Protect a Food Plot from Deer


Staff member
Back on the QDMA forum, this was a topic I spent A LOT of time researching. There were pages and pages worth of information - some were relevant to my situation, some were not. I think this is a thread that can help people like I was helped all those years ago.

In my experience, there are three ways to keep deer out of a food plot:

1) Milorganite
2) Plot Saver
3) Electric Fence


Milorganite is essentially recycled human waste from a sewage facility in Milwaukee. It comes as a small granule that is easy to spread in a 3pt spreader. It works because it stinks - deer do NOT like the smell and will typically stay away from it.

There are other types of Milorganite, so you don't have to buy just that name brand. A South Carolina sewage facility produces Poconite, and there is also a product that comes out of Virginia.

If you buy the commercial product at Lowes or a similar store, you will pay roughly $13 a 40 lb bag, which is a ripoff and cost prohibitive. If you have a local coop, talk to them about buying it in bulk. I was able to buy 1 ton of the Virginia product for $210 this year.

How to Apply

UGA did a study a few years ago and concluded that Milorganite works as a deer deterrent when applied at 250lb per acre TWICE. I apply it the first time at planting (if I expect the field to germinate quickly), and then the second application is exactly 2 weeks later. Even with heavy rain this is enough to keep deer off for a month.

I have had very good success with this method and will continue to do it if I can continue to buy the product in bulk. Each one of these sacks on my trailer is 1,000 lb of the Virginia version of Milorganite:


Plotsaver is a temporary fence that you put around a plot. It is a single ribbon placed 30" off the ground and then sprayed with a foul smelling rotten egg based solution. It is fairly simple to set up and take down, and you can use it year after year. I usually respray the rotten egg solution every 2 weeks on my small plots.

Plotsaver works...until one deer is brave enough to jump over it. That might take 2 weeks or it might take a month, but once one deer is over it the jig is up.

I've had good success with this product on one property and fair success on another with higher deer pressure. It's worth trying on a small plot to see if it works on your deer.

Electric Fence

This is the Holy Grail of Food Plot Protection, but I am NOT an expert on it and thus will wait for someone like dgallow to chime in if he is willing. My one trial at establishing an e-fence was not successful, and I haven't been brave enough to try again. I used a 6v solar charger made by Parmak and never could get the volts up high enough to keep the deer off.

However, many, many users on the QDMA forum had great success with an e-fence, and this was the consensus winner as far as food plot protection was concerned.
My grandparents have a great garden, they have a single wire electric fence around it and i can probably step over it. I asked my grandmother how it kept the deer out. She put pie tins on the wire with peanut butter so when the deer licked it it shocked the hell out of them! It worked!
I tried plot saver and I would never recommend it, I don't think it was worth the time to string it up, but maybe that was just my situation. Milorganite on the other had, I feel works pretty good for the cost, I got it for $5 a bag at fleet farm, bit the price does seem to have a wide range.
I have used Milorganite and works well just make sure to reapply. I have even spread it on the edge abt 2' wide and protected a plot and saved some coin not putting it all over the plot. With the new pasture plot i have a fence around 90% which means i can run a hot wire with very little work. I plan on trying that out on part of it to hope to protect some food for the late season. Something that works in a small garden was cheap soap i would buy a couple of bars and cut it into 4th and hang it around the edge again you have to replace it when it stops smelling or the rain washes it away but its was cheap and works well for the cost now i know that is going to cut it for the large plots but for some of the small plots hidden in the woods it might help.
Sure I can tell you how to run an efence to protect a plot......but have I done anything to change how you view the real issue?...change how you think? Have you thought about the real resource concerns for your property? Taken the time to write them down into a 'long -term management plan'?

The need for plot protection is a symptom of more relevant problems. These problems we refer to as 'resource concerns'. Insufficient plot acreage (economics or management), poor soil resilience to stress (management), lack of plant diversity in food plot(management), too many deer (management), and poor native habitat in need of regeneration (management)......any one or all of those can be the relevant problem(s)...aka resource concerns addressable by a change in management (mainly how your think). Have you reduced deer numbers to an acceptable stocking rate for your area? Have you undertaken steps in the native lands to increase availability, tonnage, and lengthened vegetative growth period of preferred native plants? Are your food plots diverse? If the answers to those questions are yes, then you have likely seen an increase in persistence and yield of forage in food plots and less need for plot protection (ie better browse tolerance)....albeit you may not be totally free of the need....just less concerned.

So about that efence....don't spend a great deal of money on need to protect entire plot, just say 2/3rds or 3/4ths.....because if you have addressed the resource concerns above then you will have less need for it. Buy a good 12v solar energizer or a 110V unit......acquire some old T-posts for corner posts, buy either ground rods or use existing metal fence or buried sheet of tin some white tread-ins for line posts, sufficient length of poly-braid from Kencove fence for 3 strands, sufficient number and size of geared reels, and an assortment of odd plastic insulators you may need. Then, start using that creative part of your brain and go learn to run hot wires!

Creative thinking will lead you to do inexpensive things like running a single hot wire across a pond corner to forgo more expensive measures to water stock like tanks, permanent fence, and water lines (all unnecessary IMO as critters have legs)...and in insure good water quality which is a common resource concern.

On a side note, if you don't own the property or have control over management to address resource concerns, then you will likely need to focus heavily on deterrents. If you do own the property, then time allocation and independent learning are likely hindering your progress in balancing the herd with native land capability. Think people....think about high order problems on your lands!

dgallow knows what he is talking about. However, there is sometimes more to the story. Right now I have low deer numbers and they don't eat up all the food I provide. But, if I want to grow a very preferred food that is sensitive to early browsing, then protection is needed. My best example is sugar beets. Without protection, you have no chance of growing a good crop. I put an electric fence powered by a 12v solar powered charger and use a double layer of fence made of tape for visibility. Outside the sugar beets plot and the fence, I plant soybeans. The system works and allows the sugar beets to reach around 8 lbs. Sometime in early September i take the fence down and the beets draw deer well into the winter. I don't think that any other method would keep deer out of sugar beets other then an electric fence.
D, don't want to derail this thread but would like to hear your thoughts on prioritizing the list of concerns you touched on above. In the context of building or refining a long term plan how would you prioritize those issues at your place.

As you know we are 3 hours from the farm so we have to budget time as efficiently as possible and try to work on many of those things but we have to look at it long term because we can't complete big chunks at any given time. I will start a thread for it in the habitat section.
Yes. It is a source of nitrogen, and it is marketed as an organic fertilizer, which is why it is expensive at big stores.
Thanks for the info or source for Poconite...
I have used electric . fence ( 5 wire, 5ft high) with fairly good success for the past 7 years with a few persistent deer jumpers. Asp used Milorganite along perimeter of field with good results for a couple of weeks and also plot saver. My long term plan is to now run an outside 3ft. high perimeter hot wire. In summary, there is no long term cheap solution.
My grandparents have a great garden, they have a single wire electric fence around it and i can probably step over it. I asked my grandmother how it kept the deer out. She put pie tins on the wire with peanut butter so when the deer licked it it shocked the hell out of them! It worked!

This. It's also entertaining to put a video game cam on it and watch them when they get shocked. Apparently it makes an impression.
I don't know about the cost of an e-fence but I have had great luck with my plot saver in the past and it's pretty inexpensive. You just have to re-spray it every 2 weeks or so. It was the only way I've ever had sunflowers get past 3 inches tall. I know milorganite works but it's costly.
Very cool thread, thanks for sharing cutman. This one really got the wheels turning.

I'm a bow hunter and could see an advantage to fencing a portion of the plot (everything within bow range) and allowing deer to browse the rest until bow season. Have any of you tried using this to give you a little tactical advantage?
Another option I've seen used is to use the orange plastic fencing seen around construction zones, highway projects etc. It can easily be hung with T post and doubled up to be 6-8' high stopping all deer traffic. Even without doubling it the effectiveness is high as deer will shy away from something new like that flapping in the breeze. Let the crops get established well enough and simply role it up. Fairly cheap, reusable, easy to put up and take down. Works very well.
Hard to beat a 'lectric fence. These two fields are both around 8 acres, planted the same day and less than 600 yards apart. One with fence, one without.