A Michigan fruit grower has found an inexpensive way to protect his orchard from deer.
Robert Wave of Kaleva, Michigan, endured damage from deer for many years in his blueberry acreage. Deer browsed on the tips of his bushes in the fall and winter, which caused explosive growth the following spring and resulted in no blueberries. Most of the usual deterrents are expensive or labor intensive, and, with the exception of the fencing, provide mixed results. But since constructing an easy-to-build, inexpensive, slanted fence, he no longer has a deer problem.
Wave believes that the fence design, built from common materials, has application to other fruit crops, such as grapes, apples, and cherries.Determined to find a solution to his deer problem, Wave found deer fencing plans on the Internet, developed by the Virginia Cooperative Extension. The fence is only five feet high, but has an outward slant of about eight feet in width.
Conventional deer fencing is recommended to be eight feet tall, using woven wire or polypropylene material to keep the deer out. Slant fences give the illusion of being eight feet tall.
“The deer doesn’t think that it can jump over the wires, even though it’s only five feet tall, because of all that slant,” he said, adding that the slant confuses the deer’s field of vision.
“It’s been tremendously effective. You can see by the tracks in the snow that they come up to it, but turn away.”
Wave noted that growers should electrify the top of the seven wires and several in the middle of the fence. The hot wires teach young fawns at an early age not to touch the fence. Electrifying the lowest of the seven wire strands and locating the strand a few inches above the ground can also keep out small animals if they are a problem.
He used barbed wire in his fencing only because he had some available, but said that high tensile wire works equally well. Wire strands are placed about a foot apart on the slanted eight-foot poles. Wave used two-by-fours for his eight-foot slanted posts with five-foot long metal T-posts as the brace under the slanted posts. Wood posts could be used instead of metal T-posts as the inside supporting post.
Lift to mow
The fence can be lifted from the bottom to mow underneath because the eight-foot long posts are just resting on the ground.
“The cost of the fence beats anything I’ve ever seen in my life,” Wave said, adding that he put up a half-mile fence for 40 cents per foot.
“It really does work,” he said. “I didn’t really know what my average blueberry production should be, because I’d always had deer damage. But before the fence, I was getting about 1,000 pounds of blueberries per acre. The next season after putting up the fence, my average was 1,400 pounds per acre.”