Feral Deer Control Kit for the Upper Ovens Valley

Table of Contents

Deer Control Plan

The development of a deer control plan as part of a property’s land management plan is recommended to assist with making decisions about deer control including where to undertake control, which locations are accessible, what methods to use in which location, at what time of the year and how often. It is recommended to keep a record of what methods were used including frequency and timing and which methods worked in which location, to identify the best approaches for ongoing control. This information can also be shared between neighbours to identify what works in different settings in the Upper Ovens Valley Landcare area and greater north east area to assist with coordinating deer control across the wider region. This information may also be useful to apply for grant assistance for deer control if opportunities arise. The plan can be stand alone or incorporated into an existing Land Management Plan, Whole Farm Plan, Property Management Plan or Conservation Management Plan. There are management plan templates and guides for whole farm planning are available online to assist you with developing a deer control plan for your property – see Information resources section below for further information. A deer control plan typically includes a management plan (table format or dot points) to record deer control actions, location, timing, monitoring and evaluation results. The plan generally includes a property map to show the property and surrounds and assist with identifying, planning and showing/documenting the location of deer activity and deer control. Examples and information to assist with the preparation of a deer control management plan and deer control property map are provided below.

What should I record in the deer control plan?

Property details

Record property details and dates of the plan commencement and review dates to assist with tracking the plans progress, implementation and next review date (Table 1).

Aims

Clarify and document the aims of the plan to assist with prioritizing control actions and locations of control (Table 1).

Property description

Provide a description of the property and surrounds (Table 1) including:

  • Brief description of surrounding land use (e.g. conservation reserve, grazing, cropping, plantation, vineyard etc.);
  • Description of property including size, topography, waterways, vegetation cover;
  • Details current property use e.g. grazing, cropping, bush block;
  • Details of proposed property use e.g. manage land for conservation, planned dwellings and shed construction with landscaped gardens, revegetation or conversion to cropping or grazing; and
  • Current impacts from deer.

This information may be recorded as text (Table 1) or on a property map (Figure 2) or a combination of both.

Table 1. Example of property details and aims that might be included in a deer control management plan

Landowner/Farm Manager
Plan commencement & review datesCommencement: ##/##/##, review ##/##/##, review ##/##/##
 
Aims of the plane.g. Deer control to stop damage to fencing, crops grazing areas, revegetation areas, ornamental garden, vegetable garden and reduce soil disturbance and contamination of dams. Need to control deer before increasing cropping area as current crops are heavily impacted by deer – see property map.
Surrounding land usee.g. property covers 50 ha, surrounded by national park to the north and east, farming properties to the west, road and plantation to the south. Multiple dams and uncleared bush on neighbouring private properties – see property map.
Description of property50 ha. Drainage lines running north south on the northern side of the property connected to two dams near the northern boundaries of the property. Steep sided gullies and ridges with dense bush on the northern boundary extending south from the national park with limited access. Flatter more undulating accessible to land with open vegetation on the western side of the property and beyond in the national park. Flatter land in the central and southern parts of the property. Standard post and wire fencing on the north west boundary, no fencing on the north east, or eastern boundary – see property map.
Current property useCropping, grazing, revegetation and domestic use.
Proposed property useIncreased cropping and revegetation, decreased grazing – see property map.
Current impacts from deerDeer are impacting pasture and crops along the northern property boundary, revegetation near the house and the vegetable and ornamental garden near the house – see property map.

Property map

Prepare a map of the property (see Figure 2) that includes:

  • Surrounding land use on all boundaries e.g. mapped native bushland, cropping, grazing land etc.;
  • Access and internal tracks (helpful if employing external shooters);
  • Native vegetation on the property including patches of native vegetation and scattered trees;
  • Areas with dense thickets of Blackberry, Burgan or similar;
  • Woodlots;
  • Revegetation areas;
  • Soil type;
  • Topography (noting slopes, escarpments, gullies and valleys);
  • Rocky non arable land;
  • Inaccessible areas;
  • Land use areas on the property (e.g. pasture, cropping paddocks);
  • Drainage lines, waterways, creeks, rivers (internal and external);
  • Artificial water sources e.g. dams, water troughs;
  • Fenced and unfenced internal and external boundaries;
  • Fencing type;
  • Domestic areas (house, sheds, defendable space);
  • Ornamental gardens;
  • Proposed improvements/changes (e.g. fences, water points, future crops or stock); and
  • Scale and north direction.

 

The map (or a duplicate map if this map is too crowded) can be marked up to show:

  • The location of high deer activity (e.g. game trails, fence damage, heavy grazing and browsing, wallows, rutting areas, thrashed areas and erosion); and
  • Where deer are causing damage.

 

This will help to determine priority areas for management. The map can also be used to record:

  • The location and type of deer control activities including those planned to be carried out on the property and those completed.

 

The map can be updated regularly to record:

  • When deer activity is noted in new locations;
  • If and where deer numbers decrease or increase; and
  • The use of different deer control methods and locations of control activities (e.g. shooting locations may change over time to follow any changes in deer activity, or the decision may be made to fence a dam).

 

Management actions

Prepare a list of management actions including the deer control methods, location and timing of deer control to be undertaken each year (Table 2). The selection of methods is often dependent on the amount of native bush and where it is located in relation to your property. The following flow chart outlines control options available for different scenarios.

Flowchart of management actions when you have bushland on your property and/or on neighbouring land

Shooting Shooting Harvesting Harvesting Hound Hunting Limit Access to Water Exclusion Fencing Limit Access to Food Limit Access to Food Deterrents Deterrents Limit Access to Water Exclusion Fencing Limit Access to Food Limit Access to Food

The plan should include enough information about the methods, timing and frequency to be followed and repeated by the landowner or others in the future. When developing the plan first consider the following:

  • Consider what methods are cost effective and are the gains worthwhile given your available resources (i.e. cost benefit analysis) and budget;
  • Identify priority areas for deer control on you property e.g. areas with highest levels of damage and deer, or areas of greatest productivity (e.g. crop paddocks), or most accessible areas for deer control e.g. game trails on cleared land/bushland interface;
  • Establish a staged plan for control e.g. year one shooting, year two fence off dams etc.

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Monitoring and evaluation

The deer control plan should also include monitoring and evaluation of methods which should be undertaken to assess the effectiveness of control methods so they can be updated as required (see example in Table 2). Monitoring frequency will depend on individual landowners resources, accessibility to parts of the property where deer occur, and size of the deer problem and threat.

Monitoring timing and frequency

Monitoring at least each season (Summer, Autumn, Winter Spring) is recommended to keep track of changes in deer activities over the seasons. This can provide important feedback to the landowner and neighbours to track deer activity in the local area and determine the most effective methods, timing and frequency of control.

Monitoring methods

  • Photos taken seasonally (Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn) of deer damage at set photo points for comparison of impacts and vegetation health before and after deer control. This can assist with determining what frequency and timing of deer control produces the best results.
  • Camera trapping deer (white flash or infrared cameras, can be expensive). Placed along game trails or near wallows. Provides information on the number of deer including bucks, hinds and calves and the deer species. This helps determine locations and times where deer activity is high and control might be most effective. Set cameras seasonally (Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn).
  • General observations including numbers and freshness of pellets, game trails, wallows, rub trees, browse lines, thrashed areas, bedding areas will assist with determining if deer activity is increasing or decreasing. For example wallows with recovering vegetation over a year or more and no fresh pugging indicate that deer activity in that location is greatly reduced. Deer generally wallow during the rut so other times of the year the wallow may appear unused, a full year of monitoring would be required to determine if deer have left the area. Monitor your property as frequently as possible in Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn.
  • Exclusion plots can also be used in farmland areas where a plot of around 10 m x 10 m or larger is fenced with deer proof fencing. If installing a plot in uncleared vegetation then you would need to check with Council and a permit may be required to disturb native vegetation. Vegetation in the plot can be compared with vegetation outside the plot to assess is deer grazing is still impacting vegetation after deer control has commenced. It is important to check the plot at least monthly to repair any breaches.

Evaluation of methods

  • Evaluation of deer control methods: Evaluating the monitoring results each season or each year is important to provide feedback so that the deer monitoring plan can be modified or updated to change methods that are not working or could be improved. For example, you may find that many deer are accessing your property to use a farm dam requiring frequent intense shooting to control numbers. Fencing the dam may discourage deer in that area and reduce the frequency, time and money required to undertake shooting and associated damage to your property.
  • Evaluation of deer control locations: Deer numbers may be reduced in one area but gain access to a property or increase in numbers in another area of a property. It is important to detect this and change or increase the locations of deer control activities when necessary.
  • Evaluation of frequency and intensity of deer control: Deer numbers will not be adequately reduced if frequency and intensity of control is inadequate. For example shooting by a landowner every two months may not be enough to reduce deer numbers. A deer harvester could be engaged to undertake intense deer removal to get numbers to manageable levels for the landowner to then maintain themselves.

 

Table 2. Example of the information that might be included on deer control methods, monitoring and evaluation in a deer control management plan

YearActionMethodWhenWhereWhoEvidence of effectiveness*EvaluationUpdates
1Control deerShootingMonthlyNorthern boundary of North West (NW) paddock, home paddock and eastern paddockGame harvester and landowner

Fewer pellets and fresh prints, browse lines growing out (see photos), fewer deer on camera traps in the NW paddock but not the home paddock

Camera traps in the NW paddock caught # deer over # camera trap nights in Sept 20## and # deer on camera traps over # trap nights in Nov 20##. Number of deer decreasing over time in the NW paddock with fewer juveniles

Camera traps in the home paddock caught # deer over # camera trap nights in Sept 20## and # deer on camera traps over # trap nights in Nov 20##. Deer numbers not decreasing. Large number of deer still captured on camera traps, fresh wallows and pugging present around edge of dam, thrashed vegetation not recovering in the home paddock or eastern paddock – crops still being browsed

Deer still impacting revegetation areas and ornamental garden

Deer are being effectively controlled in the NW paddock and goals of protecting pasture and water sources are being achieved. Deer are not being effectively controlled in the home paddock so need to consider changes to methodsOngoing – continue until deer have reached low enough levels then reduce frequency of shooting gradually to find the minimum frequency required to control deer adequately
2Control Blackberry to remove harbour and food source on property boundary – request crown land owner to undertake blackberry control near property boundary

Spring/summer 20# and over successive years until removed

Northern boundary of NW paddock and home paddockLandowner or professional weed controllerBlackberry removed and not returningBlackberry has been effectively controlled, deer numbers decliningCompleted – continue monitoring for any Blackberry recruits/seedlings and treat immediately before fruiting and spreading
3Install deer exclusion fencing – consider retrofitting if existing fencing is suitable, consider electric fencing as less expensive alternativeAs soon as possible when able to afford toAlong the northern and western boundary of the propertyLandowner or fencing contractorDeer no longer accessing property evidenced by fewer pellets and fresh prints, browse lines growing out (see photos), fewer deer on camera traps, crops, vegetables and ornamental garden plants are not being browsed/grazed by deer, no deer sightings or close honking/roaring and waterways not being impacted by deerDeer are being effectively excluded from the propertyCompleted – monitor the fences for breaches and repair immediately to prevent deer entry. Monitor for deer evidence and assess if deer are using other access points which need to be addressed e.g. areas that do not have deer exclusion fencing
4Fence dams to reduce need for shooting

Spring20##

Dam in north west paddock and home paddock – install water troughs and empty them when not in useFencing contractorAfter fencing there has been no evidence of deer around dams, no fencing breaches, no fresh prints on game trail leading to dam, vegetation recovering from browsing and grazing in north west and home paddockDeer being effectively controlledCompleted – check for breaches regularly and repair immediately
5    Large number of deer still captured on camera traps, fresh wallows and pugging present around edge of dam, thrashed vegetation not recoveringDeer not yet effectively controlledIncrease shooting frequency, use recreational hunters with hounds to flush and deter deer, look at fencing options for property boundary and/or nearby dam

*Photos are a very useful way to record the effectiveness of deer control. Take photos before and after control showing deer evidence e.g. browse lines, wallows, thrashed areas, game trails, rub trees, fresh print and scats. Store and label photos for future comparison, reference and records.