Anyone who’s ever tried to put in a bean plot knows the problem. You bust the sod, you till the earth, you supplement the soil, you sow and cultipack and wait—and as soon as those bean plants pop up, the deer hammer them so hard that your precious plot, and all the work you put into it, doesn’t do you one bit of good come fall.
It’s enough to make you want to quit food-plotting—or at least quit planting beans. But you don’t have to do either, because there is a product out there that is not just a solution; it’s a easy and effective solution. It’s called PlotSaver, if you haven’t heard of it. And if you have heard of it but have been skeptical, I can tell you from first-hand experience that it absolutely works.
You can buy Plotsaver as a complete kit, but it is more often offered with the repellent and ribbon in one package, and the stakes and clips sold separately so you can get only the number you need for your plots.
A Pair of Busted Bean Plots
Two years ago, my buddies and I planted a couple of bean plots on our small lease in upstate New York. One plot, about a 1/2 acre in size, came in lush and thick and gave us all sorts of high hopes at first. The deer only nibbled at the young plants initially, but as summer wore on, they settled into an evening and nighttime routine of devouring bean foliage for hours at a time. It was fun to see them on our trail cams and to think they might still be feeding there come fall. But by the time our October 1 bow opener rolled around, it looked as if the top half of the plot had been shaved off. There was little left but stems and an early frost yellowed those in the last week of September. So, we got no early-season benefit, and because the plants had been too heavily foraged to produce pods, we got no late-season benefit either.
The second plot was about half as big and in a more hidden location where deer would come and feed any time of the day or night. Here, not one bean plant grew more than 5 inches high before it was nipped down to a nub. The plot never came, and we were left to start over in late summer with cereal grains and brassicas.
PlotSaver clips attach to the stakes (below) and hold the ribbon in place.
A Nearly Invisible Fence for Deer
The following spring, we almost didn’t bother with beans but ultimately decided to give it another go, this time with a PlotSaver deer barrier around both plots. Although looking at pictures of the one-strand fence online didn’t exactly inspire confidence, the idea seemed to make sense: By spraying a proprietary liquid deer repellent on the absorbent ribbon-like strand, you would create a scent barrier that deer would not cross. Why not, we figured.
The complete PlotSaver kit came with enough fiberglass stakes, clips, ribbon, and repellent to protect up to 2 acres, so it was plenty for our plots. Putting it up was a piece of cake. Once our beans sprouted, we just pushed the 39×3/8-inch stakes into the ground around the outside of the plot, no more than 33 inches apart. We added a clip to the top of each stake and ran the ¾-inch-wide barrier ribbon through the clips at roughly 30 inches (or deer-nose) high, tying it off tightly enough that it didn’t sag. Next, we mixed the repellent with water in a backpack sprayer and doused the ribbon. (Surprisingly, the repellent doesn’t smell bad at all when you apply it, but if you forget to empty and rinse your sprayer and then open the cap a few days later, look out!)
The fiberglass stakes are 39 inches tall. You simply push them into the ground, attach the clips, and run the ribbon through.
Test Results: PlotSaver Really Works
We were only hoping that the scent barrier would discourage deer and mitigate the damage somewhat. But it worked way better than that. We almost couldn’t believe the results on the half-acre plot. Not only did the plants grow tall and stay lush with foliage all summer and into the fall, but our trail camera on the plot, which the year before had taken thousands of pictures of deer devouring beans all evening and through the night, didn’t take a single picture. Not one. We took the fence down a couple weeks before the bow opener and quickly started getting pictures of deer using the plot. Healthy as the plants were, they threw tons of pods that the deer ate well into the late season.
The smaller plot was not quite so successful but still a huge improvement. The plot got off to a great start, but then one nanny doe decided that the repellent I sprayed on that fence ribbon was not a strong as the lure of the beans. Once she broke that barrier the first time, she kept coming back, with two fawns in tow. They were on our camera all summer and did manage to trim quite a few plants. But in the end, we still had a decent plot with good foliage and plenty of pods that drew deer all season, including the best buck we saw on camera all year.
I think the difference in results between the plots were twofold. First, the larger plot is pretty exposed to open fields and a road while the smaller one is well hidden and surrounded by cover. I suspect that the deer are just more comfortable on the smaller plot, whereas those on the other are on edge the second they step out, so a foreign smell might have a stronger effect on them. Also with the larger plot, we had room to plant a strip of forage beans just outside of the fence, so deer could chow down on those and leave the ones inside the fence alone. That strategy seemed to work great, and I’d recommend it if you have space.
Will we see the same level of effectiveness this coming year? I can’t say. I wonder if more deer will eventually get used to the smell and break the barrier like that one doe did. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if the PlotSaver system keeps right on keeping deer out, at least for the most part. For very little labor and an initial investment of under $200, it was well worth it. So, one thing I can say for sure is this: We’ll use PlotSaver again this year.