Deer have the ability to cause serious crop damage. Here’s how to avoid it on your land.

A monster buck rips soybeans out of the soil. Dirt, roots, and leaves dangle and fall to the ground with each chew of the grub. About 20 other deer do the same. It’s a feeding frenzy, and the property’s flora might not survive its fauna.

Interestingly, a deer can eat up to 2,000 pounds of forage annually. Alfalfa, canola, corn, grain sorghum, rye, soybeans, wheat, and others, can be easily impacted by crop damage.

Therefore, it’s crucial to gauge the biological carrying capacity of the area. It’s also important to measure cultural factors, and determine what deer levels can look like and remain acceptable to local farmers (and other civilians).

Crop Damage 101

Crop damage is a significant concern. Fortunately, a well-managed deer herd poses no threat of it. Deer are concentrate selectors, meaning they target the best parts of the best plants, which is usually the tips. This is symbiotic with nature, as plant regeneration doesn’t take nearly as long. Plants bounce back quickly.

However, when deer populations become too dense, and whitetail numbers exceed carrying capacity, they must eat further down the plant, which applies more pressure to it. Therefore, it takes longer to bounce back, stunts indefinitely, or dies.

Usually, crop damage happens slowly but appears suddenly. Recognize deer damage by the uneven tears in leaves and other plant parts.

Of course, most crop damage is limited to outer edges of crop fields. If crop damage seeps further into the interior, it’s a much bigger issue.

When crop damage is a concern, overall habitat damage is, too. Usually, it coincides with over-browsing of native plant species. That can lead to even bigger problems, and even more crop damage.

Crop Damage Solutions

Fortunately, there are numerous solutions to crop damage ( The downside? All but one of these costs a lot of time, money, or both.

Natural mortality is the obvious one. Deer die from natural causes, but if a population is overrun, this cause isn’t enough to solve the problem. Predation is another factor. However, if predators could hold down deer numbers, they would be. Similarly, disease takes tolls on whitetails as well. But these are sporadic events (especially with epizootic hemorrhagic disease), and can’t (and shouldn’t) be relied upon as a management tool.

Of course, human presence can push deer out of an area. This can produce a temporary reprieve, but not a long-term fix.

Planting ag fields further from the edges of cover where deer spend more time reduces browse pressure, too. This has only a minimal effect, though.

Deterrents are also on the table. Fencing, whether conventional or electric, can discourage deer from using the fields. Slanted or offset fencing prevents deer from entering the field, too. That said, fencing is very expensive, and can cost more than lost ag productions.

Improving cover-based habitat and providing deer with more natural and alternative food sources, can reduce pressure on crops. Planting food plots, promoting mast trees, and developing early successional habitat provides more food for deer that isn’t in ag production anyway.

Finally, in some states, depredation tags are possibilities. But why involve a bunch of red tape when there’s a better solution?

That solution is hunting. A group of hunters who lease your land through Base Camp Leasing can effectively (and quickly) decrease the deer density to a better, more manageable level. And while each of the aforementioned “fixes” to crop damage cost you money, this proven solution puts money in your pocket.

  • The U.S. is home to 25 million whitetail deer.
  • Grown deer can eat around 2,000 lb. of plant matter annually.
  • Deer damage in crop fields is typically limited to the outer rows around the field edges.
  • In the wild, their average lifespan is 4.5 years.
  • An average buck weight is 150 lb. to 300 lb., while does tend to weigh 88 lb. to 198 lb.

The Importance of Wildlife Management

Crop production is important, especially in a time when the world’s food supply needs as much help as it can get. That said, wildlife management is important, too. Done correctly, deer population management and crop management work side by side just fine. And that’s why leasing the hunting rights to your property, and doing so through Base Camp Leasing, can decrease or prevent crop damage from wildlife.