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Winemaker's Journal — Fencing with deer

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deer fence
Costco dryer sheets are worth a try to keep the deer from nibbling the vines.

After getting a taste of ripe grapes in my vineyard last fall, resident deer have decided to stick around until the next crop. As appetizers while they await their main course, they've discovered young grape leaves and vine shoots are much more delicious than leaves from the surrounding pear orchard, judging by clear evidence of their grazing.

So, I've been out looking for fence materials. I don't mind sharing, but deer decimated the crop right before harvest last year. There won't be a crop this year if the leaves and buds are nipped off before they have a chance to grow.

I really dislike fences. It's a small space, about 500 square feet. But there's already too many barriers in life without me putting up more. I don't like their cost, work or maintenance. It always seems like one fence leads to another.

So, I've been researching alternatives. Bars of Irish Spring soap work, say some. Is there really something about the Irish that deer don't like? Life Bouy, the orange bars, are good too. Plant marigold and sage along the perimeters, say others. Reeeally tall marigold. Costco fabric softener dryer sheets has been working for some pear growers, a fieldman told me. Maybe deer prefer wrinkles over grape leaves. Perhaps a spray of red pepper or something else that ruminants might find distasteful. Maybe bear grease.

Some people advise strands of fishing line strung between posts. The deer can't see the line. When they hit it, they jump back in surprise. Or, maybe they'll run through. That might be worth a try if I use deer weight fishing line.

I could sit out at night with a baton and bat it out with their antlers in my best fencing pose. Better than investing in rolls of deer fence? Probably not. Maybe good fences do make dear neighbors.

Any good ideas? I'd love to hear them. Send me an email or give me a call. 


Rick Steigmeyer

The Wenatchee World

(509) 664-7151 wk

(509) 860-6729 cell