Nothing blows your hair back like tricking a screaming bull into believing you're a hot cow. Elk calls help create that illusion.
You can sit quietly and ambush from a treestand or ground blind in high elk traffic areas. But if the elk change up their movements, you may have to get proactive.
Meaning, you will have to set up call scenarios to bring them by your setup, or jump into "run and gun" mode and go to them.
There are many game call brands and a dizzying array of products to sort through. Let's go through some of the ones I believe do a great job.
For sure, the most versatile elk call styles are diaphragm calls. They can evoke emotion and produce nuances that are hard to obtain with other types of calls.
A well-practiced elk hunter can simulate a range of cow elk sounds including mews, chirps, estrus calls, and lost calf sounds.
Realistic bull elk sounds like challenge bugles and locator bugles, chuckles, grunts, growls, and barks can also be made with an elk diaphragm call if you add in a bugle tube.
Here are some excellent ones.
Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls Steve Chappell Signature Series 3 Pack
Steve Chappell, longtime Arizona elk guide and host of Elk Camp TV (on Sportsmen Channel), really knows his stuff when it comes to elk and elk calling. Together with Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls, they developed Chappel's elk call signature series.
Each call accurately reproduces its intended elk sound. The "Elk Camp" (Orange) is a single latex diaphragm call intended for hot cow calls including estrus whines, mews, and chirps.
"Tines Up" (Red) doubles up on the layers. With an added notch cut into the latex, this diaphragm call gives you all the buzz you need to ramp up the excitement in your cow calls. Also, you can use it for gritty and aggressive bugles. "Royal Blue" (Blue) is specifically for getting in tight and aggressively challenging that herd bull.
A cool side-note about Rocky Mountain Hunting diaphragm calls: They designed palate profile ranges from low to high. So, no matter your palate plate height, most hunters can find a call that perfectly fits their mouth.
Glacier Country Game Calls Orange Enrager
Countless bulls have fallen victim to the Orange Enrager. Out of Kalispell, Montana, Glacier Country makes a great diaphragm call and exudes exceptional customer service.
The Orange Enrager is a double latex call designed to mimic an inferior pestering "5-Point" bull. It also creates effective high-pitched cow and calf calls.
Even though it is double latex, this is a very easy call to use and learn on. Using the right combination of calls, you may tick-off that big bull just enough to bring him in.
Open Reed Calls
Affectionately knows as "bite and blow" calls, open reed calls can be a great alternative to diaphragm calls.
Hunters Specialties Carlton Calls Long Ranger
The Long Ranger is an awesome open reed call. It broadcasts far and wide and creates aggressive crystal-clear cow calls. Use it in your treestand and you'll really project across some serious distance. Its primary purpose is to serve as a locator call.
From personal experience, it's also a great cow call to use for creating "herd talk" or estrus whines. There is an adjustable band on the mouthpiece so that you can change up the tone. Simply slide it up or down the reed.
Bulls respond to it. Big time. Don't be surprised when the big guy, you didn't know was there, comes charging in trying to chat-up the sassy new girl in town.
Phelps E-Z-Estrus Cow Elk Call
E-Z-Estrus from Phelps Game Calls is as pretty as it is deadly. My fellow Washingtonian knows how to make great calls.
The E-Z-Estrus is a quality hand-tuned open reed call that mimics nasally estrous sounds perfectly. A narrow profile reed and comfortable mouthpiece make this external call super-easy to use.
With an adjustable band to change the pitch, you can produce a good range of calf and cow sounds.
Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls The Seducer
This single reed RMEF Signature Series cow call features a polished acrylic barrel with the RMEF logo engraved on it.
The soundboard features two holes that help create realistic and mellow vocalizations. The acrylic barrel, soundboard, and reed together help The Seducer produce crisp, clear notes on calf and cow sounds. Lanyard is included.
Primos Timberline Open Reed Elk Call
Primos has been making game calls since the 1970s, and are an undisputed leader in the elk and turkey call arena. Everyone knows the Hoochie Mama, which has likely worn out its welcome in the elk woods in recent years.
However, the Timberline Open Reed Elk Call is a premium hardwood barrel, single reed cow call that produces quality high-volume cow and calf calls. Easy to use, it allows the caller to produce accurate estrus whines, buzzes, and anything you can dream up to pull that herd bull in.
A bugle tube, or grunt tube, is one-half of the call system if you are using a diaphragm call. Do you want to make believable barks to stop a bull dead in its tracks? Want to make growly, guttural, and resonating challenge bugles?
Then you've gotta have one. Here are some great bugle calls for you to consider.
Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls Select "A" Bull Elk Calling System
Another soon-to-be hit from the RMEF licensed product line, this bugle tube is highly versatile. It features a flexible and expandable back-end section (from mouthpiece to mid-section) that extends the tube's total length to 23 inches. It collapses to 17 inches.
The front-end of the tube has the familiar tone selector and tube tamer that hunters have come to expect on most Rocky Mountain bugle tubes. The Select "A" Bull is also equipped with an external mouthpiece for those that don't want to bother with a separate diaphragm call.
And man, does it sound realistic! Want to use a diaphragm with the bugle tube? Simply remove the external mouthpiece and use the diaphragm call of your choice. Here's Rocky Jacobsen talking more about the Select "A" Bull and demonstrating how to use it.
Phelps UN-RIVAL-ED Bugle Tube
A "depthy" and realistic sounding bugle tube with great volume is not what you would expect from a compact 17.5-inch long tube. But that is what you get with the Phelps UN-RIVAL-ED.
Designed for backcountry elk hunting, or busting the thick brush, this 4.5-ounce elk bugle is a perfect weight and space saver. It is compact but doesn't sacrifice realism in its epic bugling bull sounds. You can choose between three different protective covers: Fusion, Cipher, and Ranger Green.
Elk Call Package
Phelps HULK Elk Call Package
This HULK Ultimate Elk Hunting Package from Phelps gives you an Unleashed Tube in the Fusion scheme, an external reed Mini-X Cow/Calf Call, one Pitch Black 2 Diaphragm, and one PDO Call Organizer to put all your diaphragm calls in. The camo organizer holds eight diaphragms, so they won't get ruined by jostling around in your pack or pocket.
Now you've got nine high-grade elk calls to ponder over for the upcoming elk season. Grab one, a combo, or as many as you think you need. When hunting the mighty elk, a mix of mouth calls and open reed calls are good to have. When trying to sound like multiple cows or a herd, these selections will help bring some variation to your elk calling.