The Story Behind It All

   I have been asked many times over the last few years after conversations about Bone Clone, discussing shed dogs and shed dog training with friends to tell my story. A story of how and why I wanted to begin a deep dive into developing an antler training scent for helping dogs be more successful in finding antlers. I figure now is finally a good time for me to sit down and try to tell that story, and explain exactly what my thoughts and hopes were - and the journey that came to be Bone Clone Antler training scent.

THE WHY:  I own a chocolate Labrador named Chipper. Many of you reading this might even have had the pleasure of meeting “Ole Chip Dog”. I owe this dog the world, and will never be able to repay him for the journey he has taken us on. Chipper is the reason many adventures have happened for us, but Bone Clone for certain is the standout of these. Chipper and I were out shed hunting one day at the farm when he was a young dog, maybe around 2 years old. He had some experience, and had found a few wild sheds - mostly fresh drops or ones he could sight find, but had a lot of practice at home and was doing excellent in competitions. On this particular day, I saw an old shed in the woods and tried to get Chipper into the scent cone to work this shed out - I knew he could not see it. Chipper struggled more than I had ever seen him struggle. I could feel myself growing a bit frustrated with him, ok maybe more than a bit - but as I sat there watching him, I started to question myself more than my dog. I began to wonder if what I was doing while in training or the training aides I had been using might have been the problem, and what I could change to give him the best chance at being successful. I started thinking about scent, and scent recognition and how dogs smell. I didn’t want to use something that replicated a fresh dropped antler, using hair or blood, but rather try to replicate the antler that had been laying out in the woods since last season! I wanted Chipper to have the tools to find old scent, and have success on each hunt. I had always read and heard from fellow shed hunters that antlers didn’t have much scent, if they had any at all, and that only the wax ring or fresh blood and hair was what contained the scent. That simply is not true, especially knowing a little about how a dog's olfactory receptors function.

   Dogs have around 220 million receptors, whitetail deer have around 300 million, and humans have around 6 million. Think about that - knowing most of you reading this have been in the whitetail stand and been winded from a good distance away. The part of the dog’s brain that analyzes smell/scent is about 40 times greater in dogs than in humans!

    Driving home that day, I was in a daze thinking about our training and training progression and I recalled a memory from when Chipper was a young pup. We were down at the farm, and he was running around like a crazed maniac. I called my wife, Amy, that day and said I was coming home or else taking Chipper back to the cabin because he’s acting like a fool. Looking back, that day might have been the catalyst for Bone Clone. I remember Chipper jumping into the creek, about 75 yards ahead of me and he furiously digging and pawing into the silty bank. I yelled at him to get out, but by the time I approached, I could see that he had a leg bone from a whitetail in his mouth coming toward me, very proud of himself. I laughed and said, “Wrong bone, buddy”. I remember thinking he had to smell that bone buried in the bank, and in my head the rest of the way home my thoughts were on antlers, and whether or not it would be possible to develop a training scent, or a way to help amplify the scent of an antler.

THE HOW:  My mind is now on overdrive - about antlers, and their scent. Most that know me know that I can become a bit obsessed when it comes to things like this, but everything started to fall into place. Before I got into shed dogs, or should I say the true reason I got into shed dogs and shed hunting was because I owned a whitetail feed business. I focused on making minerals, attractants, and antler growth supplements so I had some knowledge of how an antler develops and grows, and also the composition of an antler. I studied whitetail nutrition, and worked with an animal nutritionist and a biologist that studied whitetail deer. While I owned the feed business, I learned a lot about antler development. Antlers are actually one of the fastest growing tissues in the entire animal kingdom, consisting of true bone grown from the lateral region of the frontal bones. I became fascinated with antler development and how to optimize growth. I wanted a shed dog as my partner in this journey, to help find as many antlers as possible. My end goal was to track antler growth to see if my products were working as they should.

   I decided to make a few calls to my friends that had helped me develop other deer-related products and ran my thoughts and ideas through their heads. How could I make an antler scent as effectively as possible? I spent a few weeks collecting data before getting to work. I came up with several recipes and learned how to make a few batches and of course, a few failed attempts. I ended up with four batches - each a slightly different variation. I was talking to a very good friend of mine, Jeff Rada, about my progress. Jeff knew what I was up to - we shared many discussions about the idea of making an antler training scent and just shed dogs and training them in general. Jeff shared with me that he had access to a laboratory with a machine that could test and compare my batches to a real antler. He said we needed to run some tests and see how close each batch was . I sent up 4 batches up to Jeff to be tested, along with some antler shavings and some of the wax ring for as close to an accurate match as we could get.

   Imagine my surprise after a few weeks when the guy running the machine at the lab finally had some time to get the test done, he asked Jeff if I was some kind of mad scientist - because after testing the batches, he said that batch number 3 was a extremely close match compared to the real antler and wax ring we tested against. He sent us the actual charts which we still use today on our packaging. I was pretty excited just hearing the excitement in Jeff’s voice on how close batch 3 was and that the guy in the lab told him we were close to cloning a antler while laughing at us like it was some kind of crazy science project - which it truly was!! Without the help of Jeff and his offer to run these tests, we would still be spinning our wheels. I am very grateful for those conversations.... I definitely will never forget that phone call.   

THE NAME: I was collaborating with another close friend at the time on a separate project related to shed dogs as well and shared the progress I had made with my antler scent. I told him about the guy at the lab that was running the tests to compare the scent to the actual antlers we had for samples laughing and asking jeff if i was some kind of mad scientist - and at the end of the day, he said we were damn close to cloning a antler and BOOM he says well you should call it BONE CLONE - the rest is history!!!!!!!

THE FINISH: I have waited a long time it seems to tell this story and I’m not sure why, because it is a story I’m very proud of. There is no question that if I didn’t have a few close friends in my corner that believed in me - all the way from the first conversations and my end goal to produce a successful, realistic scent it certainly would have never come to be. I wouldn’t even be writing this right now without the words from another good friend, Will Heckart, for encouraging me to tell this story. Thank you to Whitney Rupp, for taking the time to proofread and edit my thoughts on how this all came to be! Thanks to all of you for being there as my sounding board, but most importantly my friends. Friends who spent late nights on the phone listening to me while I rambled on. I also need to thank my wife, Amy Kuchenbecker, for putting up with me and my obsessions. She has been there through not only the process of developing Bone Clone but also when I tear the kitchen apart to make batches of it. We still proudly make every single tube of bone clone in house. Thanks for reading my story. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. Finally!