Alan Clark

At one of our most recent meetings of The Tribe for coffee at Land and Lake Market in Estill, the subject was the deer in our yards.

I was watering my plants one recent morning, and a big one just crossed over between a couple of houses, paused a moment to check me out, then proceeded on.

Early on another morning (still dark out), I saw the biggest dog I had ever seen out here running down the street in front of my house. Suddenly, it darted off the street and across the lawn of a neighbor, and I noticed a loud “click” when it turned off the asphalt. That’s when I knew it was a deer, not a dog.

It seems the proliferation of deer in our part of Franklin County has increased.

Wayne informed me that, on a regular basis, a small herd crossed his backyard each morning, made its way to mine, and emerged behind the fence to scamper into a nearby wooded area. This, he said, was happening several mornings a week.

There were other tales of deer in yards, especially in gardens, chewing on tomatoes and other veggies like corn being grown behind the house. So, naturally, the conversation turned to how to keep them from doing damage.

Don said he used noise-making devices, and someone else suggested a pulsing light source of some kind to make the deer think something was burning or a predator was on the way.

You can buy an ultrasonic deer repeller for $50, something called a deer chaser for $30, or pay $70 at Walmart for an “orbit yard motion-activated repellant and enforcer.”

My wife once had me purchase two special mini-horns that only deer could hear and mount them on our front bumper, with the idea that it would keep deer from crossing the road in front of us. Even our skeptical daughter-in-law did the same thing.

Unfortunately, while we never had a run-in with wild deer, these devices did not survive things like the car wash and wind tunnel-like effect of driving 75 mph on the interstate.

A motion-activated sprinkler was suggested as was letting your pet dog spend plenty of time in the yard, a cheaper alternative perhaps than these other methods.

Those of us familiar with the battle know how difficult it can be to have a beautiful garden in deer territory.

The furry critters seem to know exactly which plants are our favorites, don’t they?

Some guy walked in and heard us talking over this problem. He introduced himself and said, “Over the last twenty years I’ve tended over 40 gardens as a professional horticulturist, and I’ve learned a lot about the ups and downs of gardening with deer in that time.”

He proceeded to share all of the things he had learned and presented a four-step plan for building gorgeous, nearly deer-proof gardens, to wit:

Tactic 1: Choose deer resistant garden plants. If the deer eat your corn, then don’t plant corn. Try something else.

Tactic 2: Put up the right kind of garden deer fence. The only way to truly keep deer from eating your plants is to fence them out, a task easier said than done. Putting up a proper deer fence is an expensive proposition, and when it’s finished, it may feel like you’ve fenced yourself in, instead of fencing the deer out. Deer can jump over an eight-foot-tall fence lickety-split, so if you’re going to put up a fence, make sure it’s at least that tall.

Tactic 3: Use deer repellents — religiously. You cannot go out to the garden and spray them once and be done with it. Set a weekly reminder so you can stay on top of it. Maybe a cell phone could be used for this.

Tactic 4: Deter deer by scaring them. While grandma may have put clattering aluminum pie pans or strips of tin foil in the garden to scare away the deer, these methods are completely ineffective against today’s super-tame, suburban deer. But, there is one scare tactic that usually provides excellent results. Those motion-activated sprinklers work best.

Maybe you have your own full-proof methods for scaring away Bambi and company. I’m sure they work, for a while.

Constant diligence seems to be the only consistent cure for trespassing deer, but no one mentioned putting up a NO TRESPASSING sign with a deer drawn on it. If this works, please join us for coffee and let us know.

Alan Clark writes weekly from Estill Springs and records his columns on Apple Music as podcasts. The first year of 100 editorials are available in his book, “You Oughtta Know, Volume One: 2017-2018” published by Lakeway Publishers, Inc.