Photos from the Vault

Earning dollars from scents, predator urine sells

Wayne Ervine stands sentry in his Atascadero hunting supply shop. Bottles of urine and gland scents line the walls.
Wayne Ervine stands sentry in his Atascadero hunting supply shop. Bottles of urine and gland scents line the walls.

It was a warm August day in Atascadero and the room smelled exactly like bobcat urine — not coyote, not grey fox — specifically bobcat urine.

It may have had something to do with the man in front of us funneling a gallon jug of bobcat urine into smaller bottles.

Bobcat urine.

Turns out people pay for that product.

Reporter Dan Stephens had a talent for finding offbeat tales.

Years before the Robertson family became famous in the TV reality show Duck Dynasty, Wayne Ervine shared his story, selling hard-to-find hunting accessories.

On Aug. 10, 1988 the Telegram-Tribune published this story:

He’s not stinking rich, but his smells do well

If you’re looking to buy urine, Wayne Ervine is the man to see.

The 67-year-old Atascadero businessman sells three kinds: bobcat, coyote and gray fox.

He also sells stuff like “Cow Elk-N-Heat.”

These outdoor products are the trappings of an odorous, one-of-a-kind business called Ervine’s Trapping Supply of Atascadero.

There, bobcat urine sells for $7.75 a pint. Coyote and fox urine cost $6.75.

“Bobcat’s more expensive because they don’t like to stand still for that,” joked Ervine as he carefully funneled the yellow liquid into a squirt bottle.

“I use a different funnel for each type,” he said with the pride of an honest businessman. “Somebody orders bobcat urine then that’s what they want—bobcat urine.”

In trapping lingo, urine means scent. Trappers squirt scent near buried traps to attract territorial animals. In a case of one-upmanship, the newly-arrived animal will spray over the old urine to set the stranger straight as to the ownership.

Urine is to trappers what night-crawlers are to fishermen.

Well, almost. There is one whopping, sinus-clearer of a difference.

The urine business smells.

In Ervine’s backyard, two 1886 bear traps hand outside a pillbox looking concrete building. This is “Ervine’s Trapping Supply,” the only such business in California.

Within this odoriferous domain, a trapper can find any matter of trapping paraphernalia, including urine, glands and secretly-concocted lures with names like “Cow Elk-N-Heat” or “Coon’s Casket.”

Ervine is a trapping veteran who’s sense of smell is immune to the olfactory onslaught.

So he strides right into the stink — den no big deal. But the stench recently stopped two visiting newcomers in their tracks. Upon entering, they gasped, then regained their respiratory cadence with a cough, a grunt and a “whew.”

“You know my wife was like that, too,” quipped the retired carpenter who buys urine from commercial animal farms. “Now she comes in and pours urine. After a while you get used to it.

Scent is the name of the trapping game.

“I sell the glands from bobcat, fox and coyote,” said Ervine as he stroked three coyote hides curing in the corner. “A gallon of bobcat glands costs $60.”

Bottled products line his three head high shelves near the rifle racks. Somewhere in the $9,000 inventory, there’s an odor to catch almost any kind of critter.

What a trapper can’t find in the store he can find in the woods. While checking his trap lines, Ervine said he picks up animal droppings and stuffs them in his pocket to use later.

“A little bit of poop works real good (on a trap),” he said.

As for bottled lures, there’s the “long-distance callers” like Canine Call.” To use this a trapper dips a stick in this stinker then places the stick high in a tree. The scent, which has skunk in it, travels on the wind and brings the animals in.

Just then Ervine carefully twisted the lid off the bottle —every drop is precious. He offered a whiff to the visitor. “First time or two you lift your nose up, but it’s part of the business,” he said as the visitor grimaced.

The strongest smeller of the entire batch is “SkunkFogger, extra strong,” according to the label.

“This kills our human scent,” said Ervine as he moved toward a glass display case. Meanwhile, elk hunters go for “Cow Elk-N-Heat.”

“You put a little on our shoe while walking through the woods…bulls think it’s a cow and they come running,” he said.

For deer, the “Tarsal Gland” drives the big bucks up the glandular wall. The tarsal gland, Ervine said is found in the legs of the deer.

He stocks three brands of lures in addition to his own brews. Ervine declined to reveal his recipe. He did say he used to use horsemeat as the “base.” He then tosses in the glands of the appropriate animal.

Along with the urine and lures, Ervine sells callers — whistles that sound like wounded animals. They attract predators.

And contestants.

At a recent convention, Ervine took third in “varmint calling” using one of the callers in the glass case. A plaque hangs on the wall.

A caller has two minutes to blow, Ervine explained as he readied for a demonstration. “You got to make it sound like you’re hurting — like you’re a rabbit under a log.”

Then he blew, emptying his lungs in a tremendous burst. His face reddened. Veins inflated. And his eyeglasses lost their grip on his ears and began to climb the side of his head.

Ervine, who served as a paratrooper-demolition specialist in World War II and the Korean War, knows trapping has its critics. Trappers call them “anti-s”

“The animal rights folks, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” said Ervine. He began his trapping career as a boy on his father’s Pennsylvania farm. “It’s a necessary business. If we stopped trapping, what are we going to do (with the animals)?”

Trappers, he said, control the animal population, keeping in check the delicate predator-prey balance.

He notes most of the 30 or 40 trappers in this county catch predators —bobcat, coyote and fox.

As an example, Ervine mentioned the growing number of mountain lions. The cougar has been protected for years by a hunting moratorium. “When they start eating kids on the way to school, then they’ll do something about it,” he said.

Few people make a living off trapping. But there’s still money in it.

Today, a bobcat pelt can bring $200. “Bobcat is the biggest demand,” said Ervine inside his gun shop attached to the front of his house. “Ten years ago you couldn’t get $10, but now you can’t import spotted cats.”

As for himself, Ervine still traps. But a recent accident where he was burned over much of his body took its toll.

Now he wants to pass on his knowledge and philosophy to the next generation. The father of six embraces a Biblical philosophy about man and beast.

“God gives us the animals to use,” he said. “The Bible tells you that.”