How to Boobytrap Your Garden for Deer.




Introduction: How to Boobytrap Your Garden for Deer.

About: The name comes from the First Star Trek movie, that pretty much says it all.

Gardening can be a real challenge sometimes.  This year is proving to be no exception. As if the grasshopper invasion wasn't bad enough now the deer have shown up and decided that my green tomatoes are the latest best snack. Deer don't usually eat green tomatoes but sometimes you get a nut case that somehow develops a taste for them.  The result can be pretty devastating. They will go through your tomato plants and pull off every tomato that they can find. I have only picked one ripe tomato so far this year and sure enough a tomato eating deer turned up. The evidence is plain, pieces of tomatoes laying around and broken plants and lots of tracks. But this time I came up with a plan. I decided to try booby trapping the plants.

Step 1: Fireworks

Booby traps are also called pull string fireworks. When the strings are pulled it sets off a small bang. Its not as loud as a firecracker but it does make a pretty good pop. In states were fireworks are legal they are sold all over. They are not very dangerous because they have no fuse, do not need lighting and are very low yield. For making noise in the garden they are perfect.

Step 2: The Plan

The plan was very simple. Create a maze of string, using monofiliment fishing line, which is invisible at night, with booby trap fireworks spread out in the line.  When a deer walks into the line it pulls the strings and sets off the caps. If they run the wrong way they may go through several of them, making it an even more unpleasant experience. The hope is to scare them off without causing anybody or anything any harm and saving a few tomatoes for me.
Ya know, I wouldn't mind sharing with the deer, but they don't understand that concept. They will leave you nothing if you don't somehow force them to relocate.  They will come back every night, across miles of fields just to destroy your food. Not a very nice neighbor.

For those who have expressed concern about the line being a hazard please look at the picture. It is a fine enough line that it will not pose a hazard to any animals, including dogs and cats. It is the thickness of thread and it is as close to invisible as I could find. That is the way you want it to be. The line does not do anything more than trigger the booby traps. And when the traps are pulled apart the line is in pieces. This is not for snaring or trapping, its just for scaring off problem animals.

Step 3: Setting It Up.

I have a lot of small fence posts from my old electric fence and they work perfect for all kinds of things including this.
Place the posts around the tomatoes with lots of open ground in between. Tie some fishing line to one post and reel it out to another post. Cut it somewhere in the middle and tie a booby trap string to each cut end. Tie it to the other post and if the line is a little slack then just wrap it around the post until its nice and taut. Don't get it to tight and set off the trap. Continue around the plants running line where ever it looks like it might block the deer's path. When your done you should see what almost looks like a spider web running through the garden.

And in case you run into the problem, the booby traps are not water proof. If they get too wet they will not work. A very simple solution for that is to wrap them in a little piece of cellophane or plastic food wrap.

I have now found an easier and better way to waterproof  the traps. I got a can of spray sealant called matte finish. This is the stuff that artists use to spray chalk drawings to keep them from smudging.  A lite coat of it on the traps makes them water resistant. So its just a fast spritz and that is it.

Step 4: A Good Night.

You know its all worked when you check on things in the day and find several popped traps. And the best thing is, no damaged tomatoes. Its hard to guess if it will continue to work. Sometimes deer get used to things and then start ignoring it. I just hope it works as a deterrent long enough for me to get some tomatoes without having to go to the extreme of building protective fences around all the tomato plants. So far so good.

Some other thoughts:

You might wonder why not just use the electric fence? I do have lots of that wire left over from when I had horses. The problem is deer just jump over fences. Or the go under them. Fences that are a barrier to deer are about 8 feet high and made of a woven or welded wire. Deer usually just go where they feel like going and not much stops them. 
We have only a few more weeks until it frosts here, so I don't want to go to a lot of effort for this. This is just a temporary solution. If it was at the beginning of the summer I might put up a chicken wire cage around the tomatoes, but that has a lot of drawbacks by itself. Like I said deer don't normally eat tomatoes. They don't like the taste of the plants at all. I have had times when they bit off some to try and just dropped it because it tastes bad to them. But the ones that get a taste for green tomatoes are a big problem.
Every spring when I plant snow peas I have to cover them completely with welded fence wire. The deer love them so much they will eat them to the ground.  But squash and other things they leave alone. Once in a while they take a few bites of potato plants but again they don't really like them. Lettuce however they will eat to the ground. So, its a challenge, figure out what they like and protect it the best you can and plant a lot of what they don't like and hope they leave it alone.
Another solution is a dog that likes to chase them. I had one of those for years and then she got run over on the highway. And sometimes a dog can do as much damage to a garden as a deer can, only they don't eat stuff, they just dig it up and tear it up.  For this moment and for this problem this appears to be working. So far.

A Final  note for the fall.

We just had our first frost so this experiment is coming to its end. It has worked far better than I ever thought it would.  After the first 3 incursions the deer left my garden totally alone for more than  three weeks. After that they tried one more time and have yet to return. . I just set off a few of the traps that have been in place since the beginning and they still pop with no problem in spite of being rained on. So all of that together has made this a successful experiment. I will definitely use it again next year for a longer period of time and may even try putting some of them in the paths that the deer are using.



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    20 Discussions

    This would be worth having the game camera set up to watch the results.

    Really, the rains did not soak the powder inside and they still worked ? Aren't they just like firecrackers, paper, powder and a fuse/trigger thingy? My solution, Venison on the barbie! Works for me!

    1 reply

    I sprayed them with a clear coat finish although any spray paint would work. It seals the paper and string so the water doesn't get into them.
    After I dug up my potatoes, after the frost, i cleaned up the line left around and the traps still popped. So yes they do survive for quite a while.

    Nice Instructable.

    My Grandfather always used Irish Spring Bar soap to keep the animals away from the corn.

    a good and natural way is to buy some cayenne powder (bulk ala big lots/sams club) and boil 3/4-1 cup with 3 cups of vinegar and dilute that 1 cup ro a gallon and spray on the plants. keeps allmost anything from eating them but will rinse off when it rains.

    Howdy Vyger,

    This is awesome : ), so have the deer gotten used to the fireworks going off? My Mom has plants she's been trying to deer proof for a while. I bet this would work perfectly for protecting her plants as well. : - )


    1 reply

    So far I have had to reset traps 3 times. Only once did they pick a few more tomatoes. And since then I added even more line, including out along the perimeter. The normal pattern for the deer would be to come back every night. That is not happening now. Now its a few days between visits, its like they are testing it. I am trying to figure out which direction they are coming in from, if they are consistent in that, and plan on setting extra lines in those areas. I do know that without this they would have stripped everything by now so that is a positive result so far.

    I suspect you really don't wish to harm the deer. But you brought up the fact that several have been hit by cars crossing the road. Would the folks who have the adjacent property allow you to put a salt lick over on their side of the land, over by the water (but not too close to the water)? As far as spending money for a chemical repellent, I remember that you have cats. If you took some used cat litter and a few fecal samples and dropped them in an old sock, knee high or panty hose leg and hang them around the plants, you could have the smell of cats and save some dough. You would always have a fresh supply of cat droppings. Oh, and by the way, do not mix the cat droppings in the dirt around your tomatoes or any other edible plant. I remember something about communicable parasites.

    1 reply

    The other side of the road is pasture, hay fields and then trees along the river bottom. Also there is a large pasture that is used for calving. They bring the cows in in the spring and hold them there until after they have their calves. So there are plenty of resources, lots of alfalfa and grass and plenty of minerals. The deer stay in the woods during the day and migrate out from there at night. Its not a matter of needing to feed elsewhere, rather its just their nature to wander. So they wander around at night and browse through peoples yards and gardens and then wander back across the road. Also some of the best grass is usually along the road. Because of the run off of the rain its often more lush and greener and since its not grazed by anything its usually thicker. So they eat along the road and then when a car or truck comes along it startles them and they jump out on the road to run to the woods. That's when they get hit.

    I almost forgot. Good instructable. I'm going to use it to keep the dogs away from my rosebushes by making a lattice fence out of those fireworks. One or two pops should keep them from hiking their legs!

    How will you feel when one of those dear gets caught up in the fishing line you've booby set up for them? Or a bird?

    But hey at least you saved a few tomatoes without having to spend any money on a proper method of protecting your crop. So what if an animal or two has to be maimed or killed in the process.

    5 replies

    If you watched your entire yard's landscaping get destroyed or run into one and had the front of your car wrecked you would feel differently. We are being over run by deer in my area and there are no natural predators to keep their numbers in check.

    If someone could post a good method of poisoning the vermin, it would be great.

    Another thing that happens when the deer population becomes to big is their health goes way down. They have a very ragged appearance. Then disease sets in. Since its the only form of population control without hunting and predation it takes a heavy toll. Its much better to control and manage the population than to have an entire population die off from disease. I some suburban areas they were going to try and implement a form of birth control since hunting isn't such a good thing in peoples back yards. But I have not heard any followup on that. In this area winter kill has a very big impact if they are in bad shape going into the snow and cold. People need to understand that it is for the deers benefit that their numbers be kept down. An area can only support so many animals. If they overpopulate then you have them destroying the natural plant life. Impacting other wildlife and have bad interactions with people.

    I can't tell if you're playing devil's advocate or not. I find it hard to believe that someone who cares so much about an animal would know so little about it. An adult deer is mostly muscle and can weigh anywhere between 80 and 300+ lbs. Have you ever felt 12lb test line in your hands? A toddler could break through it. If you used it as clothesline it would snap under the weight of a wet towel.

    Nice instructable Vyger.

    Its extremely light line. I can break it with my hand. Its to small even for a bird to sit on it. Its more like spider web.
    One of the more proper methods of dealing with deer where I live is to shoot them. Four of them have been hit by cars on the highway just next to my property in the last couple of years alone. The best thing for them is to just stay over by the river where they are much better off.

    Good instructable. Good idea on using the light line.

    Could be a pretty good securtiy system with the right setup.

    For those worried about harming "Bambi" we found a solution that seems to work without the bangs.

    Go to your local garden supply and purchase a bag of "Malorganite" , its a fertilizer made with cat feces, the deer don't like the smell. The only problem is it has to be regularly renewed, like after a rain or a week or so of time, my wife has said it doesn't take much. You just have to remember to re-dose.

    Our Michigan deer seem to respect the smell.

    Go online and buy bobcat urine in a spray can. yes, they sell it. then spray it around your garden.