As the days grow hot each summer, I continually find myself higher in the mountains watching and listening to elk in preparation for the upcoming September elk season. There is no better way to learn the songs of elk, then listening to the musicians themselves. For us as humans to mimic their sounds, we need the right elk calls to get the job done. So here are the top 5 elk calls for your pack.
The mouth reed, or diaphragm call, are by far the most important, most versatile call any elk hunter can have in their pack. Unfortunately, because there is a significantly longer learning curve, they are also the first call that gets left behind on the table on opening morning. Reeds stand alone in the world of elk calls because a single call can be used to create every sound in the Wapiti language, and it can be done hands free, at full-draw. You can bugle, bark (if you want), and make all of the cow/calf sounds necessary to pull a bull into bow range. You can use a bugle/grunt tube to add a more realistic and nasally sound as well. Mastering these sounds will take hours of practice. If you want to spare your friends and family the torture of listening to bad “mews” just keep the call in your vehicle and practice as you cruise around (both hands on the wheel of course.) Choosing a diaphragm call can be as daunting a task as actually becoming proficient and confident enough to use it in the woods. As with most hunting products, the call that looks the coolest on the shelf generally wins out. Let’s face it, nobody really wants to spend $7 to buy every call on the market to test them out, and your local retailer probably appreciates you not trying them out in the store. With that said, I’ve probably bought the majority of the calls on the market over the course of several years. I have a shortlist of those that find their way into my pack each fall.
Rocky Mountain Game Calls – The Raging Bull Palate Plate (101). This call creates excellent bugles and cow sounds. If I could only carry one call, this may very well be the one.
Primos – Mini sonic dome. Generally these are sold in a three-pack, but these calls require very little air to blow and are slightly smaller in size.
Open Reed Calls
Open reed elk calls are extremely similar to any other open reed call in appearance; whether it be a predator call or a goose call. They’re just tuned a bit different. Open reed calls can often times be blown at a bit louder volume than a reed call if necessary. The biggest advantage to open reed calls is they still produce lifelike elk sounds but they’re substantially easier to become proficient. However, you do lose the ability to bugle and to make sounds, hands-free.
One thing to keep in mind with open reed calls is that any given call may work on any given day. If you’re going to buy several calls of a single style, make it the open reed calls.
My personal favorites are:
Duel Game Calls – Widowmaker 1. This call works great in windy conditions as it maintains quality sounds at loud volumes and has two sound chambers that give it a very realistic sound.
Trinity Wood Game Calls – Sweet Pocket Mama. These calls are hand made at the same price as commercial calls and produce incredible sounds.
Bugle Calls & Tubes
The stereotypical call that people picture when they think of calling elk, is the big bugle tube. Bugle tubes can be used with or without the “bugle” reed that comes on the call itself. There are several different brands of bugles that come with different designs of rubber reeds that fit on the bugle. Bugle tubes (just the tube itself without a reed) are extremely useful, whether you actually plan on bugling or not. In addition to bugling with a diaphragm call, the tube can be used with almost any cow call to enhance the realism of the sound. Hang out in any elk camp, and you’re certain to find buddies ribbing each other about how bad their bugle sounds. Fortunately for hunters, elk are like humans in that their “voices” are all unique so the perfect bugle is merely the one that works and not always the one that sounds the best to your buddies.
Here’s one of my favorite calls when it comes to bugling up a bull:
Rocky Mountain Calls – Select-A-Bull call. The select a bull probably offers the most versatility of any bugle on the market. It allows you to adjust backpressure to create the exact sound you want in any given situation.
There are a plethora of other elk calls on the market today. And many of them do a really good job of producing realistic sounds. With a little practice, the calls mentioned above allow you to talk the talk when it comes to elk vocabulary. Be sure to have them in your pack this season.