The elk is a noble animal that makes for great hunting. To hunt them though, we need every trick up our camo-sleeve, and that includes a range of elk calls to help us speak their language, to guide them where we want them to be.
Diaphragm calls can make any elk nearby sit up, take notice, and come into your range.
But which calls do what, and which are best for your particular needs and skill level?
Breathe out, hunter. We’ve got you covered. Here, we find the best elk diaphragm calls on the market. You can concentrate on finding the elk.
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Best Elk Diaphragm Calls - Comparison Table
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Best Elk Diaphragm Calls - Reviews
Diaphragm calls are never going to be plug and play - they take some getting used to, and some practice before the elk start responding as you want them to.
But the Hunters Specialities Carlton’s Calls are getting rave reviews from hunters for their ease of use, flexibility of tone, and accuracy in the field.
Each of the four calls produces a different range of sound, bringing both elk and other animals to you quickly. The aluminum frames mean they’re easy to tune, and they’re made of high quality materials so they won’t fall apart the first time you take them out.
The ability to tune the calls gives you more flexibility and range of sound than many others on the market, which puts them ahead of the pack in our ratings.
This is a solid choice irrespective of how experienced a hunter you are. It also offers a range of sounds and tones, depending on the kind of elk you’re after.
The Sentry Plate Single will help you make cow, calf, and spike bull sounds. The Ivory Plate Single gets you closer to cow, calf and satellite bull sounds.
Meanwhile for cow and herd bull tones, you only need to switch to the Imperial Plate Double.
And if your hunt needs you to sound like a raspy herd bull or an estrus cow, your Hyper Plate Double will repay your investment.
The Primos Select 4 makes use of a trademarked ‘Sound Plate’ technology that positions the call automatically at the right angle, meaning you don’t need to take separate bull and cow calls with you on your hunt.
Users say one of their favourite aspects of the Primos call is that it’s small enough to use on the go – you can keep it comfortably in your mouth as you move, giving a more natural sense of an animal in motion, and a realistic-sounding call.
The Primos call has found fans particularly with novice hunters as they get used to the language of the elk, because they’re easy to use and do the job you need them to do, whatever kind of elk you’re hunting.
Rocky Mountain call-users win more world championships than users of any other call, and their range includes calls for every level of hunter. It’s hard to go wrong with the Elk 101 3 pack.
Designed by world champion callers Rockie and Corey Jacobsen, the three-pack includes a C1 All-Star call, designed specifically to be versatile and give you the ability to make a wide range of cow and calf calls, as well as bringing a realistic bugle to your diaphragm call, and allowing for added natural sound effects, like chirps and mews.
You also get a C2 Contender tone top diaphragm, which allows for variation in the tone of the bull calls you can make, from aggressive to passive, allowing you to control the narrative of your communication with your target bulls.
And to round off the pack, you get a C4 Champ call, which makes small to medium cow, calf and bull sounds. It also allows you to make more nasal cow sounds, and higher-pitched screaming bugle sounds to add to your range.
There’s no arguing with Rocky Mountain’s reputation, and having a pair of world champions design a pack of diaphragm calls for other hunters feels like they’re passing on their knowledge directly to you.
While most users are delighted by the results of their Elk 101 pack, some claim the reeds separate rapidly on repeated use. But as a quick, effective call with a wide range of tone to bring the elk you want within your sights, the Elk 101 set will serve you well.
The Primos Mini Sonic Dome call is something special. It’s been designed for people with smaller mouths or palates, and so gets high marks from people introducing their children to the woods, and with adults who don’t have the breadth of mouth to comfortably use some of the bigger calls on the market.
But the Mini Sonic Dome isn’t just for youngsters and people with small mouths.
It’s also been designed to add comfort to your calling as compared to some of the more heavy-duty, more unwieldy calls out there. The call automatically positions itself correctly so you can create and deliver a consistent sound.
That can get you quick, comfortable results in your calling from the dome’s single latex reed. So the Primos Mini Sonic Dome 3 pack is a set of calls that can be used to add comfort and precision to your calling arsenal whatever your hunting pedigree.
The bonus is that it can also make it easier for youngsters to get to grips with the vocalizations they need to attract elk for the rest of their hunting career.
Like other contenders on our list, the beauty of the Rocky Mountain Bugling Bull Palate Plate lies in its versatility. While latex is frowned on by some more experienced hunters, it helps produce more natural animal sounds in this palate plate.
The Bugling Bull Palate Plate creates a range of strong, realistic sounds across the range of elk, from bulls to cows to calves.
The latex in the Bull Palate Plate also allows for variation in pitch and more sustainable tone than can be achieved with some more sturdy calls.
The Bugling Bull is a forward palate placement call, which means you can’t go past the natural note when you’re creating your elk sounds.
Given the complexity of the elk language of bugles and grunts and chuckles, that gives the Bugling Bull Palate Plate a neat advantage: keeping the sound natural while amplifying the range over which it can be heard makes for less wary prey.
Best Elk Diaphragm Calls - Buyers Guide
Elk hunting is not for the faint-hearted or the under-prepared. It’s a combination of learning a language, learning to play an instrument, and learning to close a deal under pressure. We need every advantage we can get to hunt elk safely and successfully.
That’s why there are a wide range of elk calls on the market, and you’re probably going to need an example of all of them when you go out hunting elk. From your bugle tube to your bite call, the same essential rules apply – find the ones that do what you want them to when you’re using them.
Reliability on a hunt is vital to your success.
Diaphragm calls can attract all sorts of elk into your range, but there are things to consider when choosing the elk calls that are right for you.
Learn the language
Elk have a wide range of vocalizations – if you’re going to hunt them, you need to spend some time learning the sounds and their meanings before you spend money trying to imitate them and lure them into hunting distance.
While the bugle call of an elk is unmistakable, if you haven’t put the work into learning the meanings of other sounds like chuckling, mewing and barking, it doesn’t matter how effective your call is or how much you spend on it, you’re likely to have a disappointing hunt.
Learn the instrument
No diaphragm call is ever going to be entirely plug and play – you’re going to need to test them out and practice with them before your elk-shake brings all the bulls to your yard.
So don’t get discouraged too early when buying new diaphragm calls – most of the leading manufacturers produce calls that can work for you if you persevere.
Decide what’s most important to you
Some calls are more accurate, some are more easily tunable, some work over longer distances, with tubes or without. Some are designed for comfort while delivering adequate results, but might not last as long or deliver the same accuracy as others that are built of longer-lasting materials or have more technology in their build.
Decide how much discomfort you’re willing to put up with for a call that brings the elk reliably within range. How easy do you want it to be? How much practice do you want to commit to before you get out there and start calling elk?
Decide the answers to these questions and use them to guide your call buying. There’s an elk diaphragm call for every answer you give.
While perseverance is necessary with whichever diaphragm call you choose, don’t be afraid to sample calls from across the marketplace and find the right ones for you.
Our recommendations include calls for all kinds of elk hunters, from beginners to seasoned pros. Experiment, and find the calls that are right for you.
Your hunting life is a journey
The diaphragm calls you use will probably change as you get more familiar with the language of elk vocalizations. If you’re new to hunting elk, go with calls that have higher scores for ease of use and reliability. More experienced elk hunters will probably graduate to calls that score higher for accuracy, variety of tone and distance, as using diaphragm calls becomes second nature.
Be honest about where you are on your hunting journey, and buy according to that place.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I need a diaphragm call?
You live in a world of computers and coffee machines, and you’re going hunting in the environment of a wild animal – you need every advantage you can get. Diaphragm calls in particular allow you to imitate the vocalizations of the elk you’re hunting, and guide their actions to get them where you want them. A diaphragm in a bugle tube is probably the best way to get the distinctive bull elk bugle vocalization, while diaphragm calls can also help you guide the behaviour of other kinds of elk, like cows and calves. They’re an important piece of any elk hunter’s kit, because they give you the versatility to ‘speak’ in the elk’s vocalizations or something close to it. That means you can guide their behaviour, overcome their instincts, and bring them close enough to successfully hunt them.
But aren’t diaphragm calls too hard to use?
No-one’s going to tell you they’re easy. But they’re probably the best, most effective way to get elk to come within hunting distance. Elk hunting is like a combination of playing chess and playing the clarinet – you’ve absolutely got to put the time in if you want to be good at it. Learn the language of elk vocalizations, and then practice, practice, practice – the more you use them, the easier diaphragm calls become to master, and the more effective the response to them will become. Yes, they’re tricky to use when you begin. But with more practice, both before you go hunting and once you’re out there, your range of tones and calls will increase and your results will improve.
Will a diaphragm call be enough for me?
Almost certainly not – you’ll find your perfect elk-hunting kit by trial and experimentation, but bugle calls, pack calls, bite calls and diaphragm calls are all available to you as part of your hunting journey. The more experienced you get at understanding the language of elk vocalizations, the more clear you’ll get on what you absolutely need to successfully hunt elk, and what you can leave behind.
Can I hunt elk without a diaphragm call?
You can do – there are hunters who go hands-free. But at least until you reach a degree of confidence and success, it’s probably not worth it. It’s like trying to read complicated French before you’ve learned the alphabet. The diaphragm call is your dictionary, helping you speak the language of the elk, and get a much more regular, satisfying result.
Higher tech means an easier hunt, right?
Not necessarily. Hunting’s about matching the hunter to the kit, rather than about simply deploying enough technology to let anyone do the job. All the technology in the world, all the variety of tone and pitch, won’t make for an easier hunt if you haven’t put the work in to understanding the prey, the vocalizations and their meanings, and your relationship to the elk within its environment.
There’s no easy route to a successful hunt short of a bazooka, and that’s not really hunting so much as carnage. Technology’s a great tool for the modern elk hunter – but it can’t replace the work you have to do or the instincts you have to develop if you’re going to hunt elk.
Will diaphragm calls guarantee me a successful elk hunt?
Not at all. Diaphragm calls are your invitation into the elk’s world – if you practice hard, diaphragm calls can make the elks believe you belong in their environment, but the rest is up to you.
There are diaphragm calls that are simple, and diaphragm calls that use the highest levels of modern technology – including automatic call placement so you don’t go beyond the right note, tone selectors, and volume enhancers – but you still have to learn the vocalizations of your prey, and act correctly in response to them, if you’re going to be a successful elk hunter.Diaphragm calls will absolutely help you have a more successful elk hunt, though. Choose the ones that work for you, dedicate the practice time they demand, and you’ll be well on your way to hunting elk reliably, safely and successfully.