Northland produce farmers offer thoughts on dealing with deerPeople who measure their gardens by acres say they face the same battle with deer as backyard gardeners. They don’t have any magic solutions.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
People who measure their gardens by acres say they face the same battle with deer as backyard gardeners. They don’t have any magic solutions.
“High-speed lead,” said Doug Hoffbauer, who farms in Midway Township, when asked about any “special tricks” for dealing with deer. “And the fence.”
Hoffbauer has 8 acres of his Christmas tree farm surrounded by an
8-foot-tall fence, which he said is the standard for keeping deer away. It was expensive: about $30,000, although the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources picked up 10 percent of the tab.
At 60, Hoffbauer doesn’t want to make that kind of investment in his produce farm. Besides, he goes in and out of his field often and doesn’t want the inconvenience of having to enter and leave through gates, he said.
So he has a more proactive approach to the deer. He’s careful not to discourage predators, such as wolves. And when it comes to deer: “My plan is to shoot the heck out of them” during hunting season, Hoffbauer said. “We shoot eight or nine, 10 of them a year out of our place … and I do believe 12 of them move in.”
Gene and Ann Zachow built a fence before they started farming in Clover Valley almost 30 years ago, Gene Zachow said. As they saw it, they had no other choice.
“We have 1,500 acres of county land around us, so they (would) just walk across the road,” he said. “And there’s a lot of deer.”
Robert Olen, who farms between Esko and Barnum, has fenced some of his high-value crops, he said. Where fences are too expensive or unwanted, a well-trained dog can be effective, he said. Repellants, if used carefully and consistently, can work, too.
But when it comes to deer, Olen primarily practices the art of compromise.
“In my case, we understand that we’re going to sacrifice a little on our perimeters to deer,” he said. “And my rule of thumb is, if it’s under
10 percent I’m willing to give that to the natural animals.”
In addition to deer, Olen said he also loses produce to raccoons, bears, birds, “and on one sad occasion, I found another two-legged critter taking the crop.”