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West Virginia Scent Maker Carves a Niche

Scent and lure maker Smokey McNicholas of New Cumberland, WV is a lifelong trapper.  He says the skills that make successful trappers are critical in the creation of top notched deer scents.


Smokey McNicholas grew up in Hundred, West Virginia.  The former steelworker says if you want to know about scents, you need to talk to a trapper.  

Not so surprisingly, McNicholas is a lifelong trapper who conveyed his knowledge of the animal snout into a money making venture.   Laid off in the steel industry, McNicholas struck upon a discovery a few years ago that he claims makes an amazing difference for hunters.    His pre-orbital gland lure created a buzz nationally among known trophy deer hunters and Smokey’s Lure was born.

"The trick of it is, you have to have the real stuff," said McNicholas in a recent appearance on West Virginia Outdoors. "If you got the real stuff and you put the time and hard work into the quality, you will get a reaction out of a buck. You’ll get his attention first, and then you’ll get a reaction." 

McNicholas says his lure is the preferred scent of noted hunter Jim Riggle who killed the "Tionesta Giant" in Forest County, Pennsylvania.  The deer ranks as the 17th largest buck ever killed in the Keystone State.    The Wentzel Brothers in Iowa also have endorsed Smokey’s Lures and retired WVU Professor Dr. Dave Samuel speaks highly of the substance in his book Whitetail Advantage.

McNicholas goes through the painstaking process of actually matching up the glands for the appropriate scent.    He insists on packaging in glass bottles to preserve the effectiveness of the lure.   He also works in small quantities, fearing a mass produced product will suffer in quality.

Getting the "real stuff" is not easily obtained either.   McNicholas actually has agreements with five different meat processors who allow him to come and harvest the glands from selected whitetails dropped off at their shops.

"I have to do surgery and there’s certain glands I have to remove," said McNicholas. "That’s actually just a small part of it.  I spend a lot of time mixing it up and coming up with the right match of glands."

The shelf life of Smokey’s Lure is five years and he says like a fine wine, they only get better with age.   He says a two-year old gland lure would be perfect for any hunting applications.   

Keeping things small also means keeping it effective.    McNicholas has a disdain for mass produced and marketed scents.  The witch’s brew produced in volumes to fill 55-gallon drums receives no credence with Smokey.    

As much as his lures are effective for masking and as sexual attractants, McNicholas says hunters are also finding the lures an effective tour for scouting.

"It will revolutionize bow hunting.   It’s so easy to go out here and find a licking branch with an orbital lure, do an application, and set up your trail cameras,"  said McNicholas. "What you’re doing is you’re taking an inventory of all the bucks you have in that area.  They can’t resist the real stuff."

The secret to the pre-orbital gland lure, according to Smokey, is that it’s a communication scent as much as an attractant.

"When a strange buck comes in and uses the licking branch, it’s more important than anything else.   It starts the scrape and that’s the first thing they do," said McNicholas. 

Nowhere is scent more critical than when attempting to set traps.   McNicholas says that knowledge, along with general woodsmanship skills, and input from seasoned veterans of tree stands nationwide, are helping to produce what he believes is the highest quality line of deer scents on the market. 

McNicholas now makes his home and operates his business out of New Cumberland, West Virginia in Hancock County.   


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