Annual elk antler auction nets high price per pound

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Despite a dismal forecast, the rain held off until after the conclusion of Saturday's antler auction, making it a spectacular day to celebrate the 51st year elk antlers collected on the National Elk Refuge have been sold at a public auction on Jackson's Town Square.


May 19, 2018 (NER 18-08)

Despite a dismal forecast, the rain held off until after the conclusion of Saturday's antler auction, making it a spectacular day to celebrate the 51st year elk antlers collected on the National Elk Refuge have been sold at a public auction on Jackson's Town Square. The annual sale is held on the Saturday before Memorial Day weekend and is the premier event of a weekend-long community celebration called ElkFest.

This year, 8,593 pounds of antlers were sold at the auction, roughly 1,080 pounds less than in 2017 but near the previous 10-year average of 9,138 pounds. However, bidders paid an average of $18.36 per pound this year, surpassed only by last year's record-setting price per pound of $18.79. It also represents a notable 41% increase over the 10-year average price per pound of $12.98.

A total of 136 registered bidders participated in Saturday's auction, which yielded a total of $173,805. Though the auction generated less than last year's $192,759, it hit the mark of the fifth highest total in the auction's history. During the past decade, the auction has brought in an average of $137,325.

Though a number of beetle-cleaned elk skulls neared or topped the $1,000 mark it was a 7x7 large skull with ivories and long tines sold near the end of the auction that stole the show. Two buyers on opposite sides of the bleachers began a bidding war that lasted for several minutes. Like spectators at a tennis match, the crowd glanced back and forth from one side of the seating area to the other as the bids rose in rapid-fire succession, cheering on the bidders and giving a loud round of applause when the prized skull was finally secured. The skull, which carries a Boone & Crockett score of 411, was purchased for $7,500.

Key to the success of the auction is the long-standing partnership between the National Elk Refuge staff and Jackson District Scouts. Each year, Scouts and Scout leaders donate approximately 2,000 hours to prepare and execute the sale, comparable to one Refuge staff member working a 40-hour week for a full year. For their extraordinary effort, the Jackson District Scouts retain 25% of the sale's proceeds, which is used to supplement fees for day camps, leader and Scout training, and other activities. The remaining 75% of the take is 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 paying for farming equipment, weed management, and seasonal employees that operate the Refuge's irrigation program.

A photo collection and a multimedia slide show on the Refuge's web site describe the behind-the-scenes work that goes into preparing for the auction and share images from the sale.

Next year's antler auction is set for Saturday, May 18. However, single antlers are available for sale throughout the year at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, located at 532 North Cache Street in Jackson.