Horn hunters face hard times

  • A Boy Scout offers antlers for sale at the Jackson Hole antler auction, where the price per pound is down almost $5 from its peak

    Lucas J. Gilman
 

For centuries, Asian men have consumed powdered antlers to try to boost their sexual performance, a tradition that’s helped fuel today’s demand for deer and elk antlers. Recently, though, the rising popularity of Viagra has "just about finished off" the Asian market, says Mike Aldrich, of Pinedale, Wyo., who buys and sells antlers.

But more than advances in aphrodisiacs are hurting the West’s "horn hunters," who gather shed antlers for profit.

Elk farmers have flooded the market with antlers sawed from captive animals, driving down the price of antlers from the wild, Aldrich says. Fears of mad cow disease, which can be carried by wildlife, have caused some customers to shy away from the real thing. And manufacturers of chandeliers and lamps are switching to fake antlers, made of plastic resin, because they’re cheaper to obtain and use.

All this is beginning to affect a Wyoming tradition. Every spring in Jackson, hundreds of Boy Scouts collect tons of elk antlers from the nearby National Elk Refuge, then auction them off. The auction is a fund-raiser for the Scouts and the refuge, and it’s also the best gauge of market prices.

Prices peaked in 1989 at $14.07 per pound, but at last May’s auction, the average price per pound was only $9.17. Adjusted for inflation, that’s less than half the historic high.

A big, dramatic pair of antlers, valuable as a trophy, can still fetch thousands of dollars. But because of the declining market, says veteran horn hunter Tyler Wilson, of Boulder, Wyo., "Many horn hunters have just given up."

 

 

High Country News Classifieds
  • MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    For more information visit www. wyofile.com/careers/
  • THRIVING LOCAL HEALTH FOOD STORE FOR SALE
    Turn-key business opportunity. Successful well established business with room to grow. Excellent highway visibility.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    For more information, visit www.wyofile.com/careers/
  • SONORAN INSTITUTE, CEO
    Chief Executive Officer Tucson, Arizona ABOUT SONORAN INSTITUTE Since 1990, the Sonoran Institute has brought together diverse interests to successfully forge effective and enduring conservation...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a high-impact, nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 27-year legacy using...
  • PROJECT MANAGER
    Position Summary Join our Team at the New Mexico Land Conservancy! We're seeking a Project Manager who will work to protect land and water across...
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Upper Missouri Waterkeeper seeks an Outreach Director to play a key role designing and leading activities and initiatives that engage citizens in water resource decisionmaking,...
  • WILDLIFE HAVEN
    Beautiful acreage with Teton Creek flowing through it. Springs and ponds, lots of trees, moose and deer. Property has barn. Easy access. approx. 33 acres.
  • ARIZONA CONSERVATION CORPS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Arizona Conservation Corps is seeking a Program Director in Flagstaff or Tucson
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...