Estes Park and elk go together like marshmallows and graham crackers. In September and October the local “wapiti”, the Native American word for elk, gather for the rut which is the mating season. The wind carries from far and near the strange sound of bugling elk bulls. It starts with deep “humph” sounds that go quickly up the scales to a very high pitched drawn out bugle, then it drops down to grunts.
The Elk Festival is free for everyone, but the competitions require a small entry fee. At 1:00 pm on Sunday afternoon join the Elk Bugling Contest just for the fun of it. You get your chance to bugle, hoping to sound just like a bull rounding up his harem. Professional (yes there are professional elk buglers) and beginners alike compete to see who has the most realistic elk bugle.
Here’s a look at the 2010 Elk Bugling Contest:
The festival is jam packed with contests, Native American music, dancing, elk seminars, a Mountain Man Rendezvous, exhibits like the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, and elk viewing bus tours heading out in the afternoon from Bond Park, downtown. The tours are $5.00 for everyone over 3. The tour buses depart from noon to 5 pm. Experienced and knowledgeable guides drive the tour buses and take visitors to the best places to see and hear the elk call.
Artisans display one-of-a-kind elk antler jewelry pieces, chefs offer delicious cuisine prepared with elk meat, and the Mountain Man Rendezvous brings in mountain men from all over the country to compete and demonstrate their special skills.
The scenery is spectacular with the trees turning to gold and red and orange. Don’t miss this event when love truly is in the air. Just remember to keep a very respectful distance.
Elk look small from a distance but up close they are quite large and can charge if disturbed. Turn off your engine and lights, get out of your vehicle speaking softly, and stay way, way back. Use your binoculars or telephoto lens to get a close up view of these majestic creatures. If your presence causes the elk to move away, then you are too close.
This event is Free! For more information of questions about the Elk Festival call 970-586-6104. Make your reservations now! And start practicing your bugling.
Also, be sure to consider the ‘Elk Expeditions: Educational Adventures by Bus’ from the folks at Rocky Mountain Nature Association. Bus tours start at 5 pm and end at 7-7:30 pm on Sept. 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29. Please call 970-586-3262 or visit online at www.rmna.org and click on the seminars/calendar tab to purchase tickets.