The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is common in most of the U.S. and throughout Missouri. The mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) occurs primarily in the western U.S. and occasionally appears in western Missouri. In areas where they are not hunted, abundant deer can damage crops and ornamental plantings and increase the potential for deer-vehicle collisions.
Depredation Permits for Severe Damage to Crops
If deer are severely damaging your agricultural crops, you can call your local county conservation agent to request a special Depredation Permit to shoot deer out of season.
The Wildlife Code of Missouri classifies both the white-tailed and mule deer as game mammals that may be taken during the prescribed hunting seasons. See current regulations for details. Although 3 CSR 10-4.130 of the Code specifies that most damage-causing wildlife may be shot or trapped out of season without a permit, special permission is needed before removing white-tailed or mule deer under this rule. Contact your local county conservation agent to request a Depredation Permit.
Where deer are abundant or crops particularly valuable, fencing may be the only way to effectively minimize deer damage. Several fencing designs are available to meet specific needs. A temporary electric fence is a simple and cost-effective way to protect a garden and field crops during snow-free periods.
Some farmers use propane cannons to protect crops. A small quantity of gas from a standard propane tank is ignited at regular intervals, producing a loud report that can be heard more than a mile away. The simplest models produce an explosion every 30 seconds to 30 minutes. More sophisticated models use computer chips to randomize the detonation pattern, either on a schedule or by remote control. Effectiveness is increased when the location and timing of the detonations are varied.
A dog on a long tether or confined by an electronic invisible fence can keep deer out of a limited area. Shell crackers, fireworks, and gunfire can provide quick, but usually only temporary, relief. Improve success by taking action at the first sign of a problem.
This method is best suited for use in orchards, gardens, and on ornamental plants. High cost, variable effectiveness, and limitations on use make most repellents impractical for row crops. Contact repellents are applied directly to plants and repel with a disagreeable taste. Some are suitable for use on plants destined for human consumption, but others are not. Area repellents are applied near plants and repel by odor. Typically less effective than taste repellents, area repellents are often used in perimeter applications. Both types of repellents are commonly available at most hardware and garden supply stores. Read labels carefully before use.
Human hair and bar soap are used as area repellents with variable success. Place two handfuls of hair in a fine-mesh bag and hang on the outer branches of trees, with no more than three feet between bags. Replace the hair monthly. Reportedly, drilling a hole in a bar of soap and suspending it with a twist tie or string will protect a radius of about one yard.
Not a practical option. Trap/relocation is expensive and can spread disease. Further, research shows that many relocated deer die from stress. Also, deer are present throughout Missouri, so no suitable relocation sites exist.
Hunting is the most effective way to control deer numbers. Allowing hunters on your land during the prescribed seasons and encouraging them to take antlerless deer helps reduce the number of deer in your area. Follow these tips to maximize hunting effectiveness:
- Invite hunters who are safe, dependable, and capable.
- Minimize scouting activities the week before opening day.
- Concentrate hunting efforts on opening weekend.
- Require hunters to hunt from tree stands.
- Require hunters to take antlerless deer.
- Encourage hunters to remain on their stand throughout the day.
- Maintain hunting pressure after opening weekend.
- Encourage neighboring landowners to adopt similar strategies.
In suburban areas, municipalities may limit hunting methods to archery only. But in other areas, some firearms methods — such as muzzleloaders — may also be allowed, perhaps with restrictions on lot size or acreage. Check with local officials to find out what special conditions are in effect in your area.
A small population of elk (Cervus elaphus) is present in southern Missouri. Elk are not legal game during the prescribed deer hunting seasons. Contact your local county conservation agent if elk are causing damage.