Some Cardinal Rules For Effective Deer Fences

Rule 1: Always plan on a complete enclosure.

Some rules are painfully simple and obvious but still get ignored. If you were building a security fence around a remote property to keep out prowlers, it's unlikely you'd leave a gap in it anywhere. Similarly, when planning an effective deer control fence, it's critical not to leave any openings for these plant prowlers to exploit. Any gaps or weak spots in the fence will likely be found in short order.

In 25 years of designing and building deer control fences, we have always considered this the single most important rule in permanently protecting your plantings, and always warn our clients during construction that they should not be surprised to see deer on their property inside the fence enclosure until the day we hang and close the last gate.

One question we often get asked by clients is, "The deer never come up my driveway; do I really need to gate it?"

The short answer is yes. No matter what the local whitetails' travel patterns were prior to construction, a new fence will almost always change those patterns, leaving your property vulnerable if you leave the driveway open. In fact this type of situation can often turn the fence into a deer trap of sorts--by leaving an open "front door" with no way out the back, all it takes is an excited dog to put any deer inside the enclosure into high panic mode. The results are rarely pretty, and whitetails have been known to occasionally break their necks if they slam into a wire fence at high speeds running from a dog--or a mad gardener.

Sometimes the easiest way around the driveway dilemma is to forgo a full property enclosure and to fence just the back and side yards, usually tying the fence off to the house on either side, with smaller walk gates for mower and pedestrian access. We have also done kidney bean-shaped enclosures on occasion that encircle the back and side yards as well as part of the front before circling back to the front house corners or to an ornamental fence connected to the corners.

Every property has its own challenges and weak spots, and DeerGuard is always happy to offer you our experienced opinions regarding creative and attractive solutions to these difficult areas.


Rule 2: Match the fence materials to the application.

This is another rule based on simple common sense that many people still ignore, usually in favor of a "cheap" solution that fails over time and often results in having to do the work over again, so not much savings there, and no solution either.

While the black plastic C-Flex "fencing" being sold over the internet has inundated the deer fence marketplace due to its light weight and relative ease of installation, in our opinion it's hardly a professional grade material appropriate for deer control perimeter applications and we will never recommend or install it as a freestanding perimeter fence, period.

Why? There are a host of problems with this material when used as perimeter fence, including the obvious:

1) Deer can and do occasionally knock it down and run over it, especially during mating season. Get a buck's antlers stuck in the "fence" and watch him run away with a chunk of it. In our opinion, any material that can be cut with a dull pair of kitchen scissors deserves no place in the perimeter deer fence world.

2) Small animals (rabbits, groundhogs, etc.) can and do chew through the bottom of the mesh for egress, opening small holes that can rapidly become larger ones as other, more sizable animals avail themselves of the new passage. Soon you have a hole in the fence big enough for a small deer to enter. Often, by the time the homeowner notices anything is wrong, the deer have already breached the fence and caused significant damage to the landscape plantings.

3) Vines and fallen branches can make a mess of this material, usually in a fairly short time, especially if the fence runs through wooded areas. Don't fall for the bogus advertising claims boasting about the "high strength" of this material. We have replaced a ton of it with steel woven-wire for unhappy property owners who learned the hard way that plastic fencing is not an appropriate perimeter fence material.

To be fair, this same black plastic can be perfectly useful as a temporary winter fence around individual planting beds and small gardens that can be closely monitored by the gardener--exactly what we mean by matching the material to the application. But the fact remains this plastic C-flex netting is what we have come to call the "fishnet stocking" of the deer fence world, and we especially frown upon the false claims and marketing hype that is often used to sell the mesh over the internet. Buyer beware.

Another compromise deer fencing material came on the scene a few years ago in the form of a black, vinyl-coated chicken-wire, usually offered in a 7' height. While certainly stronger than the plastic C-flex, the chicken-wire has its own set of problems that has made it less than popular with many property owners who have experimented with it for perimeter deer fencing.

What are the specific drawbacks to this mesh?

1) No inherent strength or structural integrity: it is, after all, chicken-wire, and made of very lightweight soft metal at its core, usually 20-gauge. This means falling trees or branches can and do permanently damage and distort the material, often requiring complete replacement of the damaged section. Yes, you can bend a damaged piece of it back to a certain extent, but it will always look like a bit of a cobbed job, and unattractive in its inability to stand true over time.

2) Poor life expectancy, at least compared to other fence fabrics we consider appropriate for perimeter deer protection. Yes, the vinyl coating adds a few years to the life of this stuff. But true professional-grade fencing will outlive the poultry wire 2-3X or longer. And the material itself is not inexpensive. Briefly put, there are much better choices out there at close to the same price.