Hunting for sheds can be great fun and remains a popular way to introduce young kids to the outdoors. It can also be a way to give back to the wild. Wyoming’s 25,000-acre National Elk Refuge is a treasure trove of elk sheds, but it is also the near-exclusive stomping ground of the Boy Scouts. Since it is illegal to collect certain items found in a wildlife refuge, authorities had granted the Boy Scouts a special dispensation: scouts are allowed to roam the vastness of the refuge for any sheds they find, but the antlers will be auctioned off at the end of the hunt to benefit both the refuge and Boy Scout organization. The arrangement works beautifully to bring both funds and an enjoyable yearly hunt to the refuge.
According to Deseret News, the scouts outdid themselves this year with a record $131,400 brought in at the auction, trumping 2011’s $111,305.
“Scouts around here love it. It’s unique,” said Jack Graig-Tiso, one of the scouts who participated in the annual shed hunt. Every year the Boy Scouts flock to the refuge’s forests, which is famous for reportedly hosting the largest elk herd in the world. Over 7,500 elk call the refuge home each winter, coming from as far as Yellowstone National Park. Mule deer, bighorn sheep, and other wildlife are in abundance, including the largest bison herd managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In their quest for prize elk sheds the scouts are treated to some of the best wilderness in Wyoming.
The long-standing agreement between the refuge and Boy Scouts has endured since the 1950s. Buyers come from all over the world come to purchase the hard-sought antlers when they go up for auction in Jackson. Customers include artists, furniture makers, wildlife lovers, and those who seek them for cultural reasons. Knife-makers also prize elk antlers for use in handles. The auction brings in an average of around $77,000 at $10 per pound. This year the auction hosted over four tons of elk antlers, which sold for a record average of $15 per pound. Traditionally the refuge keeps 75 percent of the overall haul and the remainder goes back to the Boy Scouts. It is an arrangement that keeps everyone happy, including the elk. Shed antlers are a highly renewable resource and the scouts are already looking forward to next year’s hunt.
Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Elk Refuge