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BIG bucks pay dividends

KITTSON COUNTY, Minn. As a lifelong deer hunter, Steve Porter says he thought he knew whitetail behavior when he got a game farm license and bought a buck fawn and three does about 15 years ago.

KITTSON COUNTY, Minn. As a lifelong deer hunter, Steve Porter says he thought he knew whitetail behavior when he got a game farm license and bought a buck fawn and three does about 15 years ago.

He quickly found that time in the deer stand was no match for hours of watching the animals up-close-and-personal.

"They've made me a liar," Porter said.

Porter, 41, and his wife, Peggy, own Steve Porter's Trophy Whitetails, a family venture that includes a traveling seminar and display of live trophy bucks and raising deer with an eye toward quality genetics.

It's a serious business that means big bucks in more ways than one.


The Porters' whitetail business has grown over the years, and they now have about 45 deer, which they keep secured behind an 8-foot fence that surrounds a 100-acre spread of oak, popple and birch trees.

Porter doesn't hunt the deer he raises or sell the meat, but there's a good market for live breeding stock and semen for artificial insemination.

Consider this: A "straw" of semen from a trophy buck can fetch anywhere from $500 to $1,500 or more. Trophy bucks, meanwhile, easily can sell for $10,000.

"If we want to sell them, the market's there," Porter said.

Getting started

Chief deputy for the Kittson County Sheriff's Department, Porter says he decided to get into raising whitetails as a hobby after years of hunting and never seeing a trophy buck.

In the wild, bucks are lucky to reach age 5 and rarely live past age 8, Porter says, where his bucks can live 10 years or more.

"I'd watch young bucks, and they would either get harvested or hit by a car," Porter says. "I got into it for a hobby, and we're having a blast."


Time was, Porter says, when the goal was to raise bucks with antlers that would measure 180 to 200 inches under the Boone and Crockett scoring system. But the day is coming, he says, when the bar will be raised to producing racks in the 230- to 250-inch range.

The bloodlines out there, he says, are just that good.

"It's all genetics," Porter said.

Urine market

The latest twist in the Porters' whitetail venture is marketing frozen doe urine as an attractant for hunters seeking to lure that trophy buck. Doe urine long has been marketed as a buck attractant, but it's usually bottled in a liquid form that Porter says loses its freshness and effectiveness over time.

Keeping the product frozen, he says, gives it a longer shelf life.

According to Porter, the frozen urine is a direct offshoot from the years they've spent watching the deer and learning their habits.

"We've been having good luck with it," he said. "There isn't a buck alive that will pass up (the scent) of a lot of urine the third or fourth week of October."


They've set up a Web site, www.porterwhitetail.com , to market the product, and the frozen urine is available in 8-ounce bottles.

Simple process

Collecting the urine is relatively simple, and Porter credits sons Austin, 16, and Dillan, 13, for doing much of the work.

In return, he said, the boys get money from sales of the product.

"If I didn't have two boys who would work this hard, it wouldn't go very well," Porter said. "They do a lot for me."

At collection time, does are corralled into one of 15 stalls where they spend the night. The floor is designed with a series of openings, and the urine drips down into plastic pans, where it's collected for bottling.

The stalls take up the back portion of a 36- by 80-foot deluxe pole shed. Porter and his two oldest sons built most of the shed this summer after a fire last fall destroyed their previous building.

No deer perished, but the fire still was a setback, Porter said.


"We lost everything," he said.

Still, the new shed is a vast improvement that was made specifically to Porter's standards. Besides urine stalls, the shed features a customized stall that holds deer in place for sawing antlers off the bucks and artificially inseminating the does. They tranquilize and remove the antlers from all but the "show bucks" every fall, Porter says, so the animals are less aggressive during mating season.

That's crucial, he says, because bucks that get along well in September will have a significantly different demeanor as the rut approaches.

Strict standards

All of Porter's deer sport colored ear tags and meet state and federal animal health guidelines, Porter says, including testing and being certified as free of such diseases as brucellosis, tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease.

He also faces unannounced inspections from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

It's a lot of work for a hobby farm, Porter says, but it's the price for running a reputable business that allows him to ship animals out of state.


"You have to stay on top of all your paperwork or you can't move anything," Porter said. "The rules are a good thing. If you don't want to comply, get out of the business."

Eye for big bucks

A tour of the Porters' spread in rural Kittson County is impressive for anyone with an appreciation for big whitetail racks.

The star of the show is Thor, a 5-year-old buck with a rack that Porter estimates will score about 185.

"He's easily 300 pounds," Porter said. "Most people will never see a buck that big."

As with humans, each has their own unique personalities.

Despite Thor's massive size, the big whitetail is surprisingly docile and is more than happy to let Porter's son, Dillan, pet him as he playfully tugs at the boy's sleeve.

Just don't touch the antlers, Porter advises visitors.


No problem.

Remington might be a bit younger, but he's more aggressive and on track to surpass Thor on the impressive scale. Now 2, Remington went from a forkhorn his first year to 150 inches, and his antlers surpass Thor's at that same age.

"His bloodline has done well for growing big antlers," Porter said. "At 2, he outscores Thor by quite a bit."

And then there's Redwood; the 2-year-old sported a rack as a yearling that scored 107 inches, and his antlers this year have grown into the 145-inch class.

He's also bigger of body than Remington.

"We're real excited about him," Porter said. "That's probably the biggest buck I've had other than Thor."

Popular attraction

It's no wonder, then, that Porter's traveling deer seminar and whitetail display has grown into a hit attraction at sports shows and game fair events across the Midwest.

He transports and shows the bucks in a custom-made trailer.

"I think we're the only ones doing it now," Porter says of bringing his trophy bucks on the road. "We have a niche there. We've carved it out, and we're going to continue doing it."

The exhibit also is a hit in schools, and the Warren (Minn.) Rod and Gun Club is sponsoring an appearance at the Warren school Oct. 29.

"I think it's a good thing to bring to schools," Porter said. "If we can get the kids hooked on hunting and the outdoors, that's a good thing."

And when it comes to whitetails, there's plenty to learn. Take it from a guy who's made it his business to study them.

-- On the Web:

Steve Porter's Trophy Whitetails: www.porter-

whitetails.com .

Reach Dokken at 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 148, or bdokken@gfherald.com .

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