Elkfest: A Weekend-Long Celebration
Every spring, thousands of elk wintering on the National Elk Refuge lose their antlers before they migrate to their summer range. In late April each year, the Jackson Hole Boy Scouts assist U.S. Fish and Wildlife with harvesting the shed antlers, scouring the 25,000-acre refuge for the elk racks they will then auction off to bidders during the Jackson Hole ElkFest on Town Square.
The annual wapiti jubilee is a supremely Jackson Hole event, attended by thousands from around the world. Held the weekend before Memorial Day, the two-day celebration—built around the famous, one-of-a-kind public antler auction—includes the High Noon Chili Cook-Off and start of the two-week Mountain Man Rendezvous.
This year, the 51st annual auction starts at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 19th. Bidders will seek out the best antlers to make furniture, wall decorations, jewelry and food products from. Hundreds upon hundreds of white and brown antlers will be laid out all across Town Square by 7 a.m.—a truly jaw-dropping sight if there ever was one!
There is no cost to attend the auction or the other festivities.
Elk Antler Auction by the Numbers
- 1968: Year the auction began
- 8,000: Average pounds of antler that are offered for auction annually by the Jackson District Boy Scouts.
- 13,698: The record total poundage of antlers collected, set in 2014.
- $17: Average price per pound of antler
- 2,000: Amount of hours the roughly 200 scouts and adult leaders spend collecting elk antlers, cleaning them, organizing them and generally preparing the dropped sheds.
- 75: The percentage of proceeds from the auction that is donated by the Boy Scouts to be used for long-term habitat improvement projects at the National Elk Refuge; the other 25% goes towards funding the Boy Scouts’ Friends of Scouting dues.
Schedule of Events for ElkFest
SATURDAY, MAY 19
- 7 a.m.: Preview antler lots for Boy Scouts of America Elk Antler Auction
- 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Food court provided by Jackson Youth Baseball
- 8 a.m.-2 p.m.: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Great Elk Tour – the premier traveling conservation exhibit with some of the largest bull elk in the world. Sponsored by the National Elk Refuge
- 9 a.m.: Registration begins for Boy Scouts of America Elk Antler Auction
- 9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Elk Antler Auction Kids’ Corner, including educational tables and games. Sponsored by Wyoming Game & Fish, Jackson Hole Weed Management, National Elk Refuge, and the Jackson Hole Historical Society
- 9 a.m.- 1 p.m.: ElkFest gifts. Purchase your exclusive 2018 ElkFest T-shirts and ball caps. All proceeds will benefit the National Elk Refuge.
- 8 a.m.-3 p.m.: Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum booth private antler sale north of the Town Square (on Center Street) by Rotary Club
- 10 a.m.-1 p.m.: World Famous Jackson Hole Boy Scout Elk Antler Auction
- 10 a.m.-1 p.m.: Jackson Boy Scouts of America Boy Scout and Cub Scout Expo
- 5 p.m.: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Casino Games and Silent Auction begins at the Bar J Chuckwagon
- 7 p.m.: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Big Game Banquet annual fundraising dinner at the Bar J Chuckwagon.
FRIDAY, MAY 18-MONDAY, MAY 28: Mountain Man Rendezvous and Traders Row
- 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily: Experience history with a modern twist! Held on the Teton County Fairgrounds, Traders Row will feature refreshments and hand-crafted goods along with interactive competitions featuring bow and arrow, hawk and knife competition and Atlatl. The Mountain Man Rendezvous traditionally begins ElkFest weekend and continues through Old West Days.
SUNDAY, MAY 21 Noon: Jackson Hole High Noon Chili Cook-Off
- Join the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce and the Howdy Pardners ambassadors in celebrating chili cuisine. Teams compete to deliver the best tastes of chili in the West. Professional and amateur teams will take pride to serve you up some of the best chili to wind down the ElkFest weekend.
Fun Elk Antlers Fact
The iconic antler arches at each corner of Jackson Hole’s Town Square were originally built from antlers found on the refuge. Each arch is made up of around 2,000 antlers and weighs between 10,000 to 12,000 pounds. The first one was built in 1953 and the remaining three were constructed more than 10 years later.
Most of the four million visitors who come here seem to want a photograph in front of the arches that have come to symbolize Jackson Hole, the most popular arch being the one on the southwest corner of the Square.