Nothing is more frustrating than having things where they are not supposed to be. “Hey honey, where’s my keys??” Think about this - a weed is only a plant growing in the wrong location. According to my wife, Raspberries in the flowerbeds are a problem, but they are perfectly ok in the garden. We can see a similar situation with deer while trapping pigs. We all love deer, right? We do, but they need to be in the right place. We have numerous customers removing pigs to improve deer hunting, but it is frustrating when those buggers steal your pig bait or spend their time hogging up your trap.
With this challenge in mind, we traveled down the path searching for solutions to keeping deer off bait (Blasphemy) while still attracting pigs. I feel like I should wash my mouth with soap after saying such a thing. We experimented with several potential deterrents from November 7, 2021, through February 2, 2022; dried blood meal, dried bone meal, dried rice, dog food, fermented blood meal, fermented bone meal, fermented rice bran, putrefied egg solids (Liquid Fence™), sardines mixed with corn, and soured corn (fermented). Many of these didn’t work well, but some did. Here are the highlights.
The standard “recommendation” has been fermenting/souring corn will deter deer and keep the pigs coming. Careful now; we don’t want the revenuers snooping around; we’re not looking for West Virginia Spring Water here. Souring corn has the benefit of being attractive to pigs but being a mild deterrent to deer. If natural food resources are high and deer densities are low, souring corn may be all you have to do to minimize deer from stealing your pig bait. The downfall of this approach is that it takes time (nobody has enough of that), and storage is a headache. On top of that, the concoction has to be transported. Y’all better have a tight lid on that vat. The biggest benefit is that it's cheap, and who doesn’t love it when you get a lot of “bang” for your “buck”?
To step up your game and be more effective with your “brew,” rice bran can be added to the fermenting process. If not fermented well, rice bran can be a deer attractant, but when fermented properly, it does an excellent job of keeping the deer back and the pigs coming. It has all the same downsides as the regular soured corn but with the kicker of being more pungent. You will know when it’s ready because if you spill it on yourself, your spouse will make you take off your clothes before coming into the house. It stinks!!!! If it smells only mildly unpleasant, it’s not ready, but don’t go overboard here. You don’t want it rotten; that will keep the deer and pigs away. Usually, 3-4 days in the Texas heat gets it just about right. It is much more effective than just soured corn keeping the deer away. This works well at moderate deer densities and when natural food resources are less widely available. Did I mention that this stinks? If you spill it in the truck bed, you get to own it for a while. When trialed, the pigs fed 26 out of 39 opportunities while deer only fed 8 out of 39.
The most effective deterrent in the trial, and the most convenient to use, was a topical application of Liquid Fence™ to the bait. This product was specifically designed to deter deer and rabbits. We mixed the concentrated version 2X (20%) the label rate and applied it via a hand pump sprayer over the top of dry corn, wetting it down. This resulted in 26 out of 30 feeding opportunities by pigs (no deterrence from feeding) and reduced feeding by deer to 4 out of 30 feeding opportunities. Winner winner, pork chop dinner! The challenge of using the Liquid Fence™ is the cost. A gallon of concentrate costs ~$100, so it’s not small potatoes. The upside is that it goes a long way.
Several other deterrents worked ok but had drawbacks. Sardines mixed with the bait worked well for keeping deer at bay, but inevitably you will end up smelling like a minnow bucket for days, and its attraction to raccoons will drive you nuts. Dried blood meal dusted on top of wetted corn worked well at deterring deer and raccoons while pig visitation and consumption were still high. The difficulty working with the blood meal was that if it was allowed to stay wet too long (if pigs did not come) in wet or humid conditions, then its effectiveness changed to a deterrent. The only difference we noticed was the odor changed to that of decay. Dry dog food worked only moderately well for pigs (10 out of 20 feeding opportunities) and broke down in the environment fast. It was also expensive and attractive to raccoons. The dry rice proved to be a good deer attractant and only moderately appealing to pigs.
Fermented blood meal and bone meal in both forms did an excellent job of keeping everything away. Oops. We saw significantly reduced deer, pig, and raccoon activity with the use of dry bone meal on top of wetted corn and a fermented bone meal/corn combination, as well as the fermented blood meal/corn combination. If it didn’t smell so bad, it would be good for the flower beds but not for pig trapping.
Our suggestion to keep deer at bay is to use an integrated approach. 1 - Bait as close to dark as possible. The quicker the pigs come to the bait, usually after dark, the less likely the deer will have the opportunity to feed. In general, deer do not like to feed around pigs. Pigs are more aggressive, and that in and of itself is a deterrent. 2 - If deer densities are low to moderate, use one of the two soured corn options to determine if that reduces activity. This saves a few bucks and is fairly easy to do if you're careful. 3 - If the fermented corn does not work, try the concentrated Liquid Fence™ treatment at 2X the label rate. This is very effective, but the cost is a factor.
During our cattle exclusion trial, we saw anecdotal evidence that electric fencing helped deter deer. We intend to further evaluate this option in the near future. We will post an update if those trials show benefits.
Good luck and happy trapping!