Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Business Of Deer Pee

Link of the day - I will pay you $25, if you come up with a cool domain name for me.

I didn't set out to become a pee farmer.

I was working as plant manager at a steel-manufacturing facility and running a taxidermy business on the side. One day my wife, Judi, bought me some deer to use as live models. Owning deer is like keeping two rabbits in a hutch in the backyard. It's harmless enough at first, but soon you've got a whole yard full.

As my herd grew, I started collecting urine to use when I hunted. Pheromone-rich urine from a doe in estrus is the strongest buck attractant I know of. So when the does were in heat I would grab a shovel, scoop up their urine and some dirt with a shovel, pour it into a Baggie, and stick it in the refrigerator.

My friends and I had a lot of success hunting with the urine. In 1990 Judi and I built a barn with handling facilities and collection rooms. The next year we started selling refrigerated whitetail urine. Our urine must be refrigerated because it's 100% pure and undiluted. The preservatives that some of our competitors mix into their urine kill the pheromones that make this type of urine an effective lure. Pure deer urine has a shelf life of about 60 days, so we only collect it seasonally to make sure it stays fresh for the fall.

Collecting deer urine resembles a conventional dairy operation. We keep 130 deer and a few elk. The deer come into a barn at night to eat. Their urine drips through grates onto a sloping floor that runs into a collection vat surrounded by a cooling pit. When the vat fills up, workers store it in a walk-in refrigerator. We filter the urine, bottle it, and ship it out in coolers to our customers.

There are 17 million deer hunters in America, and the whitetail-lure business - a $44-million-a-year market - keeps growing. We have four full-time employees, and we hire three or four more to help out during the fall. Our bestselling product is a two-ounce spray bottle that retails for $15.50.

We also sell freeze-dried urine, which has an indefinite shelf life - once you remove the moisture, bacteria can't grow. We sell it with a bottle of distilled water that hunters use to reconstitute it. Initially hunters used tap water, but the chlorine in the water killed the pheromones.

We own a sporting goods store that sells our deer urine along with bow-hunting gear and paintball equipment. We're in the process of moving the whole operation to a new farm. It will be a turnkey operation, with everything in one place: collection, shipping, receiving, and retail.

I love my job, but people cringe when I tell them what I do. When they visit our facility, they assume it's going to be nasty. Not true: Even one kernel of deer feces is enough to contaminate urine. Every day we spray the whole barn with high-pressure hoses and dry it with powerful blowers. You could eat lunch off the floor of our deer barn.

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