Elk NetworkInside OutdoorClass – Corey Jacobsen on How to Choose the Right Elk Call

Bugle - Featured Articles | February 28, 2024

If you hope to lure in an elk with a diaphragm call next hunting season, now’s the time to begin building confidence. And it all starts with picking the right one for you. Here, elk hunting expert and 10-time world champion elk caller Corey Jacobsen explores the options.

While learning to use a diaphragm elk call is more involved than most other types of calls, when you pair one with a quality bugle tube to amplify the sound, you’ll produce the most versatile and realistic elk vocalizations by a good measure.

Form—Diaphragm calls consist of latex stretched over a frame surrounded by waterproof fabric tape. There’s a rounded edge and a straight edge to the call.

Function—To use a diaphragm call, insert it into your mouth with the straight edge of the latex facing outward. Push your tongue up against the latex, then force air between the latex and your tongue. The ensuing vibration causes the sound. From there, it’s just a matter of learning to control the pitch and volume.

Design and Construction— There are four design elements to consider when choosing the best call for you: the latex thickness, latex stretch, frame design and the tape on the outside of the frame.

Latex—The latex is the most important part of a diaphragm call. There are two critical elements—thickness (measured in thousandths of an inch) and stretch. They both help control pitch and volume. Thicker latex requires more air pressure to activate and more tongue pressure to control. It can be limited in its range, especially at the higher end of the spectrum, but it also allows you to call louder. Thin latex requires less air and tongue pressure, so it’s easier to make higher notes and soft cow calls, and to maintain control as you scale up the octaves. Tightly stretched latex allows higher notes, and loose latex is better for lower sounds. My advice is to start out with a call that’s designed to produce cow, calf and medium bull sounds, and experiment from there.

Frame—The plastic or aluminum frame houses the latex and contributes to the overall sound of the call. A narrow frame can produce a wider range of notes with less effort, but it can also be more difficult to control. A wider frame might not be able to hit the high notes as easily but will have a smoother transition between the notes. If you have a wide palate, a narrow frame might slide around, while a wide frame might be too tight for a narrow palate. If you don’t know how wide your palate is, start out with a medium width and then experiment.

Tape—The last key feature of a call is the tape that goes over the frame and adds some width. Its primary function is to form a seal to keep air from escaping around the edges of the diaphragm.

Using this basic guide, and experimenting with different combinations, you will find the right call for you.

Corey Jacobsen is a 10-time world champion elk caller and creator of Elk 101. He has more than 35 years of calling and hunting experience on public lands.

See Corey’s full course Calling Elk in the Pre-rut and Peak-rut at outdoorclass.com and use code RMEF30 to get a 30% discount.