ElkFest Article

Since 1968, antlers collected on the National Elk Refuge 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, taking place on the weekend before Memorial Day weekend. Thousands of pounds of antlers are sold at the auction within two to three hours.

The 2017 auction was significant because it marked the 50th year of the 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 fun statistics. 

National Elk Refuge staff and volunteers begin picking up antlers as soon as they start dropping in early to mid-March. Because 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. 

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. 

Scout leaders also spend hours of behind the scenes work to prepare the antlers for sale, including sorting, bundling, weighing, and tagging the bundles of antlers, which are sold in small lots. The Jackson District scout leaders also administer the sales at the public auction and the account where the funds are held. More than 200 Scouts and adult leaders work for nearly 2,000 hours with refuge personnel during the annual antler project. 

Seventy-five percent (75%) of the proceeds from the auction are retained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and used for habitat enhancement projects, including hiring seasonal employees that operate the Refuge's irrigation program, purchasing farming equipment, and managing for noxious weeds. The remaining 25% of the sale's proceeds are donated to the Jackson District Boy Scouts, recognizing the extraordinary effort it takes to pull of such a large event as the antler auction.

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.