What a gun can cost

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I took Saturday to attend Lonnie Wilson’s auction in Salina where a ton of confiscated items from the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks, including guns, deer antlers, deer mounts, and every conceivable piece of hunting and fishing equipment, were auctioned off.  All confiscated from sportsmen (loosely used term) who took fish or game illegally.

I knew it was going to be a long day when I showed up 45 minutes after the sale started and still had to wait in line for an hour to get a bid number.  Well over 1,000 bidders registered, and by the time you count the wives, kids and otherwise tag-alongs with no money, there were probably in excess of 1,500 people there.  You can imagine.

The antlers drew my attention as they sold on average from $50 to $200 per set.  Hundreds of beautiful, large and atypical racks, that sold mostly to a dozen or so bidders.  At the end of the day I saw one bidder with the bed of his truck full of antlers, stacked two feet above the cab.  A lot of antlers.  I stopped and visited with he and his wife, asking what they were going to do with them, expecting to be told that they’d make lamps or coffee tables out of them.  Instead, they told me that they makes dog chew bones, cutting them down into dog-size manageable pieces.  It’s apparently a new and popular product that sells for upwards of $20 each.  It’s a profitable business as they make a full time job of traveling around the country buying up antlers.

It was a long day with the sale just winding down when I left at 7:00 PM.  But one brief thirty second conversation made it a worthwhile day.  I was standing elbow to elbow with probably 500 people during the gun auction.  The bidding was fast and furious and there were a lot of clearly astute bidders who knew the value of guns and knew exactly when to stop bidding.  Not surprisingly, that group didn’t include me.  I came home with a couple of truly premium 22 rifles for my grandsons.  A guy next to me purchased one of the more pricey guns of the day, in the thousands of dollars, an amount I couldn’t imagine paying for any gun.  But he was ecstatic.  I made the comment that the gun must be pretty special given the price he paid for it.  He smirked, and smiled, and replied “yes, it’s a very special gun. I owned it once.”  Not concluding the obvious, I asked what he meant.  “The KDWP people confiscated that gun from me two years ago and I came here today to buy it back”, he replied.  After a long pause to let that sink in, I couldn’t stop laughing for a good long while, and forgivingly, he laughed too.  Figuring that he was already embarrassed enough, I didn’t ask what he did to have his gun taken away, and he didn’t offer.

Mike Alfers

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