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Oklahoma Grape Growers Deal With Deer

A hungry deer will find almost any plant palatable, so no plant or vineyard is totally deer-proof. Deer will eat both growing shoots and ripening fruit in your grape vineyard. Having a herd of deer eat all of the new vines can be devastating for a young vineyard or winery. I love Oklahoma's White tail deer, but I also love Oklahoma wines!

In this article, I wanted to explore some of the techniques vineyard managers are using to reduce vineyard damage from deer.

Recognizing Deer Damage to Grape Vineyards

Deer feeding damage is readily distinguished from that caused by rabbits or rodents. Where as rabbits or rodents leave a clean-cut surface, deer lack upper incisors and leave a ragged, broken end on browsed branches.

Another clue is the height of the damage from the ground (up to 6 feet), which often rules out smaller mammals. New wine grape growers in the Texas Hill Country are advised to use an estimate of $3.50/linear foot to deer-proof a new vineyard site. The market provides a number of great technology solutions for defending your garden from deer.

In this article, I will describe 6 common methods to protect your vineyard from deer:


1.  The Electrified Peanut Butter Fence 
(ya gotta love the name!)

Baited and electrified fencing can be purchased pre-made or cobbled together at home. The basic idea is that deer are attracted to bait stations around an electrified fence. When any deer licks the bait they receive a shock that trains the deer to stay clear of that area.

Electric fence is much cheaper than other styles of fencing and is much easier to setup.  If power is an issue, you can even go solar! 

Electric Fence Baited with Peanut Butter for Deer Damage Prevention

Electric Fence Kits & Supplies

2.  Vineyard Protection Scare Devices

Frightening deer with scare devices like popguns and predator calls should work for a period of time before the deer adapt to the specific tactic. Be cunning, be terrifying and try not to be too annoyed.  Motion activated water sprinklers are a modern form of the classic Japanese Zen Garden Deer Chasers. These electronic scarecrows are a wonder to behold!
Example: Bamboo Accents Zen Garden Water Fountain Spout, 7.5 Inch Shishi Odoshi Rocking, Includes Submersible Pump Kit.

Scare devices work better for birds as their damage is more seasonally timed to the harvest. My Dad keeps inexpensive rubber snakes in the branches of his cherry trees to discourage birds. The downside is the occasional startling moment as you rediscover them next season while pruning or mowing!  (that is also how you know they are working)

3.  Standard Fencing to Surround the Vineyard

Physically excluding deer is a great way to prevent damage. Unfortunately, it often the most expensive option, as the typical deer-proof fence is 8 feet high and made of woven wire. Also, it can detract from the natural beauty of the vineyard. Many Fence Supply stores offer a 7.5 ft. tall polypropylene deer fence that is less unsightly.  

4.  Invisible Fence to Protect Grape Vines

Dogs contained by buried electric pet fencing around a protected area can be an effective deterrent. House pets are usually not effective because deer feed in the evening when lap dogs are less likely to be roaming. 


5.  Hunting to Reduce Deer Damage

Today, deer have few natural predators and the most efficient type of population control is hunting. Although control methods such as infertility treatments, are being researched, it is unlikely they can or will be economical or biologically effective anytime soon. Other mortality factors, such as vehicle collisions are also factors, so whenever possible plant vines near a Hummer dealership!   

6.  Deer Repellents

Products like: Deer Off, Liquid Fence, and Plantskydd® Deer Repellent discourage deer from feeding by making the plants either taste or smell bad. 

Some folks even mix their own formulas.  High success rates have been reported using a mixture of 20% eggs and 80% water. 

Most deer repellents can be applied as a spray. Hinder, an ammonium soap-based repellent, and Deer-Off, a product that uses putrescent egg solids, are some of the few repellents approved for use on garden vegetables and fruit-bearing trees during the growing season.

Using repellents might be too risky for some wine grape growers, as the smell and taste of the grapes is so vital to their marketability. However, I haven't seen any data supporting the idea that the repellent factors are transferred to the fruit.

7.  Sonic Devices

This has lead many vineyard managers to try Electronic Deer Repellents such as the Deerchaser Deer Deterrent

We are currently looking for more sources for Oklahoma fruit and wine grapes.  We even buy native fruit varieties like elderberry, blackberries, summer grapes, etc.  

Contact us today!

Nuyaka Creek Winery
35230 South 177th West Ave. 
Bristow, Oklahoma 74010
For appointments or directions call 
the Nuyaka Mall at: (918) 756-8485 

Oklahoma Road Trips Website - Canoe & Kayak Oklahoma! Events, information and contacts.
Meet the  outfitters in the Ozarks, learn about local river conditions, new canoes and kayaks on the market and kayak fishing techniques.


Visit our Wine Industry Magazines Page

There are several magazines focused on viticulture and winemaking, a few to which every grape grower, winery manager or aspiring winery owner should be sure to subscribe.  We have tried to list the best ones on the page linked above for your convenience.  Visit some Oklahoma wineries to learn more about the opportunities viticulture offers for the Sooner State. 

The Oklahoma Wine Industry Needs You!  

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