Cow Elk Call Review: 11 Best Cow Calls

Video best elk calls for beginners

External Reed Cow Elk Call Review

We decided to do a cow elk call review because they come in so many shapes, sizes and materials that picking one can be a challenge. To make things harder, you can’t exactly try them out and send them back if it’s not quite what you were looking for, So, here at Backwoods Pursuit, we decided we’d try to help you out and give you a rundown on some of the most popular ones on the market today. Our hope is that this cow elk call review and demonstration (see the YouTube video below) will help you decide what you prefer and save you from buying one you just don’t care for.

So what affects the sound of an cow elk call? Well, a number of design features really affect what tones the elk call produces. We won’t spend a ton of time on this, but here are the basics.

Cow Elk Call Review: Material

If you’ve ever used an external reed elk call with a wood barrel, you may have noticed a nice warm tone. The wood absorbs more sound and tones down the shrill sound you sometimes get with a plastic barrel. On the other hand, a plastic or acrylic barrel gives you a brighter tone and seems to give you those young cow/calf sounds a little better. The plastic and acrylic calls are often louder (as a general rule), but of course the reed and other build qualities greatly affect the volume you get from a call.

Cow Elk Call Review: Reed thickness/width

The feature that probably affects the call’s sound the most is the reed. While a wooden barrel absolutely affects the tone, the thickness and width of the reed also have a huge affect on the sound. In my experience, a thin, narrow reed will generally be easier to use and give you more of a cow/calf sound, whereas a thicker and/or wider reed will generally give you those more mature cow sounds. As you could probably guess, the thicker/wider reeds are typically more difficult to use.

Want ALL the details and info on ALL the cow elk calls we tested in this review series? Download my comprehensive spreadsheet with my notes on each and every call. This will help you easily find the call that best fits what you are looking for! Become a Backwoods Pursuit Insider (TOTALLY FREE!) and get access to this and much more in my Backcountry Library. IT’S FREE!!

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Cow Elk Calls: Rocky Mountain Temptress

The Rocky Mountain Temptress is probably the easiest calls to use of all the elk calls in this cow elk call review. A very thin, short reed make the Temptress super easy to use. The Temptress has a rubber barrel that deadens the tone a bit and gives you that open mouth sound. It’s a call that produces great cow/calf sounds as well as really nice younger cow sounds.

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Buy the RMHC Temptress

cow Elk calls: Rocky Mountain Voo Doo

The Rocky Mount Calls Voo Doo is a very easy to use call with a plastic barrel that gives you a higher pitch cow/calf sound. The reed is a little thicker than the Mistress, and also a lot longer. The longer reed gives you more flexibility to get both high pitch calf sounds, as well as lower cow sounds when you move your mouth closer to the barrel. The Rocky Mountain Calls Voo Doo is also very easy to use and gives you those brighter tones all the way around. Check out the video (also below) to hear the distinct difference between this call and one with a wood barrel.

Buy the RMHC Voo Doo

Rocky Mountain Martriarch Cow Elk Call

The Rocky Mountain Calls Matriarch is a loud cow elk call with a wooden barrel that produces loud but mellow tones. It’s got a lot of that nasally tone to it, and as such, gives you the ability to reproduce the assembly mew as good or better than any other call we tested. It’s a bit difficult to quiet this call down, so you may want to reach for another one if you are wanting a quiet tone, but this one does a great job of doing what it’s designed for. This one is a little more difficult to use than the other two above, but it’s worth mastering! This is a great sounding cow elk call.

Buy the RMHC Matriarch

Phelps EZ Estrus – Acrylic/Wood

The Phelps EZ Estrus cow elk call is a flat out great sounding call with an awesome nasally sound and a fantastic lower end and great range. You can easily produce just about any cow sound you need with this call, but it really excels in giving you a great mature nasally cow sound. I did note that the EZ Estrus does have a wider mouth platform which could take a little getting used to vs some of the others I tested. A little practice though and it’s easy to master.

The acrylic model has just a slight tonal difference from the wooden version (see video for demonstration of these two side by side). This comes down to personal preference. I personally prefer the softer tone from the wooden barrel.

Buy the Phelps EZ Estrus

Best Cow Elk Calls: Phelps Mini X

The Phelps Mini X is basically a smaller version of the EZ Estrus. Similar sounds, but with a smaller wooden barrel and smaller mouth platform, you are able to produce those younger cow/calf sounds a bit easier. This is just a great sounding call all the way around. You can also get a pretty good sounding assembly mew from this one.

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Buy the Phelps Mini X

Native By Carlton Green Weenie

The Green Weenie was a huge surprise to me if I’m being totally honest. I wasn’t expecting much when I first picked it up, but this cow elk call sounds really good. The vented plastic barrel helps give it a great tone, and the super thin, narrow reed make this incredibly easy to use. Even so, it gives you an incredible tone and range. I was way more impressed with this call than I expected!

Buy the Native Green Weenie

Native By Carlton Loud Mouth

The Native By Carlton Loud Mouth stands up to its title as it is REALLY loud. It gives you those mature cow sounds. The reed tapers from narrower to thicker as you move towards the barrel and is a bit thicker. The mouth platform is wider, so it is a little more difficult to use. If you need to really throw the sound out there, this call is the one you want!

Buy the Native Loud Mouth

Native By Carlton Mini Mouth

The Mini Mouth is more or less just a smaller, quieter version of the Loud Mouth, with some added nasally sound. Not quite as low of a tone, a thinner but wider reed, and narrower platform make this one a little easier to use. You can still get a lot of volume out of this one, though, if you need it. Neither the Loud Mouth or Mini Mouth were my personal favorite sounding calls from Native, but both are still great sounding cow elk calls. They are incredibly small, so these are ideal if you want some calls that you can store in a small space (not around your neck).

Buy the Native Mini Mouth

Native By Carlton Custom Call

The Native By Carlton Custom call is so SILKY SMOOTH. There is just no other way to describe it. It’s SO easy to use, but also sounds flat out amazing. It gives you that great nasally sound, but can also produce a fantastic cow/calf squeal with ease. You can easily get every note you want with this call while the tone is not sacrificed in any way. This was my personal favorite of all the external reed cow elk calls.

The Native Custom does have an acrylic barrel, which gives it a little bit of a brighter tone than the Phelps EZ Estrus, Mini D or Rocky Mountain Matriarch. As I mentioned earlier, I do prefer the sound of a wooden barrel, but there is no denying the incredible sound this call produces. Another awesome thing with the Native Custom is that you get two extra reeds with it, so if you happen to damage the one it comes with, all is not lost. Simply replace the reed and you have a new call. That’s AWESOME!

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Buy the Native Custom

Primos Hyper Lip Single

I’ve been using the Primos Hyper Lip Single cow elk call for many years, and called in many elk with it. It has a plastic barrel covered in rubber with a tone converter that drastically dampens the sound. You can also remove this tone converter to get a ton of volume (see the video for a demonstration of this call both ways). With the tone converter on, you get a great nasally sound, and with it off you have a call that really belts it out. It’s really nice to basically have two calls in one.

The downside is this call does tend to get bound up a lot with saliva. You are constantly clearing it out. It’s a bummer if that happens when you really need it, so flip it around frequently and blow out any saliva build up.

Buy the Primos Hyper Lip

Mossback Widowmaker

The Mossback Widowmaker is also a call I’ve had for a while, but really only used in circumstances when I really needed a loud call. This thing is SO LOUD, I’ve found it to be best when needing to throw a cow call down a canyon in an effort to get a response. It’s not my favorite tone from the cow calls, but it does really broadcast it a long ways away. It’s a bit more difficult to use and does require a lot of air to use this call compared to the others. You’ll want to practice with this one before taking it into the field.

Buy the Mossback Widowmaker

If you missed our Diaphragm Elk Calls Series, go check it out! We looked at diaphragm elk calls from Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls, Phelps Game Calls, and Native By Carlton (click these links for the separate review on each).

  • Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls
  • Phelps Game Calls
  • Native By Carlton

In Part 3, check out our Elk Bugle Tube review where we put 5 different bugle tubes side by side!!

Want to know what each of these calls sound like side by side? Hear them and decide for yourself what you like best! If you use them correctly, at the end of the day, any of these will effectively call in elk.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>