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No one can see their reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see.
Taoist Proverb

Dealing with Deer

Or, as I now refer to them, "hoof rats".

In 2019 I came out to a tree farm where most of my pines and cedars had been eaten from ground level to 4 feet above ground. Tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

I've been researching deer damage since.

If you are serious about this, you need defence in depth.


If Bambi is starving, he will ignore all repellants and deterrents. There are several styles of fence you can put up.

All boundary region defences will work to keep Bambi in, as well as out. If you forgot to close the gate, and Bambi wanders in, he may not find the gate on the way out. So now you force him to dine on your fine buffet of choice apple trees.


The peanut butter fence is a case of trained aversion. Red hot chili peppers are another. So are bitter agents. You create an unpleasant association with some stimulus, and the deer avoid that stimulus. The problem with aversion training on your plants: Bambi has to eat your plant to find out there is a problem with it.

When you spray anything, you have to worry about how long it will stay. Some things come off with the next rain. There are spray adjuvants generically called 'sticking agents' or 'stickers' that you can add to the mix to keep something else from washing off readily.

Fear of the Unknown

Many things work for a while, or when Bambi is snacking and not starving. Deer aren't very bright: It doesn't take much in the way of brains to sneak up on a twig. Anything strange either sight or smell or sound set them running. But after a while, they become accustomed to the presence, and return. One article put it, "Anything works for three weeks."

Alternate foods

Some plants tolerate browsing far better than others. Dogwood, alder, willow, chokecherry, pin cherry, saskatoon are all browse that deer eat naturally, and have adapted to this.

An abundance of these in the woods near my tree farm didn't help my pines last winter.


Creating paths that go around the areas you want to protect is possible. Deer are creatures of habit, and also lazy. If you can make it easy to browse elsewhere, they may pay less attention to your extra tasty bits. Mowing a trail that allows them to migrate across your property to the next zone of woodland may help.

For me, most of the problem is in winter. Making paths for deer with the snowblower can work.


I've tried this several years. The problem: With 80 acres I really don't want multiple groups on my property at once. Deer season is only a month long here, so with 4 weekends the best I can hope for is to get rid 8 deer, assuming the hunters are solo. Most of the time, 2/3 of the hunters have left empty handed.



If you decide to do this anyway use an agent that won't poison whatever eats the carcass.

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Sherwood's Forests is located about 75 km southwest of Edmonton, Alberta. Please refer to the map on our Contact page for directions.