Originally published as one of his “The Lower Forty” columns in Field & Stream, this story is Chapter 29 of The Best of Corey Ford (1975).
Cousin Sid halted before his camp and blinked in surprise at the group of Lower Forty cars parked in the driveway. A murmur of voices came from inside, and a strange odor assailed his nostrils as he opened the door. His fellow members were gathered round the camp stove, stirring a dark brown mixture that exuded an overpowering aroma.
Cousin Sid gagged and held his breath. “What are you doing, boiling a skunk?” he asked.
“Come on in, Sid,” Judge Parker said over his shoulder. “You won’t even notice the smell once you get used to it.”
Owl Eyes Osborn, the local warden, was checking off the items on his list. “Let’s see, now. Ground meat bones, dried blood, asafetida . . . How about tincture of nicotine?”
“I’ve got some scrapings from Uncle Perk’s corncob,” Doc Hall said, adding them to the mixture. “That ought to do the job.”
“Pair-r-rhops ye’d like some spoiled cabbage or a few rotten eggs,” Mister MacNab suggested. “I can get them from the farmer at a vurra low pr-r-rice.”
Cousin Sid rose on tiptoes to peer over their heads at the concoction on the stove. “What’s it supposed to be?”
“Deer repellent,” Owl Eyes replied. “It’s the state biologists’ formula. We make it up for folks to spread on their orchards and gardens. Never fails to drive the deer away.”
“I—I don’t understand.” Cousin Sid was growing more confused. “Why do you want to drive the deer away with hunting season opening tomorrow?” he asked, bewildered.
Judge Parker took an empty medicine bottle from a carton, and held it upright while Doc Hall poured some of the concoction down its narrow neck.
Well, it seems he’s just leased the whole of Cedar Mountain, the best damn deer country in Hardscrabble.
“Guess you haven’t heard,” the Judge explained, “about that New York banker, Joel Timkins, who bought a summer place here. Well, it seems he’s just leased the whole of Cedar Mountain, the best damn deer country in Hardscrabble—” he made a sweeping gesture with his hand “—and he’s posted it so he and his city-slicker friends can have it all to themselves.” He broke off and glared at Doc. “Careful how you pour that,” he growled. “You’ve spilled half of it on my sleeve.”
“Hold the bottle steady, then,” Doc retorted. “The way you’re waving your hand around, you’re spattering it all over everybody.”
Cousin Sid’s confusion mounted. “What’s Mr. Timkins got to do with this stuff you’re making?” he persisted.
“It’s Uncle Perk’s idea.” Judge Parker capped the full bottle and picked up another. “The trick is to spread this repellent around Timkins’ posted land,” he told Cousin Sid, “so the deer will hightail it out of there tomorrow and run past our stands where we’ll be waiting.”
“Who’s going to spread it?” Sid faltered.
“Joel Timkins himself,” Judge Parker smiled.
Cousin Sid shook his head in total bewilderment. “But how are you going to persuade anybody to spread deer repellent around his own—”
“That,” said the Judge with a crafty wink, “is where the trick comes in.” He screwed the cap on the last bottle and turned to Colonel Cobb. “You got those labels you ran off at your print shop?”
“Here,” the Colonel nodded, handing him a sheaf of gummed papers.
Judge Parker peered at a label and chuckled with satisfaction. “Solve your hunting problem with deer lure,” he read. “Guaranteed to bring that big buck right up to your gun.”
He then proceeded to paste the labels on the bottles one by one, put them back in the carton, and hand the box to Owl Eyes.
“Will you drop this off at Uncle Perk’s on your way back to town?” he asked. “Timkins phoned that he’d be coming to the store later this evening to buy some provisions.” He grinned at the others as Owl Eyes departed. “The rest is up to Uncle Perk.”
Cousin Sid gazed bleakly at his camp, which was smeared with the evil-smelling mixture. “How about cleaning up this mess?”
“Too late,” the Judge yawned, stretching out on the sofa. “Time we all grabbed a little shuteye. We want to be out on our stands before dawn tomorrow, so we’ll be ready when those deer come stampeding down off Cedar Mountain.”
Uncle Perk leaned back in his swivel chair, puffing his corncob vigorously to offset the noxious odor of the bottles stacked on a shelf. The string of sleigh bells inside the front door jangled, and a stout figure with pince-nez glasses entered.
“I’m Joel Timkins,” he announced. “I came to pick up those provisions I ordered—” his nose wrinkled. “Something dead in here?”
“Mos’ likely it’s the store mouse,” Uncle Perk sighed. “Last coupla times I seen him, he didn’t look none too healthy.”
Joel Timkins held a handkerchief to his nose as Uncle Perk set his order on the counter. His eye encountered the row of bottles on the shelf before him. “Deer lure,” he read. “Wotinell’s that?”
“No hunter in these parts’d be without it,” Uncle Perk shrugged. “Sold out my whole shipment today, except these last few bottles.”
“How does it work?”
"One whiff, an’ they’ll run right to your stand. All you gotta do is shoot.”
“Wal, you spread it around on the foliage and rub some on your hunting clothes, and them deer’ll be attracted from miles away.”
Mr. Timkins unscrewed the cap of a bottle, took a sniff and recapped it with a shudder. “Worst thing I ever smelt.”
“That’s ’cause you ain’t a deer,” Uncle Perk said calmly. “They think it’s Paris parfum’ry. Can’t resist it. One whiff, an’ they’ll run right to your stand. All you gotta do is shoot.”
“So that’s how you Yankee hunters get so many,” Mr. Timkins nodded. “I’ll take all the bottles you got left.”
Uncle Perk watched his customer hurry out of the store, carrying the carton of Deer Lure gingerly at arm’s length. He beamed contentedly, opened the front door wide and threw up all the windows to air his store out.
“I calc’late the Lower Forty’ll have a good openin’ day tomorrow,”
Uncle Perk looked up from a copy of the Hardscrabble Gazette as his fellow members sidled into the store the following noon, heads hanging in dejection.
“No luck,” Colonel Cobb reported glumly.
“Didn’t get to fire a shot,” added Doc Hall.
“Never saw a single deer all morning,” Judge Parker muttered. “I can’t explain it.”
“Wal, I can,” Uncle Perk grunted, backing away a few steps and averting his head. “Mebbe you fellers can’t smell yourselves, but the way you slopped that repellent all over your clothes, I ’spect you drove every deer right back to Cedar Mountain.”
He lit his corncob hastily and exhaled a protective cloud of smoke.
“My advice to you is burn them clothes ’an take a good bath before you go home,” he added. “That stuff’s prob’ly a wife repellent, too.”
The Lower Forty turned in silence and filed sheepishly out of the store. Grumbling to himself, Uncle Perk hung a closed for inventory sign on the front door and took down his ancient rifle from a peg.
“Looks like I’ll have to git the venison for the whole club as usual,” he sighed resignedly.
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