12 Best Elk Calls of 2023 [Rocky Mountain, Primos & More]

Hunter dressed in camo blowing into an elk bugle call in a forest
Best Elk Calls for 2023: Diaphragm Calls, Cow Calls & Bugle Calls

Archery elk season is looming, and you’re starting to get that itchy feeling that only purchasing some new gear can scratch. You’re here to look for the best elk calls for 2023. Just in time too.

You’ll need to practice your elk sounds from now until the start of the season so you don’t embarrass yourself on the mountain come September.

See, we’re like you: fools wandering through the forest, trying our best not to get outwitted by nature at every turn. Elk are hard critters to find and are even more challenging to get close enough to take an ethical shot.

A lousy call can spook the herd off, whereas a properly executed call may help you draw the elk closer, close the gap, and get within shooting range. Your chance for success relies heavily on how accurately you reproduce elk talk.

I created this post to help you solve one more piece of the puzzle: your calls. I’ve included a variety of top brands like Rocky Mountain, Primos, and Phelps to cater to all skill levels, budgets, and preferences. To cover all the bases, I’ve also included diaphragm and reed calls, grunt tubes, and some all-in-one solutions for those looking to cut back on the gear inside their pack.

The clock is ticking, and the time to practice your bugles and chirps is now. Not when you need them most come this fall. So, sit down, grab that credit card, and get ready to purchase one of the best elk calls of 2023.

Having The Right Tools: Elk Calls

My Dad used to tell me to always have the right tool for the job, and elk calls are some of the most valuable tools in a hunter’s kit.

Making the right calls at the right moment is a hallmark of an experienced bowhunter. Mastering this skill is exhilarating, and there are few better feelings than calling in a screaming bull elk into your range. Having the right elk call will make this all possible.

At a minimum, I carry a bugle tube and a few cow calls with me when bowhunting. Everyone’s setup will be different, but the ability to make well-placed bugles, cow mews, and chirps are all critical skills depending on the situation.

Let’s dive in.

Best Elk Bugle Calls

A man dressed in camo and oragne blowing into an elk bugle tube
Best Elk Bugle Calls

Green elk bugle tube with "Phelps" written on nit

Phelps Game Calls un-Rival-ed Bugle Tube

I like this bugle tube because I have personally used it and can attest that it produces authentic and throaty elk sounds. Pair this grunt tube with any Phelps diaphragm call, and you can expect to have one deadly setup.  

This elk bugle tube is super-lightweight and will stash away easily in your backcountry pack. I love to save weight in my hunting pack anywhere I can, so this is an excellent tube for me. Just know, with the weight difference, you will sacrifice a bit of durability. Mine is still going strong, though. 

  • Pros: At 4.5 ounces and 17.5 inches, it’s ultra-compact and portable
  • ConsSomewhat flimsy on account of its weight

Camo elk bugle tube with "Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls" logo on it

Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls Wapiti Whacker

This grunt tube works perfectly with Black Magic reeds and Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls diaphragms. Its unique mouthpiece minimizes rubber vibration noise, making for a very accurate elk bugle.

You’ll see many elk hunters with this tube in their backcountry pack this fall and for good reason. Even though it’s heavier than other elk bugles, it makes a much more realistic sound and is the most “advanced” grunt tube on the market.

  • Pros: Produces realistic elk bugles, less plastic vibration, sturdy design
  • Cons: Fairly heavy at 12 ounces, oversized at 20 inches long (and a 4-inch opening)

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Curvy camo elk bugle tube with a Primos tag hanging off the side

Primos Slide Bugle

That’s it; I’m officially switching to one of these all-in-one bugle tubes full-time. Don’t laugh. It’s lightweight and compact, and I don’t have to have a reed in my mouth constantly. This is helpful if you are a guide or hunting in a group, which describes most of my hunts. 

Many hunters make fun of these tiny tubes, but you shouldn’t sleep on this call. Last year while 20+ hunters were blowing their giant grunt tubes on the mountain with no luck, I was able to call in several bulls with this exact Primos Bugle.

I was able to control my bugle’s pitch, volume, and direction well, which turned out to be the difference-maker. Sometimes the bigger tubes will bounce sound off the mountains all around, making bulls confused about the direction the bugle came from. 

  • Pros: All-in-one design, separate diaphragms make a wide range of elk noises, expandable from 13 to 20 inches
  • Cons: No cons – this is a tremendous all-around elk call


A camo elk bugle tube

Liberty Game Calls Ridgeback External Reed

I have never tried this call, but it’s basically the same as the Phelps tube mentioned above and got really high ratings while researching this post, so I thought I would include it here. Maybe I will grab one this season and see how it does for me. 

From what I can gather, users report this to be a reliable and straightforward option to create realistic bull sounds. One difference is that it doesn’t have removable attachments to make cow calls. So, between this and the Primos above, I would probably go with the Primos. That’s just me. 

  • Pros: Lightweight, versatile, great for novices
  • Cons: Not suitable for cow calls


Best Elk Diaphragm Calls

Here is a little rundown on how to use diaphram or mouth reed calls if you are new to the game:

Blue, black, and purple elk diaphragm calls

Rocky Mountain Elk Call 3-Pack

Rocky Mountain Elk Calls, in my opinion, make the best diaphragms in the business. This is the brand that I’ve been running for several years now, and I can’t complain. I know I will have them in my archery pack this fall.

This three-pack is ideal because it gives you a variety of sounds, from a cow chirp to a challenge bugle. The latex wears out on these after a little while, so grab two or three sets, so you have some for practice and some for the field.

  • Model 134 – Good for frustrated bugle calls, cow and calf chirps, and mews
  • Model 135 – Diaphragm call, suitable for very aggressive bugles and estrus whines from cows
  • Model 139 – Users report this to be one of the best challenge bugle diaphragms on the market

Four Primos brand elk calls

Primos Elk Select 4-Pack

Making the right call at the right time can be difficult, so having a variety of diaphragms that produce various noises is critical for any hunting strategy. This pack from the trusted Primos brand comes with four unique diaphragm calls and offers lots of range.

These calls are great for beginners, as they don’t wear out very quickly when practicing. Just make sure to buy some earplugs for anyone living under the same roof as you.  

  • Sentry Plate – Set at 16 degrees, this sound plate is perfect for cow, calf, and spike bull calls
  • Ivory Plate – Set at 30 degrees, this sound plate makes cow, calf, and satellite bull calls
  • Imperial Plate Double – Same as the ivory plate but with a double reed for a more robust sound
  • Hyper Plate Double – Double reed call with a y-shape cut in one reed, making for an excellent estrus call or a huge herd bull

Three Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls (green, white, orange)

Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls C5 3-Pack

Again, Rocky Mountain Elk calls are simply in a league of their own with the quality and range of sounds that their diaphragms can make. With a quality brand, you can expect quality sound. 

This three-pack from Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls provides a versatile sound that both novice and expert hunters can expect to replicate. I think these are best for newer hunters trying to make easy cow sounds or who are newer to bugling. They are easy to use but require a little practice to sound right.

Protip – Go to elk101.com for detailed instructions on using these exact calls.

  • C1 All-Star – All-around elk call capable of making a wide range of calls. Perfect entry diaphragm for newer hunters
  • C2 Contender – Diaphragm call is perfect for making a wide range of bugles. Simple and easy to use
  • C4 Champ – Versatile call with a wide range of sound. Perfect for replicating a screaming bull sound


Three yellow Phelps brand game calls that say "Pitch Black"

Phelps Game Calls Pitch Black Series 3-Pack

Many hunters I know swear by Phelps Pitch Black elk diaphragm calls. Because of their versatility and wide range of sound, they’re among the best elk calls in the world. Expert archery hunters regularly use these because they reliably produce elk language repeatedly. 

Although they take quite a bit of practice to get used to, these reeds are not just for expert callers. If you are dedicated to your craft and willing to put in the work, you can’t go wrong with purchasing these, even if you are a novice. Just be prepared to practice (a lot). 

  • Pitch Black 1 – Loosely stretched latex makes for easy cow sounds
  • Pitch Black 2 – Phelps brand “do-it-all” call. Medium stretch is perfect for cows and throaty bulls
  • Pitch Black 3 – Latex is tightly stretched, making for perfect long-distance calls and cows in heat

Best Cow Elk Calls

Squeezable cow elk call from Primos
Best Cow Elk Calls

A black reed-based cow elk call with a cap

Primos “Imaka Da Bull Crazy” External Reed Call

I’ve owned several of these calls over the years and have used them to call in whole herds of elk. This short-range version is perfect for those situations where you don’t want to call too loud and spook the herd. With practice, you can sound like multiple elk depending on how you blow on the reed or manipulate it with your mouth. This cow elk call is straightforward, and I recommend it for any skill level. 

  • Pros: Easy to use, durable design, lightweight, wide range
  • Cons: Not very good for long-range calls

Two grey rubber and plastic cow elk calls

Primos Hoochie Pack Call

I love these Hoochie Mama calls from Primos Calls. There’s no need to use your mouth with these, and you can create several different cow elk noises simultaneously with the 2-pack. This helps create “herd talk” as it allows the hunter to make calls with both hands and their mouth simultaneously by combining this pack with a Primos Mouth Diaphram.

  • Pros: You use them with your hands, very easy to use
  • Cons: Not much variance in the sound range

Rocky Mountain Game Calls brand cow elk call with a string attached

Rocky Mountain Voo Doo

This cow elk call is perfect for anyone who is hunting during the rut. The reason is, this external reed cow elk call makes perfect whiny estrus noises and is ideal for closing the gap between you and that stubborn and horny bull elk. It’s easy to use and has a unique sound, making it worthy for any hunting pack.

  • Pros: Easy to use, unique estrus sounds, significant sound volume and tone
  • Cons: Doesn’t make a wide range of cow noises

Black reed-based cow elk call from Phelps

Phelps Game Calls EZEstrus

Phelps Game Calls claim that this is the best external reed game call they have ever made, and I have good reason to believe them. I own one and can not believe how stunningly rich the noise is from this cow call. It makes excellent nasally-type cow noises that make big bulls go bonkers. This elk call is as good as it gets.

  • Pros: Crystal clear sound, perfect tone, long and short-range capabilities
  • Cons: No cons – this cow elk call is excellent

Which Elk Calls Will You Choose For Your Upcoming Hunt?

Hunter blowing into an elk reed device to attract prey
Which elk call will bring your bull closer in 2023?

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Practice, man, practice.”

The most important tip I can give you when choosing elk calls is that you’ll need plenty of practice no matter which calls you choose. If you decide to go with diaphragms, I recommend ordering two sets—one set for practice and one set for the field. I like to take mine in the car with me on the way to work so I don’t annoy everyone in my household, sounding like a wounded elk all day.

I hope that I’ve provided ample information to help you find the best elk calls for 2023 and beyond. If not, please reach out to me by leaving a comment below, emailing me, or visiting me in Ridgway, Colorado for the upcoming season! I’d love to hear your feedback.

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Last Updated on January 16, 2024

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