The value of antlers

Submitted by Chuck on 12/29/2003. ( )

$4 million for antlers? Nope
Register Staff Writer
Albia teenager Tony Lovstuen hit hunting's equivalent of a lottery jackpot in October when he killed a legendary whitetail deer with world-class antlers.

That does not, however, translate into the family becoming millionaires.

"One of the biggest surprises for me was that the antlers aren't worth as much as I thought they were," said Doug Lovstuen, Tony's father. "I've heard the rumors that the antlers are worth $3.5 million, even $4 million, and that's nowhere near the truth."

The Lovstuens are learning what other hunters who own prize antlers know: Don't believe everything you hear.

Tony, 15, shot the Albia buck during Iowa's youth deer season. Since then, Doug said several private antler collectors have made offers in amounts well under $100,000, but not enough to entice him to sell. If someone had actually offered that much, he said, he and his son most likely would have sold them already.

Financial benefits - and sentimental value - follow even when the antlers aren't sold. Rumors about the prize antlers' worth may not be true, but the talk can help. The money is made by promoting hunting products, selling rights to the deer's image, displaying the deer and giving talks at trade shows, selling antler replicas and writing books.

Larry Huffman, an antler appraiser from Mequon, Wis., believes the Albia buck's antlers are worth between $100,000 and $150,000. Huffman started the Iowa Deer Classic, an annual trade show in Des Moines centered on whitetail deer hunting, and at one time owned an 84-head whitetail deer collection.

"I know there are all kinds of rumors, but they are greatly exaggerated. Worth is not just based on how large the antlers are, or that they could be a record, but also on the story that goes along with the antlers," Huffman said.

For example, in the case of Canadian Milo Hanson, who shot a huge buck in 1993, the story and the antlers are highly prized because those antlers broke a 79-year-old record for the largest typical antlers ever taken by a hunter.

"The antlers are worth more than if the record was only a few years old," Huffman said.

The Albia buck's antlers are worth a lot because it stands to become the the largest antlered buck taken by a hunter as determined by Boone & Crockett Club at a little over 322 inches. Boone & Crockett is an organization that scores and records antlers and horns from North American trophy game. The club has the most widely recognized scoring system, although others exist. It also will most likely become the record for Iowa, and a world record for a buck taken by a muzzleloading firearm.

The legend of the Albia buck - named for its home range around Albia in Monroe County - spread after three or four years of impressive antlers shed by the animal were found. The antlers have eight normal symmetrical tines and 30 abnormal tines, making it a nontypical set of antlers.

The legend has the potential to help the Lovstuens financially. Doug Lovstuen hopes he can make enough from promotions, writing a book and other antler-related contracts to pay for his son's college expenses. For example, his family was paid by North American Whitetail magazine for first rights to photos of the buck and the story of the hunt, although the amount was not disclosed.

Lovstuen said they've already written a book, but he is still working on finding a publisher.

"I may end up having to self-publish," Lovstuen said, which means he'll have to finance the printing and promotion.

He said he's still deciding what other deals to accept.

Other hunters understand the decisions the Lovstuens face.

Mike Beatty of Xenia, Ohio, killed a buck in 2000 that had the potential to be the largest nontypical buck ever killed by a hunter, until the Albia buck was shot. The Beatty buck remains the largest nontypical buck killed by a bowhunter.

"Everybody has this misconception you will be an ultimate millionaire," Beatty said. "I still work 40 hours a week. My wife still works."

Beatty probably could have made a living by making hunting videos and doing associated work, but it would have required constant travel and being away from the family. He still works for a telephone company.

Beatty has sold some replicas to Gander Mountain, an outdoor and hunting products company. Huffman said Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's are the two main companies buying record-book deer mounts for store and museum displays.

While money can be made from replicas, there is a significant cost in production.

It can cost as much as $600 just to have each replica painted, and that doesn't include a cost of around $2,000 to produce a mold and the replica from the mold. If a person sells each of those replicas for $5,000, they might make $3,000 for each replica, Huffman said.

Milo Hanson of Biggar, Saskatchewan, said big antlers don't make hunters rich. In 1993, he shot a buck that remains the largest typical antlers on record with Boone & Crockett.

"I've been offered 150,000 U.S. dollars for the antlers. Income tax would take half of that if I did sell them. Besides, I'm having too much fun with them right now," Hanson said.

For example, Huffman said he paid Hanson $2,500 for an appearance at the Iowa Deer Classic a couple of years ago. He also was paid $6,000 by North American Whitetail and $5,000 by Outdoor Life for rights to his story, a substantially higher amount than is usually paid.

Ten years after Hanson shot his deer, he's still making deals, including a recent contract that places the deer's image on a line of jewelry. In the past 10 years, Hanson figures he's made more than $100,000 because of his record antlers.

The fact that Beatty was using a Primos deer call when he killed the buck has paid off.

Jimmy Primos of Flora, Miss., chief operating officer of Primos Hunting Calls, said that while they won't pay people to use an image, they did enter into a promotional agreement with Beatty.

"A lot of people think if you kill a world record buck that it is a million-dollar jackpot, but that is often not the case," Primos said, adding how much money a person makes depends on how promotions are handled.

While big antlers cause a big stir, most antlers are kept more for the sentimental value of marking a hunting milestone, said taxidermist Brad Coulson.

"Once in a while you have someone bring in a set of antlers and they think they are worth a lot of money, when they really aren't," said Coulson, who has a shop in Saylor Township.

But most hunters in Iowa know that even if they have a nice buck with eight or 10 tines on the antlers, it probably isn't worth much because that's not particularly unusual for the state, he said.

Beatty doesn't deny that some financial benefits have come his way.

"Having the antlers has made life more enjoyable financially. We've bought some of the extra things, like a four-wheeler for the kids," he said.

Return to The Taxidermy Industry Category Menu

I'll mold them

This response submitted by Raven on 12/29/2003. ( )

WOW! The prices that guy was quoting for molding and casting fees? WooHoo! I wish you could regularly sell things for that amount. Hell I'd do them for half that and still turn a wikked profit...

$ $ $ $ $ Cha-Ching! $ $ $ $ $


This response submitted by . on 12/29/2003. ( )

I've got to get a copy of this article.

I get a kick out of talking to people after deer season.

You always here the story about their friend that has a cousin, that has a neighbor, that has a son that killed this BIG deer that Cabelas is going to pay them $400,000 for it.

Yea, right!

Mold heaven

This response submitted by Dennis on 12/29/2003. ( )

Raven, think there pushing the envelope on the price there paying for repo's ... me thinks so...., but then again they want the general public to think there doing it for the love and not the money, NA we don't make that much on them there things....must be a one time shot mold eh.....Give me a break....


This response submitted by EARL on 12/29/2003. ( ANT / TAX )

Hey "Doug Lovstuen" i'll give you $2.00 for a signed 8x10 with out you in it ..?

I would have thunk...

This response submitted by marty on 12/30/2003. ( )

...Hanson's Typical would have been worth more. I feel most people put a higher value on a record book typical vs. a non-typical deer...

I would have thunk...

This response submitted by marty on 12/30/2003. ( )

...Hanson's Typical would have been worth more. I feel most people put a higher value on a record book typical vs. a non-typical deer...

Return to The Taxidermy Industry Category Menu