Put your Girl Scout cookies aside for a moment, because we’re talking serious Elk Horn business. That’s right. The Jackson Chapter of the Boy Scouts of America held their annual Elk Horn Auction this past weekend in Jackson Hole’s Town Square. Horns by the bundle were auctioned at a fevered pitch and at a pace of bidding that would make any auctioneer gleeful.
Wyoming is a quizzical place. Where else might you find boy scouts fund raising using antlers?
Now please hold on. Before you call your local chapter of The Sierra Club or prepare a protest for next years’ event, please understand that these horns are all collected as part of a natural “Shed” process that the elk go through each year. The horns typically start to fall off in February and March, to make way for fresh growth. So, rest assured, no elk were harmed. Quite the opposite. The funds raised from this event are a huge support towards the preservation of the elk herd.
Elk migrate each year towards the Eastern boundary of the Jackson Hole area. The Elk Refuge, which was established in 1912, was opened specifically for the purpose of providing a safe habitat for the elk to spend the winter. Back in the day, un-regulated hunting and agricultural development was having adverse impact on the health and numbers of the native herds. Today the elk are doing much better and the herd that winters each year outside of Jackson typically numbers about 10,000. Auction funds received by the refuge play a critical role in supporting the operation, and the very existence, of the facility.
Every year the Elk Refuge collects a tonnage of elk horn sheds that are then auctioned off by BSA as a means of fund raising. Twenty five percent goes to the Jackson District Chapter of BSA and 75% to help run the Elk Refuge. This year’s auction brought in more than $186,000. That ain’t cookie crumbs. But if you think that dough was easy pickings for the Boy Scouts, think again. They put in countless hours of hard work, sorting and preparing the horns for the auction. Antlers in sets hold far more value than random one offs, so the Scouts tirelessly work to match the sets.
People throng to support this effort each year, and the event draws a crowd of such proportion, that it does get a little difficult to nudge ones way close enough to view the action.
Meanwhile back on the refuge, the elk are busy crunching numbers and reviewing demand forecasts for next year. Doing their part to keep a 52 year tradition on track.