Visitors to Wyoming’s 25,000-acre National Elk Refuge may find a strange sight during certain times of the year: hundreds of Boy Scouts combing the woods in search of elk antlers. Visitors are normally barred from shed hunting inside the refuge, but the Boy Scouts have a longstanding agreement with the refuge’s managers. The deal allows the Jackson District Boy Scouts free roam across the refuge to pick up any sheds they find. The Scouts do all the hard work (more than 2,000 hours of gathering, preparing, and auctioning off the antlers) while the refuge keeps about 75 percent of the auction proceeds. But you will not hear any complaints—it is an arrangement that provides great fun and experience for the Scouts, and helps preserve the refuge for the future. This year, the auction made the Scouts and the refuge more than $200,000.
According to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Dave Meehan, the 2014 auction broke records in the amount of antlers sold and total funds generated. It is estimated that more than 13,698 pounds of elk antlers were purchased during the auction. When bidding closed on May 17, the Boy Scouts had amassed $233,613 in total sales, the highest ever in the event’s history. The final count blew away last year’s record of $131,400 and came in at an average of $16.65 a pound.
“This is great news for both the National Elk Refuge and the Jackson District Boy Scouts,” Refuge Manager Steve Kallin told the RMEF. “It couldn’t have been done without the outstanding partnership we have with the Jackson District Boy Scout organization.”
Thousands of antlers are stacked into neat piles, columns, and wheelbarrows for the auction. The annual event draws in customers from all over the world, including artists, furniture makers, wildlife lovers, and custom knife-makers.
Framed by the nearby Teton Range, the refuge is a wondrous sight in winter. Thousands of elk journey there every year to roam the refuge’s meadows, marshes, and forests. At its widest, the refuge is only six miles long, yet it provides an invaluable sanctuary for the animals.
“The Boy Scouts round up all the antlers on the winter range and then they bring them here, to Jackson Hole, for auction,” Meehan told OutdoorHub.
Especially impressive antlers, such as a large 436 and 7/8 non-typical found in 2012, are donated to the RMEF’s Great Elk Tour, which showcases world-class taxidermy and mounts of some of the largest elk in the world.
Image courtesy Dave Meehan/RMEF