"I wanted that big one and I got it," Karen Shirley said proudly after spending almost $450 for the rack of elk antlers.
Shirley's bid of $21 per pound for the 21-pound rack was the highest made Saturday as the Jackson Boy Scout District raised $76,177.75 from its annual elk antler auction.The bulk of that total was paid by Jim Klebba, a furnituremaker from Cody, Wyo., who wrote the Scouts a check for $51,045.50 for more than two tons of antlers.
The auction, the 24th held by the Scouts, attracted furniture furnituremakers and knife makers, people simply looking for a rack for the fireplace or front yard, and exporters catering to Orientals who grind the bone into a variety of medicinal potions, including, some say, aphrodisiacs.
Eighty percent of the take goes for feed at the National Elk Refuge, where the Scouts collect the antlers each winter, while the rest goes to the Scouts.
The refuge, located just east of Jackson, attracts thousands of elk that spend the winter there and naturally drop their antlers after the fall rut.
Shirley, who splits her time between Laguna Beach, Calif., and Jackson, said she spied the wide rack she bought prior to the start of the auction. Standing almost 4 feet tall and just as wide from point to point, the impressive rack quickly sent the bidding rocketing up from the $8 minimum bid.
As the auctioneer's staccato cadence picked up with the frenzied pace of bidding, Shirley stayed with it, time and again waving affirmatively as the auctioneer continually turned to her to see if she wanted to stay in the bidding.
"I was just going to outbid everyone," she said afterward. "It was a pretty rack. I want it for the front of my house. It's called Elk Run Ranch."
While the woman's bid was the highest of the auction, held in the Jackson Town Square that is graced on each corner by towering arches of elk antlers, it was quickly forgotten as the bidding continued.
Members of the Scout district's Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts took turns parading bundles of antlers before the crowd of several hundred that jammed the east side of the square. Some of the Cub Scouts were dwarfed by the antlers that weighed as much as 36 pounds.
In the front row of bidders and onlookers stood Don Schaufler, president of Tridon Inc. of Ennis, Mont., who said he is the largest antler exporter in the country.
There didn't seem to be a science to his bidding, as he nonchalantly nodded his head in the auctioneer's direction as the bidding climbed, or slightly shook his head to drop out of the bidding on a particular set of antlers.
While the Boy Scouts' auction is reportedly the biggest in the world, Schaufler said it doesn't provide him with the majority of his antlers.
"This isn't very many horns," he said. "I think we bought six tons yesterday (from individual antler hunters)."
Klebba, who spent the most, said he had planned to spend about $50,000 coming into the auction.
"They (the prices) ran about what I figured they would," said the furnituremaker. Most of the antlers the Cody man bought will go into furniture - chandeliers, chairs, tables.