Wildlife feed startup sends Wisconsin man on hunts across nation
Since Klinks Premium Wildlife Blend hit the market in July of 2020, founder Jim Klinkner of Dairyland estimates 30 tons of his product has been distributed across the country.
DAIRYLAND, Wis. — Originally from Wisconsin, Jim Klinkner moved to Alaska in 1998 to work in the oil fields. During time off, he served as a Hunter Education instructor for the state of Alaska to teach firearm safety, outdoor ethics and habitat management for nearly two decades.
Occasionally flying home to hunt, he returned to Wisconsin in 2019 with a business plan in mind. An avid hunter for nearly 30 years with a passion for whitetailed deer, Klinkner sought to shift his focus from benefiting the game industry to benefiting wildlife.
"I was told it was a good idea, but bad timing with COVID," Klinkner said.
After consulting with wildlife biologists and nutritionists from across the nation whom he met while living in Alaska, Klinkner created Klinks Premium Wildlife Blend.
His products are sourced from an undisclosed feed mill in Minnesota, where Klinkner said nutritionists oversee the proper rationing of ingredients which include wheat, corn, soybeans, alfalfa, salt, sunflowers, distilled dried grains, vitamins, molasses, calcium, cobalt, peanuts and more. Small-scale orders up to 500 pounds are mixed at Klinkner's home business based in Dairyland, Wisconsin, which he calls "Klinks Whitetail Ridge."
"It's just myself, deer, bear and rabbits. We all seem to get along just fine," he said.
There are two flavors of feed, Crown Jewel and Hat Trick, as well as a mineral that was released in October called Rack Attack. The wildlife nutrition supplement is made of protein-rich pellets aimed at increasing lactation production in does, and aiding deer to maintain and gain weight throughout snowy northern winters when foliage is difficult for animals to find. Fawns born in spring get a jump start to immunity with strong colostrum in their mother's milk from eating the supplement, Klinkner said.
Bucks grow antlers in the spring once their winter weight loss is replenished. When fed Klinks throughout winter to maintain weight, bucks can use energy to begin growing their antlers earlier in spring, he said. According to Klinkner, his product helps build herd health naturally without the use of unnecessary steroids.
"I get it. Everybody wants to kill a record-breaking deer, but bucks don't need steroids to grow huge monster racks," Klinkner said.
Klinkner encourages customers to use his product legally and consult with local game wardens regarding wildlife feeding regulations in specific areas. He does not condone baiting or poaching game.
Although the first year in business was slow to take off, he said there were customers who swore by his product and encouraged him to keep the wildlife feed supply coming by sending photos of deer returning to their feeders each night.
During the second year, business began picking up through word-of-mouth on hunting-related social media groups, so much so that Klinkner left his job as a truck driver to focus full-time on the business.
"Since August, it's been unreal. Before, it was sporadic. It was like a light switch flipped," Klinkner said.
An estimated 30 tons of feed has been manufactured since the first bag of Klinks Premium Wildlife Blend went to market in July of 2020, including 12.5 tons since August, Klinkner said. He keeps one of those first bags of product as a reminder that, "you can do anything you want to do if you want it bad enough," he said.
In addition to local Wisconsin distributions to Dan's Feed Bin in Superior, Sportsman's Headquarters in Minong, and Log Cabin Store in Danbury, bulk orders for Klinks Premium Wildlife Blend began coming by the ton in from across the nation. The feed also ships to Florida, New York and Canada.
While driving deliveries to retailers in Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio and Oklahoma, Klinkner is frequently invited to stay in hunting lodges and hunt the game resorts of his customers, who have become like family to him.
"I delivered four tons to Kentucky retailers and got to hunt there twice. In Illinois, I saw the biggest buck I've seen in my life while hunting with a guide. The rack was unbelievable. With 20-plus points, I called it a moose. Then I brought a ton over to Ohio, where I got to hunt hog for the first time," Klinkner said.
With a suitcase still packed with hunting clothing, Klinkner is planning a delivery in late November to Indiana, paired with yet another hunting trip.
"I never thought I'd get to hunt the country by coming out with a deer product like this. I don't even hardly get to come home," he said. "I'm glad I'm single because I wouldn't have missed this for the world. I'd say I've been blessed. I get to wake up every day and do what I love. I get to hunt some of the best wildlife preserves and trophy deer states in the nation for free and get paid for doing it. Bears, boars and bucks — country boys just having fun. I drink sweet tea in a stand and drop a trophy buck from a quarter of a mile, and do it all over again in the next state. Life is great when you're living like you should. I wish more people could wake up every day, work for themselves and make money doing what they love to do."