Oh Deer, What Can The Matter Be?



From Our Archives August 2007
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
The Contrary Farmer

Thirty years ago, if I saw a herd of twenty or thirty deer grazing in grain fields in our neighborhood, I would have thought seriously about going on the wagon and I don’t mean a hay wagon either. There were no deer in our county then. Today such a sight is common.

Deer are becoming a very big problem but the general populace doesn’t think so yet. Have you ever been at a public meeting where hunters ally with wild animal lovers to lash out against homeowners, biologists, farmers and insurance companies who want to reduce the number of deer significantly? I have. It is not pretty. These people really get angry, shouting and cursing at each other. Ted Williams, my favorite wildlife writer, described in Audubon magazine a couple of years ago a confrontation where a biologist was trying to tell hunters about the depredations that deer were causing to the wild. They “interrupted him by stomping and jeering, … cursed and spat at him, … pushed him and threatened to kill him.”

The biologist was trying to tell them, with scientific data, that deer were overpopulating and devastating “thousands upon thousands of square miles” of natural vegetation to the point where new trees in forests and undergrowth and wild flowers were being destroyed, which in turn destroyed the environment of many other animals dependent on the vegetation, which also meant that the deer were starving in some areas. Farmers tell the same story regarding their crops. Insurance companies point out that hundreds of people are killed or injured in car/deer accidents every year, not to mention 1.5 million deer. The cost to insurance companies is about $1.1 billion annually. What has happened is that necessary depopulation of deer is being done by road traffic— we have become suicide bombers in our cars, killing ourselves in the process of killing deer.

The bedfellows that this controversy has brought together seems almost humorous. Those who oppose all killing of wild animals have teamed up with hunters who oppose any policy that might reduce the overall number of deer other than, of course, their own policy of killing deer. The hunters want a big deer population so they can always be assured of bagging one as soon as they step into the woods. So, although they think they are big, tough, rootin’, tootin’ macho outdoorsmen, bristling with guns, they will vote with, however embarrassingly, those whom they otherwise call ultra liberal wimps who don’t want to see any animal killed. On the other side, farmers are siding with professional environmentalists whom they normally despise, because both see the necessity of reducing the deer population.

I am not too hopeful that more hunting would bring reduction of the deer herd anyway, as both sides seem to believe. I don’t think we have enough real hunters left in this country— hunters willing to do the hard work of real hunting. Or who know how to shoot straight. Time after time in cases where hunters complain that there are no deer left in their area, scientific checking, with infrared light at night, shows plenty of deer. The hunters just don’t know how to hunt, or don’t have the time for it.

If only deer developed a taste for car tires. Then people who don’t understand the problem would wake up some fine morning and find their tires gnawed down to the rims. Then they’d know how we farmers and gardeners feel and believe me, something would get done about the overpopulation of deer. Right now.

In my experience, none of the socially-approved methods of keeping deer out of farm fields and gardens work very well, except an eight-foot high wire panel fence which would be prohibitively expensive for large fields. Some say strobe lights flashing intermittently will do the trick, but if I know deer, and I do, it will take them maybe two weeks to figure that one out. But my wife has come up with something new that, so far, works. She parks the car next to the garden where deer regularly eat at our vegetables and flowers. She puts the car keys on the lampstand beside our bed. Several times in the middle of the night she rolls over and pushes the panic button on the key chain. All hallelujah breaks loose in the garden, the car lights blinks and the blaring horn sends up an anthem guaranteed to send deer airborne into the next county. It also sets every dog in the neighborhood to howling.

Of course this doesn’t solve the problem. It just means sending the deer into someone else’s garden. And if you have close neighbors, it might not be advisable unless they hate deer in the garden as much as you do.


We have a slightly different wrinkle out here; hunting cougars is not allowed, so they’re overpopulating and becoming habituated to humans to the point that one female and her two cubs were living under a neighbor’s deck. They’re frequently sighted on the popular walking trail in a town of 90,000 35 miles away, as well as in back yards. One was stalking a local jogger up here, and we often see their tracks on the roads here on the ranch. We lost the milk cow’s just-born calf to one a couple of years ago. There are so many that some of them are starting to form prides – local rancher took a picture of seven in one group. I expect something similar to happen with bears, since it’s now illegal to hunt them with dogs…

    We supposedly have had some sightings of them in indiana though nothing proven by DNR but there have also been a couple of bears too. One in extreme northern indiana and one in southern. Either way, we are getting too much civilization to allow these predators to repopulate these areas. There was a reason they were exterminated from them a hundred years ago.I think they are going to have to have the DNR reduce the populations in a lot of areas.They think they might reduce deer populations but what generally happens is they find easier,smaller prey in the form of pets and sooner or later young children. After all they know by instinct to go after the prey which is going to use up the least calories to catch and provide them with the most. And what would be a better source of calories than some young chubby suburbanite!They cat run,are taught not to fight back, and dont have any decent teeth or claws to make it much of a challenge.God forbid if they start learning to live in the nature areas around malls,schools and soccer fields.!When little johnny gets taken out of a soccer game he might just really get taken out!!

I fully agree with Deborah. THe deer while costing me some money dont do nearly as much harm as the drunken and /or sober inbreds out playing “sportsman”! I know i’ve had enough of them arrested. Trespassing. cutting or kicking out fences so their dogs could get through for the ones hunting coons or rabbits.I’ve known farmers who have had to take shelter and wait til they left to safely move about their own property. I gave up hunting because of it.One had some of the local “legal” sportsmen treeing a coon in their yard about 15-20 feet from their house in a subdivision!!I dont know how many times i have had to round up my stock because someone cut or kicked out the fence. Because of it i had my sheep get on the road when i first started and some drunken inbred ran over some and then backed up and ran over some more!1 I lost 9 sheep! The sheriff had to put some of them down.I know farmers( me included) who have been threatened or attacked by these hill jacks.They seem to only be able to read the parts of the rules and laws that suit them. I finally found one hunter i respect enough to allow on my land .Same problem with fishermen,horseback riders and off roaders.Cant wait till i can afford to get my present farm surveyed and fenced in!!Not that that means much!!

    Sorry if my post seems harsh. Was going to soften the tone but dont know how to go back and edit it. But it has been very frustrating for me and other farmers.We even had bodies dumped one road over from my first farm where i grew up !

nine years after this post was written and the problem just gets worse. our area is overrun by the critters this year. they are eating plants they don’t normally eat : mugwort, barberry, pokeweed, beech. the random tree seedlings that sprouted up have been munched down to stems.
only an army of dedicated hunters that target the females of breeding age could reduce the size back down to manageable levels. that’s obviously not going to happen anytime soon. so many of the macho boys and their big guns are desperate for the big buck, and like Gene mentions, without doing any work at all except pointing their stands towards the neighbors’ houses.
all the native plant fanatics should be focused on lobbying their governments to institute birth control programs, rather than haranguing landowners to spray gallons of poison to eradicate the “invasive species”. even if all the “invasive species” were to disappear tomorrow, there would still be zero forest regeneration due to the incessant deer browsing. i have observed that the only thing preventing the deer eating many of the hardwood seedlings in the woods is the inpenetrable thorns of the multiflora rose bush.
i like deer, there’s just way way way too many of them. selfish humans who fail to consider consequences created the problem, and again, selfish humans who fail to observe nature prevent a solution from manifesting.
great post as usual, Gene. hope you’re resting peacefully in the pumpkin patch in the sky.

Bang on. And out here in rural B.C. we are starting to see a similar dynamic around bears,

Thank you so much for continuing to share Gene’s plainspoken wisdom.

“Time after time in cases where hunters complain that there are no deer left in their area, scientific checking, with infrared light at night, shows plenty of deer. The hunters just don’t know how to hunt, or don’t have the time for it.”

Gene’s comment which I quoted makes me think that what we need to do is to allow hunters to do their part at night with lights, just like those doing the scientific checking. In the meantime, if any farmer or gardener is put on trial for spotlighting deer, he’ll be glad if I’m on the jury.

    if you have lived out in the country and had yourself and your house spotlighted night after night–and on posted land– you would soon be sick of it.

    if, as my husband had to do, you had had to run off a large group of heavily armed and drunken ‘hunters’ from our posted land, you might change your mind.

    they are not only a damned nuisance, they are dangerous.

    neighbor was changing her baby and looked out the window.
    hunter on her porch scanning the land–posted land.

    the fool could have shot through someones house and killed people.

    maybe it should be like africa where would-be hunters are taken on safari by licensed experts. no alcohol allowed.

    or the hunter who dropped deer innards in a plastic bag on the bank of a creek next to a house. the panther prints were all around the offal right beside a dwelling.

    pro hunters could teach the safari goers proper handling of offal as well as etiquette and safety.

I can remember as an Ohio kid in the 70’s going to a “Deer Park” to see fenced in whitetail deer. The park still exists – now the fence is better suited at keeping the deer out! There is a similar problem with wild turkeys (just not the traffic deaths) – just ask anyone who hunts for mushrooms in the Spring. I also have friends in southern Ohio who claim the wild turkeys can devastate a decent amount of emerging corn in one day. Again thank you Carol and Dave for keeping Gene’s blog going.

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