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12-08-2004, 07:46 PM
Longtime friends banking on Buck Bomb

By DAVID E. LEIVA, The Capital (Annapolis)

December 05, 2004,

http://www.hometownannapolis.com/photos/buck.gif
Rick Schmidt demonstrates the Buck Bomb, a deer urine lure he and Zack Hodges are on the cusp of marketing to Wal-Mart. By Joshua McKerrow -- The Capital


There's probably few things that smell worse than overpowering deer urine.

But when 13-year-olds use it to come home with a buck most adult hunters would, well, kill for, what outdoorsman wouldn't be willing to put up with it?

Rick Schmidt and Zack Hodges think they know the answer.

Nearly three months after launching Buck Bomb, a 2-ounce aerosol can filled with whitetail deer urine-turned-gas, the longtime friends are hoping their early success is a sign of good things to come.

"My partner calls me 'The Exorcist' because my head is always spinning," said Mr. Schmidt, referring to the 1973 horror movie classic. "It's a little overwhelming."

With 50,000 cans sold in sporting goods stores so far, daily Internet sales and a meeting scheduled with Wal-Mart officials in January, the avid hunters who grew up in the Edgewater area have reason to celebrate.

This summer, Mr. Schmidt, 40, and Mr. Hodges, 39, decided on a lark to see what would happen if they took whitetail urine and packaged it in an aerosol can.

They tried it. It worked.

"This is just in the beginning stages," said Mr. Hodges, a Federalsburg resident. "I'm just excited about being in a business that I love to do."

The partners, who also make mold control products, are seeking a patent and traveling the country hoping to tackle the multimillion dollar scent industry with a better deer trap.

It started out as a joke. But with requests coming in for more orders from Annapolis to West Kevil, Ky., no one's laughing anymore.

"I've been here 29 years, I've never seen a deer lure so popular," said Charlie Ebersberger, owner of Angler's Sport Center near the Bay Bridge.

Mr. Ebersberger said the Buck Bomb, which sells for $7, has outsold other lures "75-to-1" during this month's deer season.

"I wish I had thought of it," he said.

Driving to the farm

Buck Bomb is run out of a warehouse near Mr. Schmidt's home in the Eastern Shore town of Federalsburg.

The process of creating the product begins with Mr. Schmidt taking his pick-up truck to a deer farm in Pennsylvania. There he collects 200 gallons of urine at a time, enough to fill about 20,000 cans.

He then drives the urine to a factory in Seaford, Del., where it is put into the cans, and then shipped to the warehouse.

Sold on the concept, investors plunged in with $250,000 months ago, but Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Hodges retain 60 percent ownership. So far, they've sold about $150,000 worth of Buck Bomb.

The partners make no claim that they've originated the concept. In fact, competitors, such as the Scent Machine, which sells for $60, and Tanks' Fatal Attractor, a 2-ounce bottle retailing for $11, have been around for years. And then there's industry leading Tink's.

Mr. Schmidt, and the others, said the difference comes in how their product is dispersed.

Unlike traditional hunting scents that evaporate and depend on air flow to work, or those that use a wicking system, Buck Bomb acts like a fogger. It's a one-time can like the ones used for killing bugs.

With winds blowing at 3 miles per hour, the gas can move 200 meters.

"It works very well," said Cedric Benson, owner of Benson's Sporting Goods in Murray, Ky. "We've gotten a lot of good reports."

Reviews still out

While hunters seem to be fixated with this latest lure, scientific studies on its effectiveness remain inconclusive, according to Doug Hotton, a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

"A lot of these things, people enjoy them," Mr. Hotton said. "If it works for them fine."

Some university and other research has shown that human urine has worked just as well in attracting deer, Mr. Hotton said.

Darren Thornberry, editor of Buckmaster, a 400,000 subscription magazine based in Montgomery, Ala., said he was unfamiliar with Buck Bomb.

But he said he wouldn't be quick to say the scent maker would catch on.

"When a new product is on my desk I don't know," Mr. Thornberry said. "It seems like anything can be huge."

Either way, he predicted it wouldn't be long before letters start making it to his magazine about Buck Bomb.

"Hunters are very vocal about products they like and don't like," Mr. Thornberry said.

So far, things look promising.

Mr. Schmidt said a deal is in the works with a major distributor, which has outlets in the Deep South. That's perfect for states like Louisiana, in time for its hunting season that runs right after Christmas.

And next month, Maurice Sporting Goods in Atlanta, a major distributor of fishing, hunting and outdoor sporting to major retailers, including Wal-Mart, will pitch Buck Bomb to the world's No. 1 retailer.

Kevin Coleman, a regional sales executive, said one of his colleagues spotted the scent cannister, and thought it was innovative. A yes-nod would give the Federalsburg company an outlet to millions of people nationwide, practically guaranteeing success.

But it's not a sure thing, Mr. Coleman cautioned, adding that this will be one of hundreds of products that will be presented.

In the meantime, there are still customers like Byansteens Gun and Archery in Roanoke, Va., where owner Bryan Steen store has gone through half of his initial order already.

"It's a new product, we got it. It's kind of novel," Mr. Steen said.