For the last six decades, Jim Phillips’ favorite pastime has been to hike out into the Montana backcountry, braving the elements, for the sole purpose of picking up thousands of pairs of stray antlers. Since starting his collection as a 10-year-old boy, the “Antler Man” has amassed a grand total of 16,000 antlers, all of which are on display in one well-lit shed in Three Forks, Montana.
Each antler in the collection is in pristine condition, lining the 16-foot walls from top to bottom at such a high density that it’s nearly impossible to see the wood that lies beneath the horns.
Although Phillips could have easily acquired these antlers through purchase, he has been firmly committed to building his collection organically, and thus has never purchased a single set of horns. To collect the antlers, he drives out into the backcountry and takes long hikes, scavenging for antlers littered on the ground after being shed from moose, deer, and elk.
Some days, the turnout is low; Phillips once hiked for 26 miles and only to return empty-handed. But most of the time, Phillips’ efforts culminate in a truckload of bucks, with a record of 87 in one day (their horns only, of course; Phillips never kills for his collection). This painstaking process, which Phillips has been undertaking since 1958, makes for an incredible collection for the mere cost of gas money. If shed antlers are scarce out in the woods, he has a backup plan: Many hunters discard unused parts of their kill in waste bins, so dumpster diving serves as a great alternative way to expand the collection.
Although Phillips chose to sell 2,100 of the sheds to put his daughters through college, the collection in the Horn House is unfathomably large. And Phillips is still at it; he always has another “bone to pick.” According to Phillips, “now I’m over sixteen thousand and I know seventeen or eighteen thousand will not be enough. ”
Know Before You Go
Jim is open to the occasional visitor but you have to ask him personally. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Once he invites you he will give you his address.