"Don't eat the yellow snow."
I clearly remember those words coming from my parents' mouths as they shuffled me, my brothers and sisters in and out the door on winter days. Needless to say, I've always heeded their advice, though they never managed to snuff my curiosity about the forbidden yellow powder.
So, each winter, with bucket in hand, I wander through fields and forest following deer tracks and trails while — you guessed it — looking for yellow snow. A warning upfront: This project isn't for the squeamish. My intent, of course, is never to eat the snow, but instead to gather it. I use a 5-gallon bucket and a hand towel for these purposes. And I'm able to process the yellow snow (a stain where a deer has urinated) into deer scent to use the following hunting season.
I know what you're thinking — this guy must be very cheap (among other things). Wouldn't it be easier (and less gross) to spend a few bucks to buy a bottle of commercial deer scent at the local sport shop?
It sure would.
But I'm always looking for reasons to hike in the outdoors. Time spent in the deer woods allows me to sharpen my outdoor skills, especially during winter when, to the perceptive, many tales are written in the snow. During my snow-gathering forays, I'm always on the lookout for shed deer antlers. I'm also able to evaluate the local deer herd by reading the number of tracks in the snow. I make mental notes of the condition of the habitat and compare my observations to past winters.
The best place to find yellow snow is where deer have been feeding and along the trails leading to those feeding areas. A fresh snowfall will cover urine marks so wait as long as possible between snow storms to start your search.
Since a lot of excess snow is also collected while scooping urine into your bucket, it's a good idea to later boil out the surplus water. Your family will appreciate it if you boil your deer scent outdoors using a camp stove. Your brew is done when you determine what is left is pure urine. It's guesswork; there is no science to the process.
After boiling, strain the liquid through a cloth to remove grass and twigs, then pour it into containers. Then freeze the liquid to preserve it until next fall. Label the containers of deer scent so a family member doesn't mistake it for, say, iced tea or some other potable liquid.
Before using my deer scent, I add glycerin to thicken the potion, which keeps the scent from evaporating so quickly.
As a youngster, I heeded the advice of my parents; I didn't eat yellow snow.
Instead, as an adult, I gather it.
Bill Marchel, an outdoors writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.