JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The unofficial official kickoff to the summer season in Jackson Hole is probably Old West Days (known as Memorial Day weekend to the rest of the country) but ElkFest is always a good tune up.
The highlight of ElkFest is Saturday’s Boy Scout antler auction, which had special meaning this year. The Boy Scouts marked the Golden Jubilee of the signature event that began on the town square in 1968. Elk antlers collected on the National Elk Refuge sell at public auction on the Saturday before Memorial Day weekend.
This year, 9,672 pounds of antlers were sold at the auction, just four pounds shy of the previous 10-year average. What did smash all records was how high bidders were willing to go this year. At an average of $18.79 per pound, the price tag to secure sheds this ElkFest was record setting—topping the $17.03 per pound average seen in 2015, and a notable 53 percent increase over the 10-year average price per pound of $12.28.
A total of 134 registered bidders participated in Saturday’s auction, which yielded a total of $192,759. Refuge records indicate this year’s total was the third highest in the auction’s 50-year history, exceeded only by revenue generated in 2014 and 2015. During the past decade, the auction has brought in an average of $124,024.
Several matched pairs were highlights of the sale. Crowds cheered as bids hit the $100-per-pound mark on two of the lots. The highest price paid for a matched set was $102 per pound, bid on a 26-pound, 6×6 set with a Boone & Crockett score of 389. Also hitting the $100 per pound mark was a 24-pound 7×6 set, scoring 359 3/8.
Bidders also paid top dollar for beetle-cleaned skulls. A 7×6 large, non-typical elk skull scoring 356 1/8 brought in $2,600. The skull that was most prized was a bighorn sheep skull, which sold for $3,700.
The long-standing partnership between the National Elk Refuge staff and Jackson District Boy Scouts was celebrated by the reading of a Town of Jackson proclamation, read by town council representative Hailey Morton Levinson. Local Boy Scouts were first recruited in 1957 to collect antlers on the Refuge. Then, in 1966, the National Elk Refuge issued its first special use permit to the Jackson District Boy Scouts to assist with spring antler collection.
“I am excited to be involved in this incredible partnership,” said Refuge manager Brian Glaspell, who took over leadership of the Refuge in March 2017. “We value our unique working relationship with the Jackson District Boy Scouts and their dedication to this remarkable event.”
The majority of proceeds from the antler auction (75%) are returned to the National Elk Refuge, which manages approximately 25,000 acres as winter range for the Jackson Elk Herd. The funds are used for habitat enhancement projects, including seasonal employees that operate the Refuge’s irrigation program, farming equipment, and weed management. The remaining 25% of the sale’s proceeds stay with the Jackson District Boy Scouts.