ElkFest Article

Since 1968, antlers collected on the National Elk Refuge by the Jackson District Boy Scouts have been sold annually at a public auction on the Jackson Town Square. The antler auction is now part of a weekend-long community celebration called ElkFest.

ElkFest and the annual Jackson District Boy Scout elk antler auction has been postponed. The community event, previously scheduled to be held May 16, 2020, has officially been postponed due to COVID-19 public health safety measures, which limit large public gatherings and recommend social distancing. The new date of ElkFest and the elk antler auction will be announced later in the summer.  

ElkFest is an annual weekend-long community event that takes place in Jackson, WY. Held each May during the weekend prior to Memorial Day weekend, it is a unique Jackson Hole event that celebrates nature, education, and outdoor recreation. The main event is the public antler auction that takes place on Jackson's Town Square, which is hosted by the Jackson District Boy Scouts. 

Key to the success of the antler auction is the long-standing partnership between the National Elk Refuge staff and the Jackson District Boy Scouts. Each year, Scouts and Scout leaders donate approximately 2,000 hours to prepare and execute the auction, which is comparable to one refuge staff member working a 40-hour week for a full year. On average, more than 200 Scouts and adult leaders work for nearly 2,000 hours with refuge personnel during the annual antler project. For their extraordinary effort, the Jackson District Boy Scouts retain 25% of the sale's proceeds, which is used to supplement fees for camps, leader and Scout training, and other activities. The remaining 75% of the revenue is retained by the National Elk Refuge, which manages approximately 25,000 acres as crucial winter range for the Jackson Elk Herd. The funds are utilized by the refuge for elk habitat enhancement projects, including paying for equipment, noxious weed management, planting regionally native seed, and hiring seasonal employees to operate the refuge's Irrigation Program.

The 2017 auction was significant because it marked the 50th year of the Jackson District Boy Scout elk antler auction on Jackson's Town Square. A printable handout (Adobe PDF file) is available and gives a brief history of this popular community event along with some interesting statistics.

The Jackson District Boy Scouts started collecting antlers on the National Elk Refuge in 1957. Through an annual special use permit, the Jackson District Boy Scouts are allowed to help the National Elk Refuge staff collect antlers at designated times in the Spring. Factors that contribute to the number of antlers found include the number of bulls wintering on the refuge and the timing of the elk migration off the refuge to summer ranges. National Elk Refuge staff and volunteers begin picking up antlers as soon as they start dropping in early to mid-March. Since antlers can be worth a large sum of money, the National Elk Refuge staff collects them to keep others from coming onto the refuge and taking them illegally, an act known as poaching. Removing antlers also reduces damage to tractors, trailers, and other equipment used during the winter by refuge personnel. The antlers can easily blend in with the snow, potentially damaging machinery if the antlers are accidentally run over. 

Enjoy a narrated slide show on our multimedia link that describes collecting, preparing, and selling of the antlers at the annual auction. A collection of photos of the antler collection and annual auction is also housed in the National Elk Refuge photo gallery.

The Jackson District Boy Scout leaders publish an ElkFest web page with details such as a schedule of events, a location map of activities, and how to register as a bidder at the auction.

Single antlers collected from the National Elk Refuge are available for sale year-round at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, located at 532 North Cache Street in Jackson, WY.