HUNTING

Best Elk Calls: Speak Their Language

Best elk calls
Shawn Harrison
Written by Shawn Harrison

Ever wanted to try hunting elk, but never got the chance to figure out which calls to pick? Or are you a seasoned hunter and just want to update your elk call collection? We are sure you would agree with us that best elk calls with accurate sounds are essential for supplying your family with a nice portion of elk meat.

Hunting elk successfully is all about communication. The high quality calls sound realistic and are capable of intriguing your prey, thus leading it right to you. To achieve that you will have to look into a broad selection of calls that each produces multiple or very specific sounds. To ease your search, we made this elk call buying guide to help you out.

We’ll will look at the different sounds that elk cows and bulls make, as well as the types of calls that are out there today. Make sure to check the tips for best use of these calls, which you probably already know if you are an experienced hunter.

We made a list of five elk calls that we would recommend you take a look at. We have done the reviewing and comparing for you, so your decision will be easier.

Product NameSoundSpecific FeaturesBest UsePrice
Primos Hoochie PackCow and calfTwo pack, cow and calf for effective herd talkExcellent for luring bullsCheck price on Amazon
Primos Cow GirlCowSubtle and adjustable soundClose in calling the bullsCheck price on Amazon
Primos Imaka Da BullcrazyCowManipulate sounds, elk talk, rubber bell to alter pitchGreat for closing in while bow huntingCheck price on Amazon
Primos Terminator ElkBull and cowCamo cover and sling included, wide variety of soundsExcellent for bringing bulls out in close quartersCheck price on Amazon
Primos Elk Select 4Bull, cow and calfFour pack, call case included, cow and bull calls in each mouth callHunting alone, bow huntingCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying 

Here is what you should look out for when buying an elk call, just to make sure you are buying the right model for your needs, as well as call using skills.

Type of Sounds

The elk hunting season coincides with the rut, or mating season, generally from early September until late November, though dates differ depending on the region. As such, it is important for hunters to understand elk behavior during this period.

In particular, one needs to know how elk communicate with one another and what it means. There are several types of calls and sounds that elk make. A successful hunter knows how to imitate, and when.

Bull sounds

  • Bugle: bulls generally only bugle during the rut. They do this to assert dominance over other bulls as well as to attract females. As a hunter, this is an important call to learn. By bugling, one can lure larger, more dominant bulls over to assert their dominance.
  • Raking: bulls rub their antlers against trees and shrubs to mark their territory and take out pent up aggression during the rut. This can also be mimicked.
  • Chuckle: this series of grunts normally follows a bugle, asserting dominance over another bull.

bull on a field

Cow sounds

  • Chirping: cows will typically make these noises while in the herd. It’s a simple show of contentedness – everything is okay.
  • Mewing: the most varied of all the sounds elk make. This can mean anything from threat alerts to a cow seeking a bull.
  • Barks: short and sharp, these indicate danger. A hunter can use barking to slow a spooked elk, though most hunters tend to avoid this call.
  • Estrus scream: or an excited cow call is another important call to learn for a hunter. These calls let any bulls in the area know exactly where a cow in heat is. It doesn’t take them long to flock to the area.

Type of Calls

There are several types of elk calls available, each offering something a little different. They range from simple mouth calls to larger and louder bugles. Typically, hunters will use several different types, arming themselves with a range of calls to try in combination.

Bugle tube

This type of elk call is perhaps the most popular for hunters to carry. It’s also the largest out of the selection. These generally offer the most flexibility and an experienced hunter can use them to make a wide variety of calls, from bugling to mewing.

man using bugle tube elk call

They’re typically used to replicate bull sounds, though most are capable of mimicking cow calls as well. Bugle tubes come in many variations and styles, including some that have a baffler installed to make more subtle sounds.

Mouth/diaphragm calls

These are the smallest type of elk call available. They fit in your mouth to leave your hands free and as such are ideal for solo hunters. They consist of one or two reeds and sit in the roof of the mouth, allowing one to blow to create a high-pitched mewing.

Pressing with the tongue can adjust the pitch. These are generally fairly versatile and can be used to make cow, bull and calf sounds. They take a bit of practice to get the sounds right, however.

Reed calls

Reed calls are another classic device used by hunters. They can be single or double reeds and open or closed. Each makes different sounds and are typically suited to replicating cow and calf calls, though bull sounds can be made also.

reed calls

They are normally fairly easy to use and with a little practice the classic calls can be mastered relatively quickly. Most reed calls incorporate a rubber “bell” at the end, which can be pinched and squeezed to alter the sound.

Bite calls

These work in the same way as a closed reed call, however, the reed is covered by a softer material. This allows the hunter to bite down on the reed while blowing to alter the sound and create nasal calls, which can sometimes convince a reluctant bull to show himself.

Push calls

Relatively new to the market, push calls are fool proof. They are operated by simply pushing and depressing a rubber ball, much like a dog toy. With a little practice, hunters will soon be mimicking basic elk calls.
Unfortunately, they are fairly limited in the sounds that they are able to produce.

Mouth Reed Size

One of the crucial things you should keep an eye on when choosing an elk call, especially if you are a new user, is the size of the reed model. Most hunters don’t realize that mouth reeds usually come as ½ and ⅝ models, thus, it is obvious that there are different sizes.

man elk calling with mouth reed

To make sure the mouth reed fits you, you should keep in mind that if you have a narrow palate, the ½ reed model is the one you should pick. The ⅝ reed will probably be too big for your mouth and it might result in bad sound results.

Best Use of Calls

To have a successful hunt, you need to make the best use of your call. Here is how to do it:

Pre-hunt preparation

The successful hunter will have a good idea about where they will hunt. It is well worth heading out in advance and simply observing the elk you intend to hunt.

elk

Listen to them and see how they communicate, whether they are loud or quiet. Each herd differs. Obviously, during the rut, the calls will be different, but you can after some time get a feel for how this group speaks to one another.

Practice makes perfect

Get to know your elk call. It’s no good locating the perfect spot to hunt if you are unable to effectively use your call. Even those who have used calls previously should practice with new calls.

Watch videos and follow along with the sounds of the elk. In this way you learn exactly what you need to do to sound like an elk, rather than a cat whose tail has just been trodden on. Unusual sounds spook elk, who will leave the area in a heartbeat.

Secure your call

Use a strap to keep your call about your person. You need to be ready to seize your weapon and take the shot as soon as an opportunity presents itself. Some hunters strap their calls to their bow when hunting up close.

elk call with strap

Find a partner

Hunting with a partner is not only safer, but it allows one to take charge of the calling, while the other is responsible for shooting.

Herd talk

Experienced hunters will use a variety of calls to mimic a herd of elk, idly chatting away. This can help calm a spooked elk as it will appear help is near.

Durability

Of course, just as any other piece of gear you use when hunting, your elk call needs to be durable. You don’t want to think about it every time you drop your backpack on the ground, right?

You should choose models that are either unbreakable or nearly impossible to break if they fall, or models that are made from elastic materials such as rubber or similar compounds. This way, you will allow yourself to focus more on hunting, instead of being afraid to accidentally drop your call.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now that we’ve covered the basics of elk calling, let’s take a look at what the market has to offer today. We found a variety of elk calls that you might like and reviewed them for you.

Primos Hoochie Pack CallPrimos Hoochie Pack Call

Price: Approx. $30

Sound: Cow and calf (herd talk)

Type: Push call

Specific features: Two pack, cow and calf for effective herd talk

Best use: Excellent for luring bulls over by creating herd talk

Description: The Primos Hoochie Pack Call allows hunters to create the social, talking sounds of cows and calves, a sound that is proven to draw bulls over. They are a little larger than more traditional reed calls, but they will easily fit in the hand.

They are incredibly easy to use, with very few people having any trouble replicating a realistic cow or calf sound. One downside is that they must be hand held, so for those hunting alone, it can get difficult to hold both the call and a weapon.

The cow call is generally considered the more accurate of the two, with the calf call being less realistic. The build quality seems fairly solid and the materials used are high quality.

They are somewhat limited by the variety of sounds they can make with only being able to produce shorter sounds. Longer, drawn out sounds are not possible with these calls. That does not, however, render them useless. We would suggest that you should use these in combination with other calls for the best results.

PROS:

  • 2 elk calls included in the package
  • Made out of solid and durable materials
  • Very effective for attracting bulls

CONS:

  • A bit larger, they have to be hand held
  • Can only produce shorter sounds
  • The calf sound is a bit less accurate

Related: A very important piece of gear of every serious hunter is a high-quality knife. We recommend the Damascus Camel Bone Pocket Knife. It is a pocket version, meaning it won’t take up too much space, and it can be used in many situations during a hunt. It also comes with a sharpening rod.

Check the price on Amazon

Primos Cow Girl CallPrimos Cow Girl Call

Price: Approx. $7

Sound: Cow

Type: Closed reed/bite call

Specific features: Subtle and adjustable sound

Best use: Great for close in calling

Description: This is a very affordable, compact cow call that can be used by everyone. The price and the ease of use are strong selling points for this Primos Cow Girl Call. Just be sure to follow the instructions in order to produce the best sounds.

A variety of sounds can be made using the bite and blow method, from the longer whines of a cow in estrus to shorter, sharper more social sounds.

The sound produced might be considered a little too high pitched, though this doesn’t always seem to be a problem and elk tend to respond. The call can be easily used with your mouth only, so it’s great for close in calling the bulls.

Furthermore, the call is made from quality materials and seems to last for a season or two. It depends how frequently you use it. For the price, this call is well worth trying out.

PROS:

  • Made out of quality rubber
  • Very easy to keep in your mouth
  • Subtle and adjustable sound
  • Low price

CONS:

  • The sounds might be a bit too high pitched

Related: Tracking and finding, hitting the game and killing it, is one thing, but what about when you need to take all that meat back to your starting point? You need to be prepared as you can’t simply stuff meat in your backpack. We recommend getting the Heavy Duty Meat Game Bag as it is washable and reusable, it will keep your backpack stain free, and big enough to pack huge chunks of meat without a problem.

Check the price on Amazon

Primos Imaka Da Bullcrazy CallPrimos Imaka Da Bullcrazy Call

Price: Approx. $13

Sound: Cow

Type: Open reed call

Specific features: Manipulate sounds, elk talk, rubber bell to alter pitch

Best use: Great for closing in while bow hunting

Description: By pinching and squeezing the rubber ball on the Primos Imaka Da Bullcrazy Call, while moving up and down the reed, one can create a vast array of cow calls. The sound is lifelike and smooth and brings bulls in nice and close.

There might be a fair amount of practice required to perfect the sound. With that in mind, it is worth getting your hands on this Primos Imaka Da Bullcrazy Call in advance, in order to make the most realistic sounds when out in the field. While the sound is largely accurate, take care not to blow too hard as it can get quite loud.

This is great for normal calling, but when closing in, it can be detrimental. Once one has mastered the sounds, it’s easy to use and maintain realistic calls time after time. Made from high-quality materials, this is a very durable call that that will last you for several seasons.

PROS:

  • Low price
  • Adjustable sound and pitch
  • Great for closing in or moderate range calling
  • Very realistic sounds
  • Can produce multiple sounds for elk talk effect

CONS:

  • Takes a bit more practice to master it

Related: In order not to blow your cover before the elk gets in your shooting range, you need to be camouflaged as best as possible. Beside camouflaging yourself with camo jacket and pants, you also need to hide your head. That is why we recommend the JIUSY Camouflage Balaclava. It is lightweight, breathable and comes in various camo patterns.

Check the price on Amazon

Primos Terminator Elk CallPrimos Terminator Elk Call

Price: $25 – $45

Sound: Bull and cow

Type: Bugle

Specific features: Camo cover and sling included, wide variety of sounds

Best use: Excellent for bringing bulls out in close quarters and for beginners

Description: Primos Terminator Elk Call is a popular bugle call and its capable of recreating both bull and cow calls. The cow sounds may not be as accurate as you would like. The bull sounds, however, are very accurate and it is capable of producing a variety of grunts, chuckles, and screams.

It is fairly easy to use and one can imitate an elk fairly accurately within minutes. Other sounds such as grunts take a bit more practice and it is worth spending time in advance learning how.

The build quality looks good and feels durable. This call should last for several years, but just in case, a spare is included and easily stored away on the bugle while out and about.

When considering the size, this call isn’t really the smallest. It doesn’t compact down much and while it can be worn on a sling, those short on space may want to consider another options.

Otherwise, this is a fantastic bugle that consistently produces realistic sounds. Finally, it comes with a handy camouflage cover, keeping you hidden while you’re using it.

PROS:

  • Fairly easy to use and learn the sounds
  • Great choice for beginners
  • Comes with a camouflage cover and a snap on reed
  • Durable materials and build
  • Very accurate bull sounds

CONS:

  • It is a bit larger than other options
  • Cow sounds might not be as accurate as bulls

Related: Having extra spare parts for your elk call is always a smart idea. Therefore, we recommend the Primos Blues Snap-On Bugle Reeds. You never know when you might need new ones, so better to be prepared in advance.

Check the price on Amazon

Primos Elk Select 4 CallPrimos Elk Select 4 Call

Price: Approx. $20

Sound: Bull, cow and calf

Type: Mouth/diaphragm call

Specific features: Four pack includes a wide range of sounds, call case included, cow and bull calls in each mouth call

Best use: Very good for those hunting alone, bow hunting

Description: These mouth Primos Elk Select 4 Call leave your hands free to keep your weapon ready for action. This pack of four allows hunters to make a wide variety of elk calls and grunts. They are all capable of producing both cow and bull sounds, reducing the need to change them over frequently.

Two of the calls have single reeds and the other two double. The sounds they produce are accurate but require a little practice to nail it. It is worth following a video or soundtrack of elk communicating to get the pitch and modulation correct.

You could also use the calls to cover up the sounds of footsteps. One is able to walk along through the woods making frequent elk calls and grunts. The calls, if looked after continue to work well for several years. But on the case is fairly flimsy and can be prone to rattling. However, Primos makes a superior case (see related products).

PROS:

  • Very light and small
  • Multiple sound options to create elk talk
  • Made for hands free use
  • Very accurate sounds
  • Affordable

CONS:

  • The included case isn’t the best
  • Takes a bit of practice before getting the right sounds

Related: During your hunt, you will probably need to climb a tree or two, or maybe a climb a stone wall to reach a better vantage point. During these climbs, what are you going to do with your rifle or the bow? You will need both of your hands for the climb, and that is why we recommend the Timber Hawk Gut Hook. A great shoulder harness that will take care of your weapon, and other pieces of your gear so that your hands stay free.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap up

With the Primos Elk Call we have reached the end of our article. Now armed with a better understanding of elk behavior and elk calls, it’s time to choose the best call for you. Consider the circumstances of the hunt you have planned.

man with elk call in hand

Will you be alone? If so, perhaps you should choose a selection of mouth or diaphragm calls, leaving your hands free to take the shot when it presents itself. For those in groups take a selection of different calls to create the illusion that will lure your prey to you. Just bear in mind that even with the best elk call, one will have little chance of success if they have not practiced with it.

Indeed, one should also know when a certain call is appropriate. Do your homework before heading out to avoid frustrating days out on the hunt. Armed with this knowledge and a great elk call, you will soon be bringing home delicious elk meat.

Have you used any of these products yourself? Which one would you get? We’d love to hear your opinion in the comment section below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison is our expert in hunting. He was born in Alaska, so hunting was his hobby since high school. Later, Shawn took a Hunter Training at Alaska Department of Fish and Game to structure his knowledge and now he is open to share his knowledge with our readers. Shawn is taking ‘Safety First’ approach on all of his trips, especially is some people are going hunting for the first time.

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