Lost and found: Buckingham's beloved "Bo Whoop" sells for $175,000

FAIRFIELD, Maine – March 17, 2010 – Long considered a treasure lost forever, "Bo Whoop," the 12-gauge HE Grade Super Fox shotgun once owned by legendary outdoor writer Nash Buckingham, was purchased for $175,000 during a March 15 auction in Fairfield, Maine.

Nash Buckingham and 'Bo Whoop'
Buckingham at age 68 with two Canada geese, a few weeks before he lost "Bo Whoop." This probably was the last photo taken of him with the gun.

Those who have visited DU's national headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., might recognize it from "Bo Whoop Two" which sits on display at the entrance. The original Bo Whoop is considered one of the most significant pieces of waterfowling history and the story of its disappearance and re-emergence is quite a tail.


The story goes that on Dec. 1, 1948, Buckingham was showing his prized Bo Whoop, custom made by Philadelphia gunsmith Burt Becker, to a warden near Clarendon, Ark. After looking at the gun, the warden placed the gun on the back fender of the car in which Buckingham was riding, unbeknownst to Buckingham. As the car drove away, the gun apparently fell off, disappearing for close to 58 years.

And found...

In 2006, the story of the gun's travels came out. Wes Dillon, firearms sales coordinator for James D. Julia Inc., said, "According to the consignor [who hails from Georgia], this gun was bought by his grandfather with a broken stock for $50 in the 1950s and was passed down through the family to him. The consignor decided in 2006 to have the broken stock remedied and took it to a competent gunsmith for restocking. The stockmaker, seeing Buckingham's and Becker's names on the barrels, alerted the consignor to the importance of the gun."

'Bo Whoop' inscription A close-up of "Bo Whoop" and the stamped inscriptions on the bbl. Burt Becker was the finest shotgun barrel maker in the world at the time and specially bored the barrels of "Bo Whoop" for Buckingham.
(enlarge photo)

In spite of stirring controversy about the authenticity and ownership of the gun, Jim Julia, owner of James D. Julia Inc. auction company, testified to his belief that both the credibility and ownership of the gun should not be doubted. Julia said because Buckingham claimed insurance money for the gun after he lost it, and because no one seems to know the name of that insurance company or anyone who worked there, the gun deserves a clear title, and James D. Julia Inc. will stand behind that. Julia also related a story revealing the reason he firmly believes in the authenticity of the gun.

Jim Julia, Wes Dillon, Bill Taylor and Judy Labbe with 'Bo Whoop'
Jim Julia with "Bo Whoop" and his gun auction department heads Wes Dillon, Bill Taylor and Judy Labbe.

"In a letter Nash wrote to a friend, telling him about the gun he had lost, he transposed the gun's serial number and was off by one digit. What he wrote was 31108, but traces of this number reveal no connection to the company that made Bo Whoop," said Julia. "Traces of the serial number on the gun we are preparing to auction off [31088], however, do lead back to the company. Plus, for someone to have altered this gun to make it seem like Bo Whoop, they would have had to change the serial number, a process that is detectable. We see no such evidence on this gun and have no reason whatsoever to doubt it is the genuine Bo Whoop."

Dillon expanded on this sentiment, highlighting Buckingham's reputation for being less-than meticulous in much of his work.

"Nash was not known to be the most organized person; he sometimes forgot the name of his own dogs, so the idea that he mis-transposed the gun's serial number in the letter to his friend is extremely viable," said Dillon. "When you take into account the little details of this gun, we feel absolutely positive that this is the real thing. This is Bo Whoop."

Back-and-forth bidding

The bidding heats up for 'Bo Whoop'
Buckingham's "Bo Whoop" became the third-highest auction record attained for an American shotgun after the 15-percent premium, which brought the gun to a total of $201,250.

Julia said the pre-auction interest surrounding the gun made for a very lively bidding atmosphere. The live audience started the bidding at $50,000, but Julia said four phone bidders quickly surpassed the audience's bidding range. At just over $100,000, two phone bidders went back and forth, each increasing his bid in increments of $5,000. The winner was a "businessman from down south," according to Julia.

"The atmosphere for the sale of this gun was great. We had lots of gun aficionados come to experience it," said Julia. "It was also upbeat because the gun world is often a reflection of the current state of the economy. For this reason, lots of people really focus on these auctions. The fact that this gun went for a high price and that it garnered multiple bidders indicates to people that things are looking up. It's definitely a shot of adrenaline in the vein of the gun collector emporium."