Great Elk Tour Coming to Kalispell

By Beacon Staff

Soon, elk bugles will fill the early-July air. You needn’t head to the mountains to hear them. Instead, just drop by Hutton Ranch Plaza.

For the first time ever, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Great Elk Tour is coming to the Flathead Valley, with a two-day event scheduled on July 10-11 at Sportsman and Ski Haus in Kalispell. On the event’s second day, hunters can test their bugling skills in an elk-calling contest.

Along with the bugling contest, the event features seminars, contests, speakers and the Great Elk Tour’s main draw: a display of six trophy bulls from locations across the West. The mounts showcase antlers from bulls killed by hunters or found on the ground after the shed.

A few of the bulls have scores of over 400 through either the Pope and Young or Boone and Crocket indexes. The others have scores just under 400. All six go on display on July 9.

“It’s a really neat deal for the folks in the Flathead,” said Jared Wold, the tour’s manager. “It’s showcasing the biggest bulls most people ever get to see in their lives.”

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was founded in 1984 by four hunters from Troy who, according to the organization’s website, wanted “to guarantee a wild future for North America’s grandest game animal.” It’s headquartered in Missoula, with 550 chapters nationwide.

The purpose of the Great Elk Tour, Wold said, “is letting people know what the Elk Foundation is and what we do.” It also serves as a fundraiser for the organization, attracting due-paying members and bringing in money through other avenues such as a raffle. Money raised at the Kalispell event will go to the foundation’s Flathead chapter.

The tour’s theme is, “Great Elk Need Great Habitat.” In 2010, it has stops scheduled in 20 cities across the nation, including in Alabama, Tennessee, Colorado, Utah, California and Nevada. The two Montana stops besides Kalispell are Missoula on Sept. 25 and Butte on Oct. 14-16.

A full schedule can be found at www.greatelktour.org, accompanied by the notice that people should check back regularly because the schedule is constantly being updated.

“Overall the main goal is to make people more aware of the Elk Foundation,” Wold said.

Wold said speakers at the Kalispell showcase on Saturday include a Glacier National Park representative and a local archery expert. There will also be a display on the life cycle of elk, giving information on how the ungulates shed their antlers, how they re-grow them and other tidbits.

Teaching kids about elk habitat and conservation is a primary goal of the tour, Wold said. There will be a coloring station set up for young ones, with prizes available for the winners of a coloring contest.

Sunday’s primary attraction is the elk-calling contest, with three divisions: pee-wee, youth and adult. Winners in each division will receive a gun, Wold said, with the pee-wee champion getting a B.B. gun.

Sportsman and Ski Haus has donated prizes and made a $2,500 membership pledge to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Joe Power, sporting goods manager at Sportsman, thinks the event is a good fit for the Flathead.

“We really wanted to bring it to the community,” Power said. “It’s a cool display and I think people are going to like it.”

For more information on the tour, visit www.greatelktour.org. To learn more about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, go to www.rmef.org.

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