The haunting call of the bull elk fills the Estes Valley during the early days of fall. The call begins with deep, resonant tones that rise rapidly to a high-pitched squeal before dropping to a series of grunts.
What is this strange sound and what does it mean?
To celebrate the annual elk rut and learn about the "wapiti," the Native American name for elk, Estes Park hosts the 17thAnnual Elk Fest in Bond Park and the surrounding area. The festival is free but for fees for the elk bugling contest and elk viewing bus tours.
The festival features bugling contests, educational areas, exhibits, the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, elk seminars, a Mountain Man Rendezvous, Native American music, dancing and storytelling and elk-viewing bus tours.
Vendors will display artwork, handmade elk-ivory jewelry, and will offer distinctive elk cuisine. Mountain men from around the country will gather at the Mountain Man Rendezvous to sell their wares and demonstrate their skills.
Daily elk seminars explain the elk breeding season, or "rut," and describe elk biology and management. Representatives from the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program will display on a gloved hand some of their magnificent rescued birds. It's amazing to see these majestic birds close up.
On Sunday, amateurs and professionals compete to see who can sound most like an elk bugling at the Elk Bugling Contest. Entrants can use a diaphragm, a horn or just vocal chords.
Afternoon bus tours take people to the best places to view and hear the elk. Each bus will have an expert guide on board to explain what viewers are seeing and hearing. Tours depart Bond Park from Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and from Noon to 4 pm on Sunday. Fees are $5 for those over three years of age.