Tracking and hunting animals can be difficult at the best of times, but if you’re dealing with particularly skittish animals you may need a little help.
Elk are no exception to this, being sturdy and skittish in equal measure.
This is where elk calls can be useful to not only better identify the location of nearby elk, but to draw them closer for the kill.
With all of the types of elk calls available on the market, we thought we’d compile a list of our five favorites.
That list includes the pros and cons, as well as a small writeup, of each product. Attached is a buyers’ guide and an FAQ so you can see for yourself how we came to that decision, or just get clued up as to what makes the best elk calling device so that you can make a better purchase.
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We chose the Primos Hoochie Pack Call, which is in fact two purpose-built elk calls bundled together under an affordable price.
- A versatile two-call set that allows you to mimic both cow and calf elk calls.
- One-hand operation allows even novices to simulate herd calls.
- Affordable, great value option for two elk calls.
Best Elk Calls - Comparison Table
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Best Elk Calls - Reviews
The first product on our list is actually two products, being the Primos Hoochie Pack Call. It includes the Hoochie Mama Elk Call and the Baby Hoochie Mama Elk Call which, as the names suggest, make the sounds of elk cow and calves respectively.
Bull elks respond much more to the sounds of cows, and with the calf sounder you can simulate herd calls to make your elk calling seem much less conspicuous.
This is made possible by the fact that these calls can easily be operated by one hand.
They’re ideal for hunters of all stripes, though would probably be best suited to novice or purely recreational hunters who may not have knowledge of how to use diaphragm calls.
The bundle is also great value for the two calls, better than buying both individually. A downside to them, however, is that they were made with a specific use in mind and so it’s difficult to adjust the tone on these devices.
The second will be a sight that experienced hunters will be very familiar with, the Rocky Mountain Bully Bull Extreme Elk Bugle.
A standard bugle elk design from an established hunting brand, the Bully Bull Extreme has a large and tapered venturi mouth which allows for all kinds of airflow types depending on your ability.
It also has a bugle tube built into it that’s designed to be used with a diaphragm for more complicated sounds like chuckles.
This means that the product works well with most in-mouth diaphragms.
The venturi mouth allows for easier octave changes so that you can cover most elk sounds you’ll want to make. The size of the bugle also guarantees great airflow, so you won’t need to worry about fumbling during those longer bull elk calls.
It measures 21-inches long in full, which means this isn’t the product to go for if you want short range calling. It’s also heavy for a bugle, so it may not be suitable for those inexperienced at larger bugles.
For our third option we have diaphragm calls from Carlton’s Calls, the Alumni Pack Aluminum Frame Elk Diaphragms.
They’re at the mid-point in our list due to not only their features but the fact they’re diaphragm calls, which are not only their own kind of calls to master but can be used in conjunction with bugle calls like the option at number two.
These are a pack of four different diaphragms that range from one, one and a half, two, and three reeds to have all your bases covered. Each of them is easily tunable to the shape of your mouth thanks to their aluminum frames.
Like any diaphragm call, these calls will free up your hands for your firearm or an accompanying elk call. Diaphragm elk calls are also capable of creating very authentic elk sounds when combined with bugle calls, but since they sit in your mouth diaphragm calls can be difficult to learn.
You may even have to learn how to hold the diaphragm in your mouth without feeling uncomfortable, but it’s a skill an elk hunter will need to achieve mastery.
Fourth in the list is another Primos product, the Primos Hyper Lip Single with Tone Converter Call. This reed call combines a convenient handheld bugle-like operation with a single-reed diaphragm which allows this device’s calls to hit those higher pitches that sound more like the calls of elk cows and calves.
During those calls, the tone converter softens the transitioning from tone to tone, creating a more organic sound that won’t scare skittish bull elk away as much as ordinary calls will.
This compact and lightweight elk call isn’t without its faults, however. The reed diaphragm itself has fallen out after some use in the past which can be a nuisance.
This is something easily fixed by some glue maintenance on your part, but is a negative to consider, nonetheless.
The final product is another product from Rocky Mountain and another diaphragm call, it’s the Rocky Mountain Raging Bull.
Part of the Bugling Bull series just like our number two pick (and perhaps well used in conjunction with it) this product is a forward palate plate diaphragm, so it can make a variety of elk calls whether that’s bull, cow or calf.
It allows for an adjustable pitch, which can be set to maximum capacity to help this product achieve a vast call range that’s only magnified if used with a bugle tube.
It is pricey for a single diaphragm call, and the single lite latex has proven too soft for those used to the hardier latex often found in other diaphragms, but overall this is a quintessential diaphragm call from a known brand that’s handy for anyone looking to get a start in learning diaphragm elk calling.
Best Elk Calls - Buyers Guide
What to look for in the best elk calls
In this buyers’ guide we’ve included all the information you should want to know about elk calls, and the features that make one elk call superior to another.
We’ve written not only about the different types of elk calls you’ll find on the market, but also about the components of an elk call such as the material, their accuracy and adjustability, and their features, which contribute towards a better elk call.
Before that, it should be said that mastering elk calling can be a challenge even for an experienced hunter, and all the bells and whistles available may not beat a reliable and easy to use elk call that makes it easier on you.
This often comes in the form of extra features and in-built adjustability, the likes of which are elaborated below, as well as smaller elk calls and the openings of those elk calls being smaller to get a more controllable airflow.
Elk Call Types
Not all elk calls are the same, for how simple they may seem. Elk calls tend to come in three types which function in different ways. These are called reed, diaphragm, manual, and bugle call types.
Reeds are perhaps what you envision when you think about elk calls, being the handheld models that are blown into to produce the call sound.
They have reeds at the mouthpiece that are made in specific shapes to create the correct noise when air is passed through them, meaning that the same type of elk calls made for other sounds will have different shapes.
Tubular calls without the specialized mouthpieces are often referred to as bugle calls.
There are also diaphragm or mouth calls which are artificial diaphragms inserted into the mouth, where you can then manipulate a latex flap with your tongue to produce all of the complicated sounds elk make.
This frees your hands for a bow or a firearm, but there’s also a method of bugling with reed calls which combines a reed call tube with a diaphragm in your mouth.
Manual elk calls are not blown into, instead requiring squeezes to pump the air through them to produce the sounds.
These are considered easier than the reeds counterpart since it’s easier to squeeze than blow air for a sustained period of time for most people.
Bugles have a specific use in elk calling, being named after the bugle call they produce that mimics the acoustics of a bull elk.
They’re designed as a hybrid between a standard tube call and a diaphragm that allows for sound reverberation to create a more authentic bull elk call.
Elk Call Material
Elk calls favor aluminum for the diaphragm frames since aluminum has several attractive properties, such as its natural resistance to the elements and the fact it’s lightweight but durable.
This makes for a product that has a long life. Aluminum is also easy to make malleable during the elk call construction, which means the metal can be shaped to produce different sounds more easily than harder metals.
When any metals are used to make elk call diaphragms, it makes them sit hard and uncomfortable in your hand. A lot of elk call brands remedy this by coating their calls in rubber since it’s also durable and weather-resistant but is softer to touch.
It also adds another layer of protection on the metal core, further weatherproofing it against cold weather.
The third material often found in elk calls is latex, which is used to allow hunters to manipulate the tone of the sound they create by adding or relieving pressure.
Most bugle types of elk call have these since they require more complicated noise making and produce a more authentic sound as a result.
Elk Call Accuracy and Adjustability
The accuracy of elk calls is best changed by the baffle, which is often removable, that bugle type elk calls have. This is because it lowers the pitch, which lowers the range that the call travels.
It’s in the removable or adjustable components that different brands add control, accuracy, and adjustability to their elk calls, with some using over ten different components that alter your elk call.
Brands offer calls that simulate bull, cow, and calf sounds with sets available that give you different ranges of sound that can be changed in the wild. This means you can better cover a range of accurate sounds to appeal to different elk, or sub-types within elk such as spike elks specifically.
Adjustability in elk calls isn’t just delivered via the way that they control the accuracy of the sounds they produce, with elk call products often having buttons that can be turned to settings which signal different kinds and pitches of elk sound.
This can help you appear closer or further away or can make your sounds akin to an entire herd of elk.
Bugle type calls have maneuverability in the form of a tone top and a palate plate that changes the resulting sound. The length and construction method of the bugle itself play a large role in the sound it can make, since this is responsible for the back pressure that you must deal with when creating the sound.
A good elk call, if you struggle with this pressure, is one with a tapered venturi design that lets the sound out with minimal effort on your part, which has the side effect of allowing you to hold a call for a longer period of time.
Elk Call Features
As mentioned, one such feature found in elk calls is that they’re often freeze proof due to the colder, hardier, hilly regions in which elk are often found. Bugle elk calls tend to have the most features to them in the form of their baffles and grunts, which can sometimes be removed to add some convenience and adjustability in the wild.
Another feature of elk call products that you’ll find on the market include four-piece sets that make a versatile range of sounds.
Frequently Asked Questions
How far away can you hear an elk bugle?
This depends on a lot of variables that you’ll be familiar with if you’re a hunter, such as elevation. Obviously, the weather conditions will affect how far elk bugles sound out, especially the temperature as sound passes through colder temperature easier, which also means that if the elk is bugling at night it’ll be heard further away than at day.
This means that elk bull bugles can be heard up to a mile away in the perfect conditions, otherwise it’ll be a few hundred or few thousand yards depending on the above factors.
These ranges don’t translate over to elk calls, as whilst they may be designed to mimic the sound of the elk, it can’t stand up to the acoustics at play inside the massive body of a bull elk. They’re powerhouses whose calls can even damage hearing were they to do it right next to you.
How do you bugle an elk with a reed call?
If you’re using a reed-type elk call, it can be difficult to produce exactly the right sound to an authentic enough degree that other elks get fooled. A handy device to use is a mouth-reed, a piece of material that fits into your mouth to provide the correct acoustics needed for mimicking a bull elk’s bugle.
It must fit in such a way that it doesn’t touch your teeth, but it may be worth training to be comfortable with it in your mouth since many are uncomfortable with holding foreign objects further back in their mouth.
As for the actual bugle itself, elk bugles follow a three-step process that begins with a short, deep ‘growl’ sound of the air passing through the elk call. Many tutorials exist online for your perusal, but in the interest of description this growl sounds like a flat, low note that you’d get by blowing the top of a bottle that is still mostly full.
Then you move to a very high note for the distinct bugling sound, hold it, and then bring the note down to end on that same growling noise for a shorter period of time.
How do you chuckle an elk call?
Elk make a wide variety of sounds, just as any animal does. This means that hunters who want to be at the top of their game learn to mimic the full range of sounds, including the chuckles and grunts they make.
We’re throwing grunts into this answer too, since many often mistake elk grunts for chuckles. Like with many complicated calling techniques, a diaphragm call is best, coupled with a reed or bugle tube for additional acoustics.
The pattern of the sound you need to learn is a whistling through the diaphragm, before dropping your jaw to take your tongue off of the latex of the diaphragm, and whilst doing that adding an exasperated growl during a sharp inhalation.
Once you have this pattern down, you have to speed it up and repeat it about ten times. Be careful during that air inhalation as beginners can easily pull the diaphragm too far back into the mouth, which can even make you choke. Grunts function much like chuckles, but the growl at the end is deeper and they only happen an average of three times.