The sounds of spirited bidding will fill the air around Jackson’s Town Square this weekend as buyers vie for antlers shed by elk on the National Elk Refuge in the town’s annual ElkFest.
The BSA Elk Antler Auction will highlight ElkFest, but many other activities are scheduled for the weekend, including live music, a chili cook-off and a mountain man rendezvous.
The auction itself, now in its 52nd year, is the culmination of months of work by the Elk Refuge, assisted by Boy Scouts, said Lori Iverson, a spokeswoman for the refuge.
“It’s very dependent on scout help,” she said. “There’s so much behind-the-scenes work and that’s the part the scouts never get credit for.”
Elk Refuge personnel begin picking up antlers as soon as they are shed, generally beginning in March, Iverson said, to prevent damage to machinery used on the refuge.
“There’s one day … where the scouts go out and collect any remaining antlers,” she said.
In the week before the auction, held each year on the weekend before Memorial Day, the scouts sort and bundle the thousands of pounds of antlers, which are offered for sale in small lots. Those lots then must be weighed and in the early morning hours of Saturday, the scouts will put them out for buyers to preview.
The buyers, who come to Jackson from across the country, will bid by the pound for the antlers. Last year, the average bid of $18.36 per pound brought in more than $173,000. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds go to the Boy Scouts, while the remaining 75 percent goes to the Elk Refuge.
All told, it is estimated that the scouts and their leaders contribute 2,000 hours to the sale, which also includes time spent collecting payments and walking lots of antlers to the auction block.
The auction begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, but antlers are available for preview beginning at 7 a.m.
Antlers can also be found at a private antler sale sponsored by Jackson’s Rotary Club, which is also held on the Town Square. In that sale, antlers collected from areas other than the Elk Refuge or national parks will be available.
On Saturday night, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will hold a fundraising “casino night” and banquet.
On Sunday, the ElkFest continues with the opening of a mountain man rendezvous and trader’s row and a chili cook-off.
For more information on ElkFest, visit www.ElkFest.org.