Dollars from scents

Sam Collora didn't set out to become a pee farmer, but he's built a thriving business selling deer urine to hunters.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all RSS FEEDS (close)
By Sam Collora, as told to Phil Bourjaily

Sam Collora brandishes his bestseller, a bottle of pure whitetail-doe urine.
What should Congress do with the $700 billion proposal to take pressure off the credit markets?
  • Pass the legislation quickly
  • Pass it, but add stimulus and foreclosure relief
  • Reject it

MOUNT PLEASANT, IOWA (Fortune Small Business) -- 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.

Sam Collora is the owner of American Outdoors in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. To top of page

Taking the bait: Making a million worms a month keeps Tom Chapman's night-crawler farm in business.

Mush, puppy!: Originally designed for extreme athletes, Diggler's scooters have gone to the dogs.

The man who feathers Big Bird
To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.

QMy dream is to launch my own business someday. Now that it's time to choose a major, I'm debating if I should major in entrepreneurial studies or major in engineering to acquire a set of skills first. Is majoring in entrepreneurship a good choice? More
Get Answer
- Spate, Orange, Calif.

More Galleries
10 of the most luxurious airline amenity kits When it comes to in-flight pampering, the amenity kits offered by these 10 airlines are the ultimate in luxury More
7 startups that want to improve your mental health From a text therapy platform to apps that push you reminders to breathe, these self-care startups offer help on a daily basis or in times of need. More
5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work From Uber's flying cars to the Hyperloop, these are some of the neatest transportation concepts in the works today. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.