If you were worried you missed this year’s antler auction and a chance to bring home one of the biggest racks from the National Elk Refuge, fret not.
The 54th Annual Boy Scouts of America Elk Antler Auction was online for the second year in a row due to the coronavirus pandemic, and as a result, coordinator Cliff Kirkpatrick decided to hold onto “the Big Guy’s” stately skull.
Known to fans as Brutus or simply “the Big Guy,” the bull lived on the refuge and shed a series of stately antlers over the years before finally collapsing in 2018.
His final rack, attached to his beetle-cleaned, sun-bleached skull, along with next year’s Scout harvest, will be auctioned off at what Kirkpatrick hopes will be an in-person sale in 2022.
“It’s so large, you really need to see it in person,” he said of the multimeter antler spread.
Despite the virtual pivot, the 50-year auction tradition still drew a crowd of seasoned collectors willing to drop thousands for their part in the legacy of Jackson’s elk herd. Over two separate auctions, one in September and another in August, bidders vied for matched pairs (some Boone and Crockett Club scored), bundles of partials, and beetle-cleaned skulls, including a unique 6x6 dubbed “Twisted & Bewildered” because its left antler protrudes almost from the center of the skull.
“Not sure what caused it, or if the other elk on the refuge made fun of him, but you could own this unusual skull,” Kirkpatrick wrote in a release for the event.
Larry Hoff, of Emmett, Idaho ended up taking the distinctive set for $1,625.
In total the antler sales brought in just over $300,000, an annual record slanted slightly by layover supply from previous years. The National Elk Refuge will receive 75% of those funds to put toward maintaining winter habitat for thousands of ungulates.
The other 25% will support the Scouts who collect the elk sheds each spring, trekking for miles to search for the bony tips among the sagebrush. Kirkpatrick said this year’s haul was comparable to previous years. It also served to continue a time-honored Scouting tradition despite other changes in the institution.
“The first year we came to Jackson to work for the summer in 1983, the antler auction was one of the events that people in the community told us about,” the Scout leader said. “And when we have guests come, it’s one of the events that we tell them that someday they should come and watch. It is so embedded in the nature of Jackson Hole, from the arches that you see on the square to the beautiful refuge lands that extend north of town.”
Kirkpatrick spoke to the News&Guide on Monday with notable exhaustion. When he and wife Loretta planned to postpone the auction to this fall, they thought that would allow COVID-19 time to recede. Instead, the delta variant forced them online again — and on relatively short notice.
Limited by manpower and time, the Kirkpatricks were forced to split the auction into two, doubling their workload and the necessary promotion for each event.
“It was quite a bit of work, but it was worthwhile,” he said.
Some bidders still traveled in person to see the sheds laid out in the Lodge of Jackson Hole lobby, giving Kirkpatrick a chance to commiserate with the regulars.
The hotel was a gracious host, but it wasn’t Town Square. The casual spectators and interested passersby who usually fringe the square’s bountiful spread were all but unaware of the virtual alternative. The Scouts also didn’t get to bask in the glory of their aggregate collection.
Organizers and participants alike are anxious for a return to normalcy next year — and a chance to see the Big Guy finally find a new home.