Dad’s Trick: How to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden Or Yard (with video!)

Dad's Trick: How to Keep Deer Out of Your Garden Or Yard (with video!) thumbnail
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Trying to figure out how to keep deer out of your garden? Thankfully, my clever dad figured out an incredibly simple trick that only costs a few dollars and has been 100% effective at keeping the deer out.

We’ve never quite figured out why, but deer do not come into our garden to graze despite the fact that:

  1. Our property backs up to the woods and we see deer walking through the woods frequently;
  2. Our yard is an edible landscape chock full of tasty greens and other goodies that deer love.

Maybe it’s because of the steep slope and terraced, rock walls. Maybe it’s because I, like any self-respecting man, regularly “scent” the area along the back of our property where the deer would enter.

More likely still is that there are other abundant food sources all around us that make an easier, safer target.

We’re the lucky ones.

So many people we know – even in urban areas – have “deer problems.” If you’ve spent a lot of time growing and tending a garden or landscape only to have it become another critter’s free salad bar, the resulting sentiments will likely be equal parts rage and heartbreak.

It’s enough to make a vegetarian crave venison.

Vegetable, venison stew anyone? Photo CC license credit Heath A on flickr. / dad's trick: how to keep deer out of your garden or yard

Vegetable venison stew anyone? – Photo CC BY 2.0 license credit Heath A on flickr.

What to do?

Lucky for you, I’m going to tell you exactly how to keep deer out of your garden – inexpensive and permanently. But I can’t take any credit for the discovery…

Dad And Deer War I

It just so happens that my father lives on the edge of a forested golf course.

Deer, as you may not know, are “edge animals.” They’re specifically adapted to occupy the edges of forests and grasslands/meadows. From evening to morning, they’ll forage in the open, plant-rich boundary zones, then settle back into the forest or thickets to rest during the day.

This means two things:

  1. a lush suburban yard with a nearby patch of forest is PERFECT deer habitat; and
  2. if you live in such a place, you’d better learn how to keep deer out of your garden or yard if you don’t want your plants to be eaten.

My dad’s landscape beds have long been full of gorgeous rose bushes and lilies. Much to his dismay, these plants were frequently being mowed down by deer at night.

Determined not to yield to defeat, he went to Lowes and Home Depot to find a fix.

Deer Night.jpg

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

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 pestiferous ruminants.

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

Victory: Deer War II – How to keep deer out of your garden using “dad’s trick” 

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.

Whoever and wherever you are... thank you.

Whoever and wherever you are… thank you.

The secret weapon: fishing line. Yes, fishing line. 15-30 pound test, invisible fishing line to be exact which you may already have at home or you can buy now via Amazon.  


How Does Fishing Line Keep Deer Out Of Your Garden?

No, you’re not trying to hook and reel in a deer with the fishing line. You simply string the fishing line about 3 feet above the ground attached to stakes. The lines should be hung a few feet outside of the beds you want to protect, not right up against the plants. 

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.)

How the heck does fishing line keep a deer out of your garden or yard? You have to know a bit about how deer “work.”

Deer have better night vision than we 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. They zoom in on a specific point and everything else around that point blurs.

Deer have “prey eyes” on the side of their heads that give them a 300-degree view, but they can only relatively clearly see (at the equivalent of 20/40 vision) the 60-degree view that overlaps between the input from both eyes.


Image by TeaberryeagleOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

Simply put, deer are really good at spotting movement from relatively far away and from a very wide field of vision. However, when it comes to having clear, focused vision on something right in front of them, their eyes don’t cut it.

A deer’s eyes works great if a wolf or mountain lion is after them.

Unlike their eyesight, a deer’s sense of smell and hearing is far better than yours.

Now, back to the fishing line trick…

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 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 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.

Now you know how to keep deer out of your garden or yard.

Be sure to thank my dad, and those brave men and women that came before him. Without their service, you might never have learned how to keep deer out of your garden.

Now go forth and conquer.

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

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  • Reply
    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
    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
    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.

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