Grade Changes, Stakes, and Flags
Dealing with Grade Changes
What happens if you are running your fence along flat terrain and suddenly the grade changes? Obviously, half-measures like fence stakes won’t help here. You have to realign the fence to follow the new grade. Do this by installing a post at about where the maximum slope change happens and cutting the fence just after it passes this post. Then angle the next length of deer fencing up or down as much as necessary to make a straight run to the next post , following the new grade. If using metal hexagrid or polypropylene fencing, be sure to leave enough material along the bottom to create a six-inch bottom fold.
If you are going around a curve, you will find that the bottom fold needs to be cut at one or more posts along the curve in order to allow the fencing to comfortably negotiate the curve.
Using Fence Stakes to Secure the Fence Bottom
One of the most common errors of deer fence installers is to focus so much on how tall the fence will be that they neglect its bottom. But the bottom is precisely where the deer usually get through. So for starters, if installing polypropylene or metal hexagrid fencing, it is essential to leave a 6-inch fold of fencing material extending outward (toward the deer) on the bottom. This fold should be firmly secured with fence stakes (aka ground stakes). Use the 12-inch kinked galvanized ground stakes for most kinds of soil, reserving the larger 18-inch hooked rebar ground stakes for soils that are light, dry, or sandy. These ground stakes are usually placed about 6 feet apart, at the place where the fence first hits the ground, and are supplemented with rocks when suitable rocks are available.
If installing welded wire fencing, use the same or closer fence stake spacing and install the stakes on the lowest fence wire, the one touching the ground. Should there be a space between the bottom of the fencing and the ground, fill in this momentary grade change with earth before staking down the fencing. Or, alternatively, use metal mesh to fill in the gap, attaching this to the welded wire with zip ties or hog ring staples and using ground stakes to secure the metal mesh to the ground.
Regarding the addition of metal hexagrid skirts (regardless of whether a polypropylene fence is being repaired after holes have appeared in its lower reaches, or whether it is being combined with a metal hexagrid “skirt” 2 to 4 feet high at the time it is first set up) the resulting plastic-metal deer fence combination should offer no open seam for exploration by would-be intruders and should be adjusted for all grade changes. The metal skirt (with its 6-inch bottom fold) should be kept on the outside (the side from which the deer will come), and should be firmly attached to the plastic fencing with nylon zip-lock ties or hog ring staples (using roughly one tie or staple per square foot), and both folds (if there is a plastic one) should be staked down with fence stakes.
Warning Flags: A Mild Deer Repellent
For your deer fence to be effective, as noted earlier, it needs to be practically invisible to deer. But you don’t want deer to bump into it at twilight and then decide to charge this invisible object, because that may break even the strongest polypropylene deer fence. Nor do you want them to run into the fence and begin to explore it, because that makes them more likely to become familiar with it and become comfortable probing its defenses. Instead you would like the fence to act in advance as a deer repellent.
To get a mild deer repellent effect, it’s a good idea to warn the deer off with a danger signal that gives them the fence’s location but not its height. Do this by putting strips of white surveyor’s tape (“warning flags”) on the deer fence. Place each strip about waist high (definitely not over 4 feet high) and tie one end to the fence with a knot, arranging things so that the other end hangs downward for about a foot on the outside of the fence, which will allow it to blow freely in the wind. These deer repellent “flags” should be placed about 7 to 10 feet apart.
What this does is create a highly visible sign that mimics the white-tailed deer’s raised white tail–this being a natural danger signal for this species that says, in essence, “get away.” These flags will show roughly where the “invisible” fence runs, but so long as the markers are placed no higher than 4 feet above the ground, they will reveal nothing about the deer fence’s height. Far from being incidental or optional add-ons, these markers are an important part of any deer fence–especially in the first few months after the fence is installed. After that, if one wishes to remove them for reasons of appearance (once the deer have become accustomed to the fence) they can be taken off.