Deer Repellents Say ‘Scram’ with Nasty Smell, Taste

Smelly, foul-tasting deer repellents tell pests to bypass your garden and shrubs.

Deer repellents use bad smells or peppery tastes to keep deer away from your garden. Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Although commercial deer repellents can be labor intensive—they must be reapplied every week to 5 months—they discourage unwanted deer visits when all your “scats” and “shoos” fall on deaf, though furry, ears.

Some deer repellents say “stay away” with bad smells, some with mouth-scorching tastes, and some with both. Deer get the message—eventually—and leave your landscaping and vegetable gardens alone.

Bad taste in their mouths 

Like formulas designed to discourage nail-biting, Bobbex (1/2 gallon concentrate: $50) and other deer repellents deter pests with nontoxic bitter tastes, such a garlic and pepper.

These products taste bad to everyone, so beware that vegetables and fruit will taste peppery if exposed to these repellents.

Stink ‘em out 

Deer repellents with foul aromas keep pests out of your yard, but be prepared to reapply often because rain or a cold snap will lessen a repellent’s punch. For about $25, coyote or other predator urines will protect an area roughly 20 ft. by 20 ft. for a week. 

Deer Away ($10 for 16 ounces) smells like rotten eggs, and Deer Scram ($27 for 6 pounds), contains sterilized slaughterhouse byproducts and smells like rotting meat.

Combination deer repellents

These double-trouble deer repellents use nasty odors and stinging tastes to keep deer away.

Combination repellents, such as Deer Off ($45 for 32-ounce concentrate), typically contain putrescent eggs, mouth-scorching capsaicin (the source of heat in hot peppers), and garlic.

Applying deer repellents

Put on gloves and spray or sprinkle repellents onto vegetation. If you’re sensitive to any ingredients listed, wear a mask, too.

Apply deer repellents when:

  • Temperatures are above 40 degrees, so odors will release.
  • The wind is calm; slight air movement can redirect the repellent. 
  • Weather is dry and no rain is forecast for several hours.

The Cooperative Extension offices in your state can advise you on local regulations for using repellents. Bonus: Many deer repellents keep rabbits and squirrels away, too!

DIY and homemade repellents

To protect a few shrubs or trees:

  • Be noisy: Let that big dog bark—deer hate noise.  
  • Be stinky: Create a scarecrow of ammonia-soaked rags or sweat-infused old clothes. The ranker the better.
  • Be thrifty: Hang a bar of deodorant soap or an old pantyhose leg filled with human hair (ask your local salon). The odors repel deer.