The other reason I went to Jackson last weekend was to photograph the annual elk antler auction. Thousands of animals winter on the National Elk Refuge adjacent to Jackson, and the males shed their antlers in the spring. For decades now, when the elk leave for higher ground, the Boy Scouts of Jackson collect the antlers and auction them off for a fundraiser. These days, with prices going up, in part because of the Asian medicine trade, and because of the demand for naturally shed antlers for chandeliers, etc., the Elk Refuge receives 80% of the proceeds of the auction.
In the beginning, it was just the Boy Scouts. These days, there’s a private vendor area, and for the next three years, a special opportunity. The iconic antler arches positioned at the four corners of the Jackson town square are being refurbished. The last auction item of day was the southwesterly of the four historic arches. In individual pieces, delivery included for Jackson only. To raise funds to build the replacements (the originals were built in 1960, not in great shape today), they will be auctioned off one each year. Pre-auction estimates topped at $10,000 for the first arch. I didn’t stay, had other photos to make that day, so I waited to report until the information told to me by a vendor staying at my motel was confirmed in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. The first arch won at auction by Jerry Johnson, owner of the Best Western Inn in Jackson, for $51,000. Even at $8 per pound for new antlers (I got to hold one particularly valuable 6 lb. rack worth over $1,000, to put the $8 figure in perspective), I think they are well on their way to financing the rebuilding program. Save those pennies for next year, folks.