Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, Preventing Deer Damage, written by Robert G. Juhre. Copyright 2011. #6329. Softcover. 108 pages. BOTW price: $10.00. ($14.95 regularly priced.)
By Robert G. Juhre
Fences are good for defense, but do it early. If fencing is to be part of your strategy to protect a new project, do it before you plant that orchard or till that vegetable garden. Not only is it easier to build while the land is vacant, it is better that the deer do not establish a habit of visiting the area to be planted. We will cover a variety of fence choices in this section. Weigh these
alternative ideas carefully. Some are relatively expensive; some require maintenance; some are unsightly; some are time intensive for the do-it-yourselfer and some are oriented for specific needs. Because these various fencing solutions vary greatly in cost, appearance and effectiveness, they may be only part of your overall plan. At this point, we are assuming you are trying to keep deer out, not coexist.
Wood Fence with Sheep Wire, 12-Foot High
A 12′ high fence, constructed of treated 4” x 4”s, set on a concrete base that is below the frost line, should have a 30-year life. Remember, your entrance gate needs to be the same height. Use 2” x 4” cross bars to firm up the corners or cables with turn buckles which can be used for the same purpose. Now attach 6’ sheep wire with 4” mesh to the lower section of the posts that have been set on ten foot centers. Tighten each section with a fence stretcher (usually available at rental stores) and fasten the wire to the posts with galvanized staples. After the lower section is completed, follow the same procedure for the upper run of fencing wire. Attach the lower and upper runs of sheep fencing together with pig rings. These can be found at farm stores along with a special pliers-like tool for closing them easily. If 6’ high sheep wire is not available, then use 4’ high wire. Now your installation is only 8’ high. To reach the desired 10 feet, you will have to string two runs of wire, a foot apart, across the upper two feet of space.
If you are bothered by other small critters, this is the time to keep them out as well. Purchase some 2’ high, 1” mesh chicken wire. Dig a trench 6” deep and place the wire in the bottom of the trench. Using the appropriate sized smaller galvanized staple, attach the wire to the bottom of the fence posts.
Fill in the trench with the soil you had previously removed. Now, you have an effective barrier against rabbits, gophers, grouse and other small creatures. You have not solved the raccoon or woodchuck problem at this point. That will take an entirely different approach. An electric wire, one foot high, will take care of them.
Costs of material will vary in different parts of the country. No matter where you live, this fence is expensive, labor intensive and probably visually offensive if you live in a suburban area. It also requires some specialized tools, such as either a manual or gas powered post hole digger, a wire fence stretcher, pig ring pliers, as well as the more common tools such as a hammer, saw, 4’ level, shovel and a lot of heart. This fence can be installed by one person, but two make it a lot easier.
Remember that deer have a propensity to go under a fence if at all possible. If you haven’t put the buried chicken wire barrier on your fence, then make sure that the bottom of the fence reaches the ground around the entire perimeter. This will not be the case, unless you build on a perfectly level place. You can fill this space with rocks, logs or string wire along the bottom of the fence.
There are advantages of this formidable super fence. It will last into the foreseeable future, it is maintenance free, it is impervious to inclement weather and climatic upheavals. It deters deer and other small creatures. I have heard reports of deer clearing a 12-foot fence, but have never authenticated such reports. Perhaps the person reporting such a feat left the gate open?
This same basic fence design can be modified in many ways. I have personally found that an 8’ fence (using 10’ posts) is very effective. I would still use pressure treated posts (and also those that are insect resistant) if needed in your area. It is possible to purchase untreated posts and treat the part being buried with a preservative. Don’t use toxic materials.
There are major cost savings in building a shorter fence. Not only are your posts less costly, but you can use 4’ high sheep wire. It will also be easier to construct than the super fence. If you don’t set your posts in concrete your costs go down some more and your labor decreases. You will want to go below your frost line to prevent winter heaving. If you are concerned about the height of the 8’ fence, you could add a short 2” x 4” to the top of each post and run a 14-gauge wire between the risers. You now have effectively increased the height of your fence by the height of the additions. It is not as attractive, but less expensive and just as effective. The use of ribbon wire not only makes the height even more visible to deer, but also to humans.
Regardless of whether you use treated timbers, cedar posts or other wood products, they still have a limited life depending on the amount of moisture content in your soil. Setting your posts in concrete bases and attaching the posts to the base with a variety of metal devices will prevent a rot problem. Once again, it’s expensive and time consuming. If this is your inclination, a visit to the nearest arboretum should provide you with different methods of attachment. In wet areas this may be desirable.
Another means to an end to prevent deer from jumping a shorter fence is to attach outriggers at a 90 degree angle to your posts about 18” from the bottom. Attach a wire to these outriggers, which can be made from 2” x 4”s or even 2” x 2”s. They should extend out from the posts about 24”. Now, when deer approach the fence, its legs hit the wire and it is too far away from the fence for a comfortable jump. Deer like to be close to the object to be cleared. It’s part of that high and far idea. An electric wire in this position is even more effective.
Just another reminder. Whatever type of barrier you construct, be sure the bottom area is secure or a deer, and particularly a fawn, will slip under the barrier. Use wire, dirt, rocks or logs to fill the space. If there is any slack in the fencing a 2” space can open up enough to allow a smaller deer under the fence.
After 50 years of gardening in deer country from New York to North Carolina to Washington state, Robert G. Juhre has tried just about every repellent and barrier option there is and shares his many tips about what works and what does not. On his remote mountaintop property near Kettle Falls, Washington, Juhre successfully secured four acres of gardens and orchards from deer, bear and elk and left the rest of his 16-acre property for the wildlife to inhabit. Battle won!