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Targeting deals for the trophy room

LENNOX -- Elk antlers. Sheep horns. Mountain lion pelts. With limited hunting options each year for such animals, it's difficult for many South Dakotans to even get a chance at collecting one of these items for their trophy room, but over the wee...

Taylor Jessup, assistant manager of Goeman Auction Pavilion in Lennox, auctions off antlers Saturday at Game, Fish and Parks' fourth antler auction. (Jake Shama / Republic)
Taylor Jessup, assistant manager of Goeman Auction Pavilion in Lennox, auctions off antlers Saturday at Game, Fish and Parks' fourth antler auction. (Jake Shama / Republic)

LENNOX - Elk antlers. Sheep horns. Mountain lion pelts.

With limited hunting options each year for such animals, it's difficult for many South Dakotans to even get a chance at collecting one of these items for their trophy room, but over the weekend, conservation officials helped change that.

On Saturday, the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks hosted its fourth antler auction at the Goeman Auction Pavilion north of Lennox, about 10 miles southwest of Sioux Falls, in which it auctioned off antlers, pelts, skulls and tree stands to the highest bidder.

"Making money isn't the big thing here. It's providing folks with an opportunity - what I would call a level playing field," said GF&P Law Enforcement Administrator Andy Alban, who helps organize the auctions.

Saturday's auction raised an estimated $34,000, Alban said, and drew 395 registered bidders to bid on more than 600 pounds of deer antlers, more than 100 pounds of elk antlers, 10 ram skulls, 10 mountain lion pelts and more than 75 tree stands, among other items.

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During the course of their duties, conservation officers often come upon deer, bobcats or other animals killed on the road or poached by hunters. Alban said the meat is donated, when possible, but GF&P collects and keeps the antlers or pelts because there is public interest in them.

Craig Magee and his 10-year-old son, Hunter, of Mitchell, traveled about 75 miles to attend the auction to look for "something unique."

"We just wanted to see the Game, Fish & Parks auction for the deer skulls and the horns. We like hunting, so we wanted to see what they have to offer," Magee said.

About 90 minutes into the auction, Magee still hadn't bought anything, but he said being around people with similar interests still made the day an enjoyable experience.

"We've talked to the game wardens here to find out some new information, meet some new people. It's just fun to be around people with common interests," Magee said.

The first antler auction took place in at the South Dakota State Fairgrounds in Huron in 2010, one year after the Legislature repealed a law that prohibited the resale of antlers collected by GF&P.

As part of the repeal, GF&P was required to sell the antlers and other items at the highest possible price, so the department sets up an auction every two or three years to liquidate its stock, Alban said.

The department has also hosted auctions in 2012, in Huron, and 2015, in Rapid City, with 124 registered bidders attending the last one. The auctions have raised between $28,000 and $42,000, which Alban said goes to the department's general fund to be used for conservation efforts.

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Jeremy Roe, district conservation officer supervisor for southeast South Dakota, has been frequently fielding calls over the past week from parties interested in attending.

"The phone's been ringing off the hook here, especially this week, it seems like," Roe said.

Roe said some buyers want pelts for display, and some may never get a chance to hunt bighorn sheep, for example, so this could be their only chance to get sheep horns for a mount.

"I think it's just something different and something unique that people don't get very often a chance to bid on stuff like this," Roe said.

Alban said some buyers are in the antler business, either by making chandeliers and craft items or by just reselling antlers to others.

Whatever the reason, Alban said there's a strong antler market in South Dakota, and hosting the auction is well worth the effort.

"We have a lot of time put into this, but I think it's worthwhile," Alban said.

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Related Topics: HUNTING
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