America, the great experiment, has proven that when people are given the freedom to be the master of their own futures, they can realize extraordinary achievements. It is this fact that helped build America into the greatest nation on our planet today. Want to start your own business? Go ahead. Work hard, work smart and with a little luck here and there, you can realize your dream.
Of course, not all businesses succeed, and in fact, most do not. So when you find yourself still in business and profitable three years from when you first “hung out your shingle,” you have beaten the odds. To get there, you had to provide a good product or service that was in demand and then more than likely work your tail off.
There are also those businesses that not only remain profitable but also grow beyond mere sustainability to become major players in their industries. These companies likely have the same characteristics as their smaller brethren, but through innovation, creativity, forward thinking and the aptitude for taking calculated risks have found ways to achieve exponential growth in their respective market. There is yet another type of company that stands in a category reserved for the very few: the truly rare enterprises that start an entire industry, The pioneers. Imagine going to a bank or investor and telling them that you have a great idea to provide a product or service that has not only never been heard of but doesn’t even fit into any industry category.
To pull that off requires not only unique vision, but also the ability to share that vision with customers clearly enough that they themselves see the value and need of this new innovative concept. Henry Ford is credited by many for starting the auto industry. He did so when horses were still the main power source for transportation and road systems were limited and primitive. Yet, he had a vision and that vision led to the creation of one of the largest industries in the world. An industry that changed the world.
Before the mid 1980s, the concept of food plots and managing properties for whitetail deer was by and large nonexistent. There were some places in Texas and possibly other parts of the country that were practicing forms of deer management, but in terms of the hunting industry, food plots and deer management were unused and unknown concepts. In the South, with the conversion of land from traditional farming to pine tree production, hunters realized that planting “green fields” was beneficial in drawing deer out of the deep labyrinth of planted trees. But this practice was done primarily if not exclusively for hunting purposes, and the words “food” or “nutrition” were never part of the vocabulary.
Enter Ray Scott. At that time, Ray was nationally known as the founder of B.A.S.S. and Bassmasters and the person responsible for popularizing bass fishing and creating national fishing tournaments, which had grown from its beginning in the 1960s to a multibillion dollar industry. Not content with business success alone, Ray set out to protect, preserve and enhance the bass fishing resource and its environment. According to Field and Stream, Ray “walks with the outdoor gods: Individuals like Teddy Roosevelt, Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold. They listed him among the ‘Twenty Who Have Made a Difference’ in the American outdoors over the past century.”
Ray also was a deer hunter and hunted in his home state of Alabama, where, like most hunters in the area, he planted and hunted green fields. The green fields on Ray’s property consisted of the traditional forages of wheat, rye and oats, but as you can imagine, Ray was never satisfied with the status quo. He planted all kinds of forages trying to find which produced the best results, and among these was a clover that produced better results, attracting and holding more deer than the other forage varieties planted on the property.
His wheels began turning, and a theory took shape that whatever deer-attracting characteristics that particular clover variety possessed could be expanded upon when they were identified. Ray thought that plant genetics held the answers to these questions, so he sought out one of the leading plant (more specifically, clover) geneticists in the country, Dr. Wiley Johnson, who had helped develop the clover he had tested. The men started a research project that would eventually result in the first-ever forage variety genetically designed specifically for whitetail deer. The resulting Imperial Whitetail Clover would be the flame that ignited a new industry.
“That whitetail deer hunting has been enriched by a nationwide proliferation of food plots and plantings can’t be overstated, but in fact the domino effect set in motion by Whitetail Institute goes much further than that,” said John Zent, editorial director for the National Rifle Association magazines. “Innumerable species — everything from songbirds to black bears — are now thriving in habitat enhanced purely through private initiative. In addition, this DIY conservation ethic has helped to generate its own real estate boom as hunters make a commitment to become land managers and wildlife managers. America’s wildlife has benefited, and so too has the economy of many rural communities.”
With the development of Imperial Whitetail Clover, a new company was created; a company founded upon strict requirements of research and results. In 1988, Ray opened the doors to the Whitetail Institute of North America, the first and only company at that time whose sole purpose was researching and developing forages and forage blends specifically for whitetail deer management. A new term was coined as well, taking the place of green field: “food plot.” In the development of Imperial Whitetail Clover, it was determined that protein content contributed greatly to attraction. The higher the protein content, the more attractive the clover became. At that time, protein was a little-understood and seldom-used word in deer hunting circles. However, researchers at the Whitetail Institute quickly learned of the vital role protein plays in a deer’s life including antler growth, lactation, and muscle and bone growth. This knowledge led to the concept that not only could you attract more deer with Imperial Whitetail Clover, but because of high protein content, Imperial Clover would also provide improved nutrition and in turn a better quality deer herd. The combination of nutrition and attraction resulted in a planting that was truly a food plot.
“‘Nothing happens until something is sold’ is one of the great quotes of all time,” noted outdoor writer and deer expert Charles Alsheimer said. “I learned a long time ago that this quote applies to Ray Scott and all the folks at Whitetail Institute. Over the last 25 years, they've led the way and sold hunters and landowners on how they can have better deer and better deer hunting.
Without their vision, great products, and dissemination of information, the whitetail's success story would not be what it is today. Simply put, nobody does it better than Whitetail Institute.”
Shortly after the birth of the Whitetail Institute, Ray was joined by his two sons, Steve and Wilson Scott, who shared Ray’s passion for deer hunting, deer research and deer management. Although the Whitetail Institute was still a fledgling company, the Scotts had a much greater vision of a company that would provide food plot and deer nutritional products to hunters all across the country.
“When we first began testing clovers in the ’80s, other seed types, both annuals and other perennials were included in the testing. While our main focus was on finding and developing clovers that met the high standards we were searching for, we knew that in certain circumstances other forages also had a place in a deer hunter’s management plans,” Wilson Scott said. “The early research identified certain other forages that deserved follow- up research. We expanded our testing locations to cover all of North America and Canada to be sure the products we offered were the absolute best forages available and could thrive in both the harshest cold northern climates as well as the hot/dry Deep South. This research, which continues today, is what sets the Whitetail Institute’s products apart.”
Based on this national vision, researchers at Whitetail Institute recognized that variables existed from region to region including soil type, climate and specific supplemental nutritional needs of deer. Using the same principles that governed the development of Imperial Clover, Whitetail Institute redoubled and expanded research efforts to design new products that would provide for the needs of a wide variety of management conditions. However, they did not follow the path of some companies that forgo this extensive research in order to simply enlarge their product portfolio. Their philosophy of extensive research to find vetted, proven, performing products remained the very cornerstone of their business.
“All Whitetail products go through an exhaustive research program before ever reaching the marketplace. First, they have to go through initial testing at various Whitetail Institute facilities, and if they make it through that stage, then they have to make it through expanded testing at satellite research facilities all over North America,” Steve Scott said. “And if they make it through that stage, then they are tested in the real world with field testers all across the country. These field testers are just regular guys who love hunting and enjoy being involved in the process of helping test and evaluate potentially the next great thing or things. They use their own equipment and plant the various products exactly the same way that hunters across America will eventually do if the product makes it through this last research stage. This research is expensive and most often a long process, but it all goes back to Ray Scott’s vision — no product will carry the Whitetail Institute brand unless it has proven to be the absolute best.”
Because of the hundreds of variables involved in whitetail deer research, Whitetail Institute designed their research program to remove as many of these variables as possible. A concept was developed to begin with controlled micro research, and then expand the research protocol to eventually end with macro research. Micro research is conducted on a small and controlled test set. With food plot forages, this often starts in a greenhouse under specific environmental conditions such as moisture and temperature. This way, forage samples can be tested for drought resistance, heat tolerance, disease resistance and so on. From there, small test plots are planted under less-controlled conditions and evaluated. This step is especially important when testing blends of forages to evaluate compatibility, seeding rates and other qualities.
Forages that pass this early testing go into large, semi-wild high-fence enclosures. These enclosures are maintained to simulate as close to a wild, free-range environment as possible. The next step is testing which is conducted at certified testing stations in various parts of North America.
The testing is done on wild, free-ranging deer but then is closely monitored by trained researchers. The last phase in testing is to send the product to a large group of field testers in nearly every region of whitetail country. Then, and only then, will a product be considered for the Whitetail Institute’s line of products. The products that make the cut are only A-Grade products. Even then, if a product does not fill a need for deer hunters or managers, it will not be added to the line.
The methodology and detail by which the Whitetail Institute tests its products remove as much variability as possible and helps guarantee success to the customer. It is this research process that has led to products such as Imperial Alfa-Rack Plus, the first perennial food plot product on the market containing grazing alfalfa designed for well-drained soils. Also, it produced Extreme, the first perennial food plot product on the market designed for poor quality soils and limited rainfall, and Imperial Winter-Greens, the most highly palatable and attractive brassica product the Whitetail Institute has ever tested. And this research protocol was not just used for food plot products but also for mineral/vitamin supplements such as 30-06 and 30-06 Plus Protein, as well as nutritional supplements like the Cutting Edge line of products. These are only a small handful of the products researchers have developed during the past 25 years at the Whitetail Institute. Throughout its history and still today, research is the backbone of the products from the Whitetail Institute.
“I’ve greatly enjoyed knowing the people at the Whitetail Institute for many years. I’m impressed by their innovation, professionalism and commitment to excellence,” says Gordy Krahn, editor-in-chief at North American Hunter. “They have led a revolution that is the food plot industry. I congratulate them on this incredible achievement!”
All the research and testing in the world means very little without proven results. The Institute’s goal is not just to develop products but to see the results their products produce for their valued customers. So what do the results look like? Well it could be said that the Whitetail Institute leads the industry in innovation, or it could be said that millions of acres of Whitetail Institute products have been planted. It could also be said that professional deer managers trust Whitetail Institute products above all others. But I think the best way to relay the results of Whitetail Institutes products during the past 25 years is to take a look at the tens of thousands of testimonials that have been received. Here is just a sampling that have appeared in the Whitetail News.
“First of all, I want to praise Whitetail Institute for their awesome Imperial Whitetail Clover. It has really helped the deer on our farm over the past several years. It has totally changed not only how we hunt the deer but the caliber of deer on the farm” — Rick Sweeney, Tennessee
“Since we started using Whitetail Institute products, we have killed some very nice bucks. We have bigger-bodied deer and an overall healthier deer herd.” — Samuel Stoltzfus, Pennsylvania
“Everyone at Whitetail Institute was great and easy to work with. I asked a lot of questions, but they were always good listeners. I have used Imperial Whitetail Clover, No- Plow and PowerPlant, and I have more and bigger deer.” — Mark Gadbaw, Missouri
“We have been using Whitetail Institute products for six years now. Currently, we have No-Plow, Extreme, Chicory Plus and several 30-06 mineral sites. We get multiple bucks throughout the year on our plots and mineral sites.” — Mark Mabry, Ohio
The Whitetail News was started soon after the Institute was founded to educate field testers and to satisfy a public that thirsts for the latest information about seed blends, how to plant, what to plant, when to plant and the great results that can be realized.
“I remember when I started as editor of the Whitetail News almost 17 years ago,” said Bart Landsverk, senior editor. “The News was 24 pages on newspaper stock. Now we boast between 68 and 80 pages of information. And now the Whitetail News is online, which could never have been imagined 17 years ago. I’m very proud of what the Whitetail Institute has pioneered over these 25 years. And I’m very proud to be a small part of it.”
Wade Atchley of Atchley Media has been the account executive for the Whitetail News for 19 years. He also marvels at the success of the Institute.
“Every industry has a point in time when one idea changes and accelerates everything within that industry,” he said. “It not only impacts the way the entire industry thinks but strongly affects the direction in which the industry moves in to the future. In 1988, Whitetail Institute of North America became the ‘game changer’ of the hunting industry and today continues to lead the industry in producing innovative deer nutritional products and scientifically proven methods for managing whitetail deer.”
Authentic industry leaders are true game changers and courageously lead so others can follow. The Whitetail Institute of North America created the deer nutrition industry in 1988, and 25 years later continues to forge new trails so all hunters can fully enjoy the most prolific game animal in North America: the whitetail deer.
Outdoor writer Brad Herndon said, “I have been writing for the Scott family for several years, and it is my pleasure to be able to say that not only do they have fine products, they are fine people, which makes doing business with them a double blessing.
For me, it hardly seems possible that the Whitetail Institute, the industry leader, has been selling its highly nutritious products to deer hunters for 25 years, but it is, in fact, true. It's also true that as the use of fine products such as Imperial Whitetail Clover, Alfa- Rack, Extreme and others increased throughout the years, the annual number of trophy buck entries into the whitetail record books also increased dramatically. As an expert in this field of research, I can assure you there is definitely a connection between the two.
It will be fascinating to see what the next 25 years will bring in the deer nutrition field from Whitetail Institute of North America. I'm betting that the best is yet to come.” Over the past 25 years, the Institute has received continuous feedback from field testers who are enjoying the best deer hunting they’ve ever had. This feedback is what tells the folks at the Whitetail Institute that the research is paying off and is why, even after 25 years, the Whitetail Institute customer base grows every year.
Twenty-five years of business is a milestone to celebrate in any business. But 25 years in a business that launched an entire new industry is testament to the leaders of the company, the knowledgeable employees and the value of the products that they produce. In truth, you need all of the pieces for longevity — foresight, vision, hard work and a commitment to the customers they serve. These are the ingredients that have made the Whitetail Institute a successful enterprise through the years. But what makes Whitetail Institute truly a great company is that like Ray Scott 25 years ago, it will never be content with the status quo. As you read this article, new research is being conducted and new products are being tested. Rest assured, more innovative products from Whitetail Institute are just over the horizon.