourself BEFORE you try to deter deer 

Again, there is no one-size-fits-all way to keep deer out of your garden or yard. So before formulating plans, ask and answer these seven questions: 

1. How large is the space you’re trying to protect from deer?

For instance, protecting a rural 2 acre property is going to require a different approach than protecting a 4′ x 10′ raised bed in a residential area. 

2. Are you only trying to keep deer from eating a few specific plants?

Maybe you just want to protect the heirloom rose plant your grandmother gave you, but you don’t care if deer eat the other plants in your yard… Protecting single stand-alone plants can be done with different methods than protecting a larger area.   

3. Are the plants you’re protecting edible or ornamental plants? 

The methods you use to protect your edible leafy greens that YOU want to eat may be different than the methods you use to protect a hedge of inedible hydrangeas. 

4. How important are aesthetics to your deer-deterrent choices? 

You might not give a darn how ugly your deer-deterrent methods are so long as they work. Or you might want to win your neighborhood’s “yard or the month” contest, in which case certain deterrent methods are a no-go. 

5. How important are local regulations or HOA restrictions? 

Before going all-in on a big or expensive effort to deter deer, make sure your plans don’t violate local regulations/ordinances or your HOA guidelines. (This consideration mostly applies to methods like fences or other physical barriers.)

6. Do you have established plants/spaces you’re trying to protect or are you starting from scratch?  

If you’re starting from scratch, it could be easier and more affordable to take steps like only planting deer-resistant plants or installing a new fence without having to tear down old infrastructure. However, you can still deter deer from established garden areas and yards using various other methods.     

7. What’s your budget? 

If you only have a budget of $50 to fight deer, someone telling you to put up a new $10,000 wood fence isn’t very helpful. Don’t worry: there are plenty of methods to keep deer out of your garden and yard that are very affordable!   

How deer work (so you know how to deter them)

Now that you’ve answered the seven questions above, it’s important you know a little about how deer work. Otherwise, it will be hard for you to figure out how to effectively deter them from a meal on your property.

When are deer most active? 

Deer are most active at dusk and dawn. They tend to bed down and sleep more at night and during the day.

However, they’re slightly more active throughout the night than they are during daytime, with some variance by season and whether they’re rutting (mating). For a deeper dive, the National Deer Association has a helpful visualization that shows deer activity by season and mating cycle

How much do deer eat and why do they cause so much damage? 

A deer has to eat 6-8% of its bodyweight in plant material each day. That means an adult deer can eat over a dozen pounds of plant foliage per day. (Think about how many leaves from your fruit trees and vegetable garden plants it takes to add up to 12 pounds!)

Also, deer are social animals that form small herds. Thus, a small herd of deer that needs to collectively consume many dozens of pounds of plant material each day can cause enormous damage to home gardens and landscapes — especially with repeat visits. 

Making matters worse, in many areas of the US, the number of deer per square mile is far higher than a healthy ecosystem can support, thus making the deer desperate to eat anything. By wildlife biologists’ modest estimate, 5-15 deer per square mile is “healthy.” However, some suburban areas have been found to have up to 39 deer per square mile! (Source

EASTERN WHITETAIL DEER - DOE AND THREE FAWNS AT BACKYARD APPLE TREE.jpg

A doe training the next generation where to shop for food. Related: the tender young buds and leaves on apple trees and other fruit trees are a favorite food for deer. Males may cause additional damage when they rub their antlers against the tree trunks in the fall. (Image by TeaberryeagleOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link)

How do deer sense the world? 

Deer hear and smell the world far more keenly than they see it. They also significantly rely a lot on touch as they move through their environment.        

No, deer are not blind. In fact, deer have better night vision than people do, but their eyes don’t operate quite the same as a human eye. You have “predator eyes” on the front of your head. Your eyes give you a 120-degree view of what’s in front of you. Human eyes then zoom in on a specific point and everything else around that point blurs.

However, deer have “prey eyes” on the side of their heads that give them a 300-degree view. But they can’t clearly see the 60-degree view that overlaps between the input from both eyes.

This means deer are really good at spotting movement from relatively far away and from a very wide field of vision. (Helpful for detecting a wolf trying to sneak closer from a distance.) However, when it comes to having clear, focused vision on something right in front of them, their eyes don’t work very well. 

Deer Night.jpg

“Yes, I’d like to order more of your day lilies please.” (Image by Iwctoys at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

Dad’s trick: how my dad finally defeated his local deer

My dad lives next to a golf course. There are dense forests that give way to open grassy areas, and a neighborhood chock full of ornamental flower beds, shrubs, and edible gardens. Ecologically speaking, this ecosystem is considered “edge habitat.”  

White-tailed deer (our common native species) are considered “edge animals.” They’re ideally suited to occupy the edges of forests and grasslands/meadows. At dusk and dawn, they’ll forage in the open, plant-rich boundary zones, then settle back into the forest or thickets to rest and hide.

My dad’s yard is full of gorgeous rose bushes and lilies, aka deer candy. Much to his dismay, these plants were frequently ravaged by deer. Determined not to yield to defeat, he went shopping at lawn & garden stores to find a fix.

The salespeople were quite happy to sell him products that claimed to be the cure-all for deer… Scented sprays, motion-triggered ultrasonic noise and light devices, etc.

He also tried putting fur from his dog on his most prized plants, hoping the smell of a ferocious predator (a frequently-groomed 20 pound King Charles spaniel) would scare away the deer.

All these remedies had one thing in common: none of them worked.

Fishing line? 

Lesser men would have given in to despair, but dad invoked his inner-Winston Churchill and soldiered on.

He used the magic of the internet, he consulted farmers, golf course maintenance professionals, and anyone else who could possibly offer solutions to defeat the enemy.

It’s unclear who ultimately provided the idea for the secret weapon that would lead to victory (there was a lot of incoming intel to sort through), but whoever you are, you deserve a medal.

Dad’s trick that ultimately led to victory? Fishing line.

Yes, fishing line. 15-30 pound test, invisible fishing line to be exact (which you may already have or you can buy now via Amazon).  

How do you install fishing line to deter deer?

You simply string the fishing line about 3 feet above the ground attached to stakes. Important note: the lines should be hung a few feet OUTSIDE of the bed(s) you want to protect, not right up against the plants. 

How to hang fishing line to deter deer

A graphic to show you how to hang fishing line to deter deer. A second line hung at 2′ can also help, especially with younger deer. See video below!

You can use metal or plastic stakes that blend into your garden, making the whole setup virtually invisible to the human eye. Start by inserting 48″ tall stakes about 8-12″ deep into the ground around the area you want to protect. Then tie your fishing line between the stakes about 3′ high. 

(Here are the 48″ garden stakes we use — they’re long-lasting and equally useful for other garden tasks as well.)

Watch video! Fishing line trick to keep deer out:

 

How does the fishing line trick keep deer out of your garden?

If you read the “how deer work” section earlier in this article, the fishing line trick makes sense. Basically, deer can not see the fishing line that’s right in front of them. They can smell your delicious garden/landscape plants and see a blurry version of that lush, green goodness.

They start to approach the sumptuous meal you grew for them. There’s no sound, smell, or sight of danger anywhere around. They move in for the feast…

Then suddenly, something right in front of them that they hadn’t detected (the fishing line) brushes against their fur. What the heck – run Bambi, run!

And that’s it.

Your garden plants have been saved and the memory of the frightening encounter is etched into the deer’s memory. You emerge from your house in the morning to a clear and glorious view of victory – no deer damage! (If this happens to you, please thank my dad!)

Is the fishing line trick 100% effective against deer? 

The fishing line trick is simple, easy, cheap, and can be used to protect anything from an individual plant to a whole garden. It’s also the most effective method we’ve used to protect our own edible landscape, and we know lots of people who’ve had similar success. Thus, the fishing line trick is a great place to start for most people who are trying to figure out how to keep deer out of their garden or yard.

However, the fishing line trick might not always be 100% effective depending on:

  • how dense your deer population is (hungry deer competing for scarce resources can become very brazen),
  • how frequently deer come back to feed (after brushing against fishing line without harm a few times, a deer may learn not to go elsewhere), and
  • what species of deer you have. 

So, if the fishing line trick does not work for you or you’re looking for other methods better suited to your specific circumstances, check out the six other methods detailed below! 

6 other effective ways to deter deer  

Below are additional ways to deter deer from eating your plants that can be effective depending on the type of plants you want to protect, the size of your space, budget, and other factors. As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the method(s) you use to deter deer are going to be unique to your specific situation! 

1. Bobbex all-natural deer repellent spray (and other safe repellent sprays) 

Low cost. Great option for protecting ornamental plants.

We can thank our neighbor for this one… His grandkids kept tearing down his fishing line (which was otherwise working), so deer started ravaging his roses and other plants. 

He then tried Bobbex, an all-natural deer deterrent spray. Bobbex contains strong smell and taste deterrents that keep deer away – and it’s very long-lasting even in wet climates like ours.

According to our neighbor, he’s been able to save his plants from deer with Bobbex. Since our neighbor is only one person’s opinion, we looked Bobbex up on Amazon, and it has a nearly 5-star rating across thousands of reviews.  

Bobbex deer repellent spray landscape beds

How to use Bobbex or other spray deer repellents in ornamental and edible garden beds and landscapes. 

Should you spray deer deterrents directly on your edible plants? No. But you could spray it around them as depicted in the image above.  

In addition to Bobbex, there are other effective deer repellents. Just make sure:

  • whatever product you choose has strong customer reviews;
  • you use it as per the instructions, and
  • reapply regularly since sprays eventually wash off or degrade (maybe set a recurring calendar reminder so you don’t forget to reapply!). 

2. Row covers

Medium cost. Good idea for protecting edible garden plants grown in raised beds and rows. 

If you have edible garden beds you’re trying to protect and you’re not worried about aesthetics, you can use fabric row cover to protect your plants from deer.

In cool months, you can use heavier weight row cover, which also provides temperature protection. In the summer, you can use lightweight or “summer weight” fabric which also provides protection from pest insects.  

Row cover in an edible garden bed can be used to deter deer.

Row cover in an edible garden bed can be used to deter deer. Not ideal for an attractive front yard, but perfectly fine to protect an edible garden in your backyard.

What about other physical barriers like plastic netting? We’d advise against it unless you want to untangle snakes and other animals from your protective netting. 

3. DIY tomato cages

Low cost. Best for protecting small-sized individual plants. 

We protect certain deer favorites like hostas, Solomon’s seal, and asparagus shoots that are stand-alone plants in our yard using our DIY tomato/plant cages made from concrete reinforcing wire. (*That link goes to a “how to make sturdy tomato cages” article on our sister site, GrowJourney.)  

The cages are rusty brown in color so they blend right in, meaning they’re not an eyesore. They also last virtually forever. Most of our cages are over a decade old and still in perfect shape. 

Early shoots of purple asparagus sticking up inside a DIY tomato cage, aka deer cage. You can make these pretty much any size you need, but you want them to be a good bit taller than the plants you're protecting from deer so they can't reach down into the central opening to graze. Also, you want the cages to be wider than the plants you're protecting so the leaves aren't sticking out beyond the cage edges.

Early shoots of purple asparagus sticking up inside a DIY tomato cage, aka deer cage. You can make these cages pretty much any size you want, but you want them to be a good bit taller than the plants you’re protecting from deer so they can’t reach down into the central opening to graze. Also, you want the cages to be wider than the plants you’re protecting so the leaves aren’t sticking out beyond the cage edges. Since the rust-brown cages blend in so well, these are a good choice for protecting single plants in a home landscape where aesthetics are important.

4. Electric fencing

High cost. Best for protecting large areas, up to multiple acres. 

The only 100% effective method we know of for keeping deer completely out of a large area is electric fencing. Small farmers we know invariably utilize an electric fence to protect their cash crops from pest animals. (Plug-in systems tend to be more reliable than solar-powered.) 

If you live in a more rural area, this is a solution you should seriously consider for keeping deer permanently off your property.  

Deer deterred by electric fence on pasture

Shocking but true: electric fencing is highly effective at keeping deer and other pest animals out of farmland, pastures, or other rural land.

5. Other fencing

High cost but permanently effective if you choose the right fence design.

An electric fence isn’t feasible in a residential neighborhood, but other deer fencing options are. If you never want to worry about deer again, you can fence off your entire garden.

Options:

A. Solid fence, 6′ tall 

A solid fence (like stockade fences) are the best designs for deterring deer because deer can’t see through them to the other side. Therefore, they won’t be comfortable attempting to jump over the fence since they don’t know what they’ll be jumping on to. 

How tall? A solid fence can be shorter than a see-through wire fence and still deter deer. The solid wood fence protecting our back yard gardens is 6′ tall. We’re surrounded by foraging deer and have never had one jump our fence since the decade+ we’ve been living here.

B. Chainlink or other see-through metal fence, 7′ tall 

Even a see-through fence can effectively deter deer so long as it’s 7′ or higher. According to USDA researchers, a mature panicked deer running for its life from a predator can jump over a 6′ fence.

However, a calm deer in search of food isn’t going to jump a 7′ fence, it will simply forage elsewhere. Obviously, deer are not avid climbers, so a tall fence (solid or wire) may be the long-term investment you need to permanently keep deer out of your yard or garden. 

6. Plant deer-resistant plants

Cost may vary depending on plant quantity and varieties selected. Reduce long-term costs by selecting perennials. This option is best for new garden installations.

You don’t have to worry about deer eating your plants if you install deer-proof plants in the first place. But how do you choose the right plants — the ones that deer won’t have any interest in eating for dinner?

Check out our guide to over 100+ deer-resistant plants, which includes edible, ornamental, and native plants you can grow to help deer-proof your garden, landscape, or farm!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about how to keep deer out of your garden or yard 

Does Irish Spring soap keep deer out of your garden? 

Another common claim we’ve heard is that Irish Spring (and/or other soap bars) will keep deer out of a garden or yard. Supposedly, deer don’t like the strong scent of the soap so it keeps them away. Is this true or not? 

Last year, our good friends who live down the street from us put Irish Spring soap to the test in their summer garden after having deer problems. When we say “put to the test” we mean they probably put out at least one bar of soap for every 3 square feet. It was certainly smelly enough to keep us out of their garden! 

The results? Deer ate every plant to the ground, repeatedly – even plants sitting inches from bars of soap. Apparently, the deers’ sense of hunger was stronger than their sense of smell in this case. 

The sweet potato vines in the background have been mowed to the ground by deer multiple times despite being surrounded by Irish Spring soap. Irish Spring was not an effective deer deterrent in this case.

The sweet potato vines in the background have been eaten to the ground by deer multiple times despite being surrounded by Irish Spring soap. Irish Spring was not an effective deer deterrent in this case.

So it would appear that Irish Spring soap was not effective at keeping deer out of their garden. However, they now have quite a bit of soap in their soil, and who knows what’s in it! 

Other similar home remedies that produce strong aromas are also unlikely to provide good, sustained deer protection: fabric softener strips, ammonia-soaked rags, essential oils, etc. Some people also put out rotten eggs, but there are more effective deer-prevention methods that don’t stink up your yard for people while also causing pollution. 

Does Milorganite work for repelling deer? 

Some people use Milorganite to deter deer. In case you’ve never heard of it, Milorganite is a fertilizer made from heat-treated, pelletized sewage from Milwaukee. Yes, seriously. 

While the high heat used in treating it kills pathogens, Milorganite, like other products made from human sewage, most certainly contains countless other unsavory contaminants such as heavy metals, microplastics, pharmaceutical drugs, dioxins, etc. Personally, we don’t want these substances anywhere near our yard or garden where we and our toddler live and eat.  

Will the smell of Milorganite repel deer? Perhaps so, but we’d rather have deer in our yard than Milorganite, especially since we eat most of the plants in our yard. 

What about various scare tactics and products?

There is a long-list of “scare tactic” products intended to deter deer:

  • motion-activated sprinklers,
  • wind chimes,
  • motion sensor lights (or just leaving bright lights on all night),
  • garden ornaments, etc. 

In isolation or in combination, some of these may temporarily deter deer. However, deer will eventually acclimate to the scare tactics.

As an anecdotal example, a neighbor in my dad’s neighborhood installed a motion sensor contraption that starts blaring music and sprinkling water when anything comes near a large bed of pansies. (Pansies are a common cool weather flower that deer love and that’s also a good edible plant for people.) 

We happened to walk by the house a few weeks after the system was installed. Most of the pansies were recently chewed to nubs by deer, but the music and water effects did effectively startle me! How sprinklers are supposed to continue working when the weather is freezing cold is also a mystery. 

Can dogs deter deer? 

Yes, but with caveats… If you have dogs that can patrol your property from dusk until dawn, they may be able to keep deer away. There are actually breeds of farm dogs bred and trained for this specific purpose.

However, your dog is likely not one of these dogs, and will probably prefer to sleep soundly on the foot of your bed while deer are planning their nightly assaults on your garden (especially when it’s cold outside). 

Does human hair or human urine repel deer? 

No, or at least not for any duration. Not to get too graphic, but I regularly “mark my territory” when out in our gardens and will still see deer foraging nearby hours later. They’ve likely acclimated to the scent of my pee and no longer consider it a sign of danger. 

The same is probably true of dog urine or commercial products containing predator urine such as “coyote urine.” E.g. they’re likely NOT to be effective long term. Side note: Collecting coyote urine would be an interesting job!

As for dog hair, our neighbors (the same ones who had the Irish Spring soap fiasco) also coated their garden with dog hair. The deer still ate their garden. 

Do hot peppers or hot pepper sprays deter deer? 

It’s not their favorite forage, but hungry deer will eat the foliage on a hot pepper plant, which can easily kill young plants. However, deer won’t eat HOT pepper fruits. (They will eat sweet peppers.) 

Hot pepper fruits contain capsaicin, the compound that gives them their hot spicy flavor. Capsaicin is a deterrent to deer when it’s applied as a foliar spray. However, hot peppers growing on a plant will not keep deer out of your garden.

Unfortunately, capsaicin sprays may also be toxic to bees and other pollinators, according to some extension agencies and Connecticut University School of Agriculture. Since there are effective, pollinator-friendly spray deer repellents like Bobbex, we don’t think capsaicin sprays should be used as a garden safe method to deter deer. 

Are deer worse during certain times of year? 

For us and our neighbors, deer seem to be more difficult to deal with in late winter-early spring as plants start to break dormancy. At this point in the year, deer are recovering from winter’s scarcity of high quality food.

Also, the bucks need all the food they can eat to rebuild muscle and form antlers. Likewise, the does are about to fawn and have to eat all they can as they enter the third trimester and prepare for nursing. 

We don’t experience much deer pressure from late spring through mid-summer since there is so much food around at that point. We also notice an uptick in deer activity in late summer through fall as deer try to put on fat for the cold months ahead. 

Will a perimeter border of thorny plants keep deer out? 

In the back portion of our property, we have a thick border of thorny native black raspberries. We intentionally planted them in the spot because it was a deer path, and we wanted to block it without using an actual deer fence. 

The result? The deer love eating the raspberry leaves and even the tips of the thorny stems. And they plowed a path right through the thorny canes. Our verdict? No, thorny plants do not keep deer out of your yard or garden, especially when those thorny plants are also edible to deer! 

Are there more deer today than there used to be? 

Over the past 100 years, populations of white-tailed deer have exploded in the U.S., which is one reason why more people are having trouble with deer eating their plants. However, it’s also important to put white-tailed deer populations into historical perspective.  

One recent study tried to do just that, estimating that white-tailed deer populations are currently at about the same level as they were prior to European colonization. 

US deer population estimates, 1450 to 2016.

US deer population estimates, 1450 to 2016.


Dad's trick to keep deer out of your yard and garden. #deer #diy #gardening #tyrantfarms

If you found dad’s trick for controlling deer in your yard or garden helpful, please pin this image on Pinterest! 

We hope the information in this article helps you figure out the most effective ways to keep your plants protected from deer!

KIGI,

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58 Comments

  • Reply
    Lonnie Pfaff
    February 1, 2024 at 1:01 pm

    We live next to a golf course with a small, brushy woods behind us. Deer come on to our property every night, where they eat our 3′ fir trees, our shrubs, and our blueberry plants. I put 6′ plastic deer fence around the fir trees and around the blueberry bushes, but the deer still push the fence down. However, I may have found a solution.

    I purchased a pack of Party Poppers, those little things where you pull a string, followed by a loud pop and confetti shooting out. I tied a string around each popper and another string to the string that you pull to make it pop. I then tied both of those strings about 3 feet off the ground between trees and bushes across the paths that the deer like when they approach my plants. (Stakes could be driven as tie points if you don’t have trees or bushes.) When the deer walk through the string (and they will), the pop and confetti scares the daylights out of them. I tied out 10 of these booby traps and found 2 of them “tripped” after the first night. I have not seen a deer on my Game Trail Camera in 3 weeks, but I am armed and waiting!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      February 1, 2024 at 1:13 pm

      Ha! That’s a clever deer-deterrent solution. Sounds like you just have to keep up with the party poppers to make sure they’re loaded. Do you have something sitting over them (like a cone) to keep them from getting wet if it rains?

  • Reply
    Steffie
    November 27, 2023 at 4:59 am

    What an ingenious idea! I’ve struggled with keeping deer away from my garden for ages. Your dad’s method seems so effective and practical.

    Thanks for sharing this fantastic tip!

  • Reply
    Peggy
    November 4, 2023 at 10:25 am

    From years of experience, make sure the electric fencer is one that will turn buffalo. Deer and buffalo have hollow hair, so you will need a stronger fencer if you want long term protection. 3 lines of wire to catch all heights of invaders further assist. we live in oak forest with lots of deer, and now we can have landscaping!

  • Reply
    Greg T
    May 14, 2023 at 1:00 pm

    I have been doing this for years and it works. You need to put multiple levels of line to keep the fawns out and prevent the large deer from jumping over. Last year a beautiful deer leeped over a 5 ft line and had a feast while I watched.

  • Reply
    Reichers98
    March 28, 2023 at 12:56 pm

    Something I have found effective is mixing Palmolive dish liquid (the original green scented) with water and putting in a spray bottle. Spray all the leaves of the plants you want to protect – makes the leaves very bitter and the deer leave them alone after one bite! Only drawback is you need to reapply after every watering, rain or heavy dew as the soap residue will be washed away with the water runoff. I also use Irish Spring bars as a second, but less effective, method. I am planning to add some fishing line this year as well, to help with those times I don’t get them spayed with the Palmolive water quickly enough after water exposure.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      March 28, 2023 at 2:51 pm

      Thanks for your comment! What makes us a little nervous about recommending things like Palmolive dish soap or Irish Spring soap on plants to deter deer is the bioaccumulation of their chemical constituents in the soil and runoff into nearby waterways (with no water treatment facility in between). You can get an ingredient list for these items, but in the US, companies can just say things like “perfume” or “fragrance” on their ingredients without disclosing everything that’s in it. Many detergents and soaps contain everything from PFAS (forever chemicals) to phthalates, which are pretty terrible for humans and the environment in general. With regular/repeat applications, these chemicals could really build up in the soil around the plants or cause unnecessary pollution, which is concerning even if a person doesn’t intend to eat the plants.

      Last year, we also watched another neighbor’s garden get mowed down repeatedly by deer despite being surrounded by and covered in bars of Irish Spring soap, which ultimately ended up melting into their soil.

      Since our whole yard is basically a giant edible garden that our family (including a toddler) play in and eat from, we’re extremely cautious about what we use in it, and prefer physical barriers/deterrents when it comes to deer control.

  • Reply
    anonymous
    February 27, 2023 at 11:15 am

    We live in a wooded area with a neighbor that feeds the deer and turkey. The deer come through the woods to his property every day. I have strung landscape string at diferent heights and a foot or two from each other. I am trying to change their path which they travel. I am very worried about deer ticks, as another neighbor had lyme disease, which we all need to be concerned with. It seems to be helping, but I am going to try some of the advise you have talked about. We also have no hunting in this town I live in, and it is becoming a problem, the deer have been running onto the road and caused many acidents one of which a deer ran into the side of our car, ran off so not sure if it survived. . Thanks for advise, but also mention lyme disease.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      February 27, 2023 at 12:03 pm

      Thanks and best of luck keeping deer away from your property! Yes, lyme disease is a horrible problem – and one that’s getting worse each year. We’ve had some friends contract the disease and it took them years to recover. While deer are a large mammal who can carry both lyme disease and the ticks that spread it, pretty much every other type of mammal can do the same (raccoons, mice, etc). So it’s pretty well impossible to keep every animal out of your yard that could possibly bring ticks with them. One reason we keep backyard/pet ducks is because they’re very effective at finding and eating ticks. It certainly can’t hurt to keep deer off your property since their large size means they could carry more ticks than smaller mammals.

      The sheer abundance of deer is a separate but related problem. Deer thrive in human-made “edge” habitat, and without many natural predators around, their numbers can quickly get out of control. (Good review of current vs historical deer populations here: https://www.deerfriendly.com/decline-of-deer-populations/data-history.) Regulated human hunting is a good strategy to maintain optimal deer population size and ecosystem health while also feeding people high quality meat. Hunting in residential areas is tricky though, given the risks.

      • Reply
        Jo
        March 4, 2023 at 3:01 pm

        Deer are not hosts for Lyme disease. They simply are carriers of ticks that may or may not be infected. The white-footed mouse is the host. SO STOP KILLING SNAKES, EVERYONE! I’m convinced that is the reason for the uptick in ticks. Everyone I know kills every snake they come across

        • Aaron von Frank
          March 5, 2023 at 9:48 pm

          Good info, thanks! We love snakes and welcome them on our property – exception is venomous snakes since we have toddlers running about.

  • Reply
    Susan
    February 4, 2023 at 9:11 pm

    I found that Irish spring is quite effective in my area. However, I used a cheese grater to disperse and sprinkle on the area and the plants. Has to be redone after a bit especially after heavy rain. Saved my bushes flowers and rosebushes last year .

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      February 6, 2023 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks for that report, Susan! Our neighbors went through many bars of Irish Spring soap in their garden last summer and their plants still got eaten to nubs. Perhaps grating the soap during application would help. Or perhaps the relative effectiveness has something to do with the specific deer species and/or abundance of other available foliage in the area. Either way, our other concern would be not wanting to have some of the ingredients in Irish Spring soap (specifically the fragrances, color dyes, and salts) in our soil, especially given the concentrations required to potentially repel deer. Quick Google search revealed the following ingredients in Irish Spring: Sodium Laurate/Linoleate/Oleate/Palmitate, Water/Eau, Glycerin, Fragrance/Parfum, Sodium Chloride, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Oil, Tetrasodium EDTA, Etidronic Acid, Titanium Dioxide, Green 8, Green 3.

  • Reply
    Just bananas
    September 3, 2022 at 3:00 pm

    This doesn’t work long term. I’ve tried the is more than once and eventually a hungry deer will break the line and March right in.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 5, 2022 at 11:29 am

      It seems like there are multiple factors contributing to the relative efficacy of the fishing line deer deterrent method: 1) making sure you do it correctly as far as line height and location around plants; 2) species of deer involved; 3) abundance of deer/pressure; 4) time of year and how hungry deer are. We (and our neighbors) have had fishing line work for months at a time. So have other people we’ve talked with. On the flip side, we also know people with so many hungry deer in their area that it doesn’t work well or for very long. We also include some other deer deterrent methods for folks in need.

  • Reply
    Kady
    July 19, 2022 at 2:32 pm

    I’ve had my fishing wire fence up for 2 weeks now and I’m so thankful I ran across your post! It’s worked perfectly. We could even see, at first, where they would try to enter and the stakes would lean a bit. At this point I think they’ve given up and found a new garden to feast on. Thank you so much for your help!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      July 19, 2022 at 2:42 pm

      Yay! So glad to hear that, thanks Kady! Fingers crossed the fishing line trick continues to be effective at keeping deer out of your garden.

  • Reply
    Shelley
    June 16, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    I tried the fishing line and it worked to keep deer away but it also caused a great horned owl to become tangled and damaged its wing feathers. It died in captivity at an owl rehab center while waiting for new feathers to be attached. I took my fishing line down.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      June 18, 2022 at 6:53 am

      Oh no! That’s incredibly heartbreaking. We’ve never heard of something like this happening from the fishing line trick. That seems like a freak accident that’s very unlikely to happen, but thank you for letting us (and other readers) know.

    • Reply
      Morris Jaskula
      July 10, 2022 at 2:07 pm

      I have ordered Bobbex from the manufacturer–you need to request what they call KU to be added to the product–KU stands for Kicked Up–I’m not sure what it is but I was spraying it a few days ago and wound up downwind–got it in my mouth and eyes–smells and tasted like –Chile oil—– no wonder the deer don’t like it–I have 30 ac and deer and elk both visit but this stuff works great. If you need to call the rep, he is sooooo helpful.
      Also–don’t waste the product spraying a perimeter–just spray the plants you don’t want eaten. I mix it a little more than recommended –not much–the rain won’t wash it away and the results are great, and you don’t have fishing line strung all over the yard. I spray about every 4 weeks–maybe too often, but I don’t care. I landscaped a bit over and acer–day lilies everywhere and HOSTAS–I call Hosta’s DEER COCAIN—-

      • Reply
        Aaron von Frank
        July 10, 2022 at 2:15 pm

        Great tips on using Bobbex for deer repellent, thanks!

  • Reply
    Frances L Gizzi
    September 30, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    I want to order the fishing line and I believe you stated it can be ordered from Amazon – is there a certain weight that is needed – I can’t wait to try this because my fingers are numb from spraying deer deterrent to no avail. thanks

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 30, 2021 at 3:37 pm

      Hi Frances! Sorry for any confusion. We provide the test/weight of the fishing line and a purchase link in the article. “15-30 pound test, invisible fishing line to be exact which you may already have at home or you can buy now via Amazon.” Purchase link to the Amazon product we recommended is here: https://amzn.to/3tnS1yZ. Sure hope this helps you with your deer problem!

  • Reply
    ann
    September 19, 2021 at 10:46 pm

    Some deer are smarter than others. We tried the fishing line and our deer figured it out after a while, going over or under it. (It might work if it was just in front of the bush or around the bush.) We installed deer netting, but 12 inches off the ground so our ducks could get thru….the deer belly crawled under and we caught them on camera! If I put a square of deer netting over a rose bush. they only eat what is above the netting, as eating plastic bugs them. (Me too!)

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      September 20, 2021 at 12:08 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Ann! Yes, for some deer, fishing line seems to work great. Others, not so much (or not for long), as your experience shows. Perhaps the success comes down to how many other easier food sources the deer have in the area + how many other deer there are competing for the same food sources. Anecdotally, in the case of the people we know who have had success with fishing line as a deer deterrent, there’s a lot of other food sources around + hunters and coyotes in the area that likely keep their populations in check.

      Another interesting tidbit: a neighbor down the street from us that we’re good friends with loaded her garden up with bars of Irish Spring soap because someone told her that would keep deer away. Well, the deer didn’t care a bit and have eaten every plant in her garden they like – even plants right next to bars of soap. Now, she’s got piles of half melted Irish Spring soap in her soil, and who knows what’s in that stuff.

  • Reply
    Shannon Gibson
    July 31, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    We are off to get fishing line! Our 3 acre yard has woods on 2 sides and we have deer coming and going, sometimes 7-8 at a time. To protect our very large blueberry/blackberry/grape/apple orchard, there is a 4 foot field fence (useless, I’ve seen them jump it from a standstill). My husband took bailing twine, attached dead 10 ft tree branches every 6 feet all around the orchard attached to the fence, then strung the twine to the sticks every foot above the fence height for 2 rows. Unless we forget to close the gate no deer go in there (or if the twine gets loose they can jump through the lines). Hubby actually DID forget to close the gate at apple blossom season and we lost all but one of the gravenstein apple flowers overnight, so instead of the 30 apples we had last year we have 1. I had learned some years back that anything that touches a deer’s chest is a barrier, and this is true. I cut down huge dead fur branches and stake them (sometimes sidewise through a fence, sometimes in the ground) and this also works very well, the pointed sticks they don’t like. This has saved the clematis. The wind is the problem there, it can blow the sticks down. We have roses all over the place and lilies too, our problem is Tall Phlox, which they decimate when it blooms. Right now I’m draping them with old sheets at night which seems to deter them too, but we are going to try the fishing line! Our neighbors can’t figure out what we see in doing all the WORK (gardening). Ha! THANKS FOR THIS ARTICLE AND THE BALD FACED HORNET/WASP information, we have those back in the woods and will wait until their season is done, then remove it. We did have to remove the hummingbird feeder from the deck, where we also sit with our kitties.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      August 1, 2021 at 12:23 pm

      Deer can drive a person who grows food a bit crazy. That single apple is going to taste amazing. Fingers crossed for your orchard in future years!

  • Reply
    Janet
    July 15, 2021 at 12:28 am

    I have the most beautiful Annabelle Hydrangeas on either side of my front porch. They get white dinner plate blossoms on them that are as much as 14 inches across. They have been there over 20 years and the deer never bothered them until the last 5 years. I have made my own deer stink to sprinkle on them and it works but you have to replenish it every time it rains. I found your post about 6 weeks ago and immediately wanted to try it. I put posts in up to 5ft because the plants get big. Then I ran fishing line between the 3 posts about every foot going up the stakes and I even ran one line of fishing line across the top between the posts. About a week later I could tell the deer had nibbled at the leaves sticking out past the fishing line but they have not come back since, so it must have spooked them. Hurray!!! Thank you so much for this post – I am telling all my gardening friends.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      July 16, 2021 at 12:52 pm

      Awesome! So glad to hear this trick worked to keep deer off your hydrangea. Fingers crossed for future years.

  • Reply
    Carleen
    July 8, 2021 at 8:27 am

    Do you have a trick for keeping rabbits away from plants?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      July 8, 2021 at 12:16 pm

      Hi Carleen! No tricks per se, but fencing is pretty much the only thing you can use to keep rabbits out of a garden bed. Predators tend to keep their populations in check. In urban areas, outdoor cats really decimate their populations by killing/eating the kits.

    • Reply
      Francie
      September 2, 2022 at 6:30 pm

      I used clear plastic picnic forks. Poke them handle first into the soil around the plants. Make sure the tines point out and use plenty of them. Your non-gardening friends will think you have gone crazy, but…. It was a smallish garden in Southern Arizona and the rabbits went shopping elsewhere.

  • Reply
    Mark Knuth
    June 5, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    My grandma, Iowa farmgirl, taught me the monofilament line trick 45-50 years ago! I use it around my garden and around my arborvitaes! Works great

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      June 6, 2021 at 10:40 am

      Glad to hear that, thanks Mark! It seems like the fishing/monofilament line trick keeps deer away for some people and not for others. Worked like a charm for our next door neighbors, worked for my dad, works for many other people we’ve talked to. However, a few people still have deer problem despite using this trick. Not sure exactly why – maybe it’s specific to the exact environmental conditions, species of deer, or some combination. Since it’s so cheap and easy to do, it’s certainly worth a try for most people before they invest in more expensive solutions like electric fencing. Interesting that your grandma knew about this deer deterrent trick so long ago!

      • Reply
        Valora
        November 2, 2021 at 11:45 pm

        Interesting. Your statement about environmental conditions makes me wonder … does this work better in areas where farmers use hot wire fences? Maybe the deer who are ‘repelled’ by the fishing wire trick are deer who’ve experienced a hot wire zap, and when they brush against the fishing line they think it might be similar. Don’t know. Just hypothesizing!

        • Aaron von Frank
          November 3, 2021 at 7:48 am

          Certainly possible. Deer in our area probably don’t have a very large home range since there’s plenty of high quality forage around. As best as we know, there aren’t any live wires within a one mile range of our place, but there might be some we don’t know about that the deer have bumped into. Wish we had a better idea of why/when the fishing line trick works to keep deer out (or any other tricks that work), so it could be deployed as effectively as possible.

  • Reply
    Brooke
    April 19, 2021 at 10:51 am

    Greetings from your neighbor in Anderson SC. So excited to find this trick, here’s to hoping this will work to keep the stinkers off my hostas!

  • Reply
    Georgia
    March 14, 2021 at 11:00 pm

    Can you put up a pic of how it looks please?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      March 15, 2021 at 7:36 am

      Hi Georgia! We’ll put up photos this week, but the design is very simple: 4′ tall standard garden stakes firmly put into the ground around the perimeter of whatever garden beds you’re trying to protect with fishing line tied about 3′ off the ground between each stake. In photos you pretty much won’t even be able to see them since the fishing line is basically invisible and the green garden stakes blend into the background, so we’ll probably have to use photoshop to add effects to clearly show the different elements.

  • Reply
    Suz
    March 14, 2021 at 1:26 pm

    I want to try this idea because I had deer totally destroy last years garden right when our fruit started coming in. SO sad! Anyway, I am really unsure how we are using the fishing line…is it used from stake to stake horizontally or another way. Is it possible to share some visuals? I see other people asking the same thing and I think that would be very helpful.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      March 15, 2021 at 7:33 am

      Sure, we’ll put up photos this week. It’s super simple: 4′ tall standard garden stakes firmly put into the ground around the perimeter of whatever garden beds you’re trying to protect with fishing line tied about 3′ off the ground between each stake.

  • Reply
    Lynette Hargrave
    March 9, 2021 at 11:18 am

    We have a large deer population in our neighborhood as well. We have tried the fishing line approach for the past 2 summers with our straw bale garden. We have 18 bales of straw. We used bamboo stakes that are at least 5 feet long, and we put them in the ground around the outside of the garden about 3 feet away from the bales. We then wrap the fishing line around the bamboo stakes at three different levels of height. We also attach some of those tiny wind chimes that you can find at the Dollar Store to each side of the garden fishing line. (4 for a square shaped garden) You could use empty cans that you connect with fishing line, etc. it just needs to be something that makes a sound when they bump into the fishing line while trying to reach your yummy garden plants! We do not make a door, we just have an area that it is easy for us to manipulate the fishing wire so that we can get in to take care of the garden. This method worked great the first summer that we tried it. The second summer the smaller deer figured out how to go under the fishing wire and get into the garden a couple of times. Make sure that your bottom row of fishing line is not too high. We are trying again this season with a fence and bamboo/fishing line combination.

  • Reply
    Sandi
    February 6, 2021 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Aaron. I too am not certain how to arrange the fishing line. I have a hay bale garden so my plants are 14″ off the ground to begin with. How would you suggest arranging the fishing line in this scenario. I have 16 bales, two lines of 8 bales each running parallel to each other. I appreciate your help. I just planted today and I don’t want the few deer we have to come munch on all the goodness not meant for them!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      February 6, 2021 at 3:52 pm

      Hi Sandi! Not sure how much space you have around your hay bale garden or what your exact setup is. If you have plenty of space, you might want to hang your deer deterring fishing line on stakes 5-10′ outside of the garden. Hang it 3′ above the ground with pretty good tension on the line between each stake. If you don’t have much space and you need to hang the line atop your hay bales, I’d still hang it 3′ above ground or 2′ above your hay bales as far to the exterior of your bales as space allows for. Option 3: combine the first two setups so as to have two lines of defense (pun somewhat intended). Hope this helps and best of luck keeping deer out of your garden!

  • Reply
    carey
    June 12, 2019 at 11:44 am

    Please forgive the basic-ness of this question, but how exactly do you “install” the fishing line? Run it between stakes like a clear fishing line fence? tie them like a tassel so they blow in the wind? I’m at my wits end with the deer again this year. We have a 36′ picket fence they jump over to get to our vegetable garden and last night not only did they eat plentifully out of the garden, but they broke the fence on the way out!

  • Reply
    JLP
    May 30, 2019 at 11:53 am

    Interesting. Do you have to keep the line up all the time?

  • Reply
    wjhib
    March 21, 2019 at 10:38 pm

    I tried the fishing line and it didn’t work for me, but may try again. I try to plant only things they will not eat. Perriwinkles (Vinca) trailing vinca, lambs hear, dusty miller and marigolds. I’ve found a smelly spray that I use and it somewhat helps. I have about 30 that come through my yard everyday.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      March 22, 2019 at 9:34 pm

      30 deer come through your yard per day?! Wow, that’s a lot of deer; more of an infestation. Not sure anything would work given the degree of overpopulation there. Just out of curiosity: can you describe how you set up your fishing line protection? Height? Multiple levels? Single level? All the way around your yard or just on specific beds? Thanks!

      • Reply
        Gail Gardner
        May 23, 2019 at 4:59 pm

        On another site I read that you need multiple strings. They recommended the first one 2-3″ above the ground and then a foot apart up to 4-6 feet tall. I haven’t tried it yet, but I suspect you can run fishing line a longer distance between t-posts (50 feet perhaps) as long as you can keep the posts tight in the ground.

        • Aaron von Frank
          May 24, 2019 at 6:41 pm

          Could be, Gail! There may be more than one way to string a deer. 😛 The method described in this article is simply the one used by my dad after years and years of trying everything else without success. We also know farmers who do it. I don’t suppose it would hurt to hang the string at different levels. Regardless, good luck!

    • Reply
      dc gal
      March 17, 2020 at 2:46 pm

      I realize this is an old post, but we suffer the same…easily 30 a day from dusk to dawn. It is an infestation that the county is working to cull now with archery, something people still are fighting but there are more deer than food at this point and you can see some of them are starving. Anyway, the politics of it all aside…they even eat my azaleas! I have found very very little a ravenously hungry deer won’t eat! I’m up for trying to fishing line but worry about injuries…our 10 and 12 year old boys go tearing down our hill toward the wooded area where this line would be. :/ Maybe I won’t put it up…it’s just plants and certainly a far cry from a botanists oasis at this point.

      • Reply
        Aaron von Frank
        March 18, 2020 at 5:29 pm

        Yikes! Sorry to hear that. With that amount of deer population pressure, fishing line may not work to keep them away. Electric fencing might be the only option there, but not certain. (Obviously, that’s a pretty expensive approach.) Either way, if you want to try the fishing line approach, you’d hang it between small stakes that are quite visible to children and adults alike. Best of luck with whatever approach you take!

  • Reply
    Dina
    July 22, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    Thank you for this! I read about the fishing line but wasn’t sure exactly how to execute it. Stakes,duh!! The deer have been feasting on nearly every plant in my yard on a nightly basis. They clearly have no aversions to anything in my yard. Crotons, agapanthus, Japanese blueberry….Their hooves have torn up the mulch. On my way to get the fishing line and stakes….the buck stops here!

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