Recently on a forum, I read a post on the best bugle tubes for elk. There were certainly many quality tubes and manufacturers mentioned. As an outfitter, it is a question that I am often asked. My response, however, is not what people are looking for. First, there isn’t a single tube on the market that is going to be the difference maker between getting a bull or not. People are shocked when I say that but I say it because it is true. When you factor all the pieces and parts that go into an elk hunt, what your tube may or may not sound like is not really important. I have unfortunately donated several tubes to the mountain over the years. I used tubes I have no familiarity with, cut out 2-liter bottles, cupped hands, a piece of hose, whiffle ball bat, and once a plastic water pitcher with a cup duck taped to a cutout hole. I have had a bull respond and some come-in to all the aforementioned “tubes”.
Secondly, most bugle tubes are priced ridiculously. Spending thirty to fifty dollars on a tube of plastic covered with a piece of camo is hard to swallow. Manufacturers want you to believe you will get some unseen advantage using their product that you won’t with another tube. In some cases, this is true to a degree. A tube that carries well, and is comfortable to bugle through is certainly better than one that isn’t. It would be nice if the companies would just put the product out at a reasonable price and not make any grand claims about it, but I guess honesty isn’t compatible with marketing these days. A showy package with a big bull in the back ground and a tube named some intimidating adjective is now the norm. Maybe if manufacturers put some of that packaging money into a bugle string that wasn’t the equivalent of a glorified piece of thread, I wouldn’t have been so generous in my mountain donations of tubes. Then again, if you don’t lose a tube you won’t buy another, so maybe the cheap string slings are intentional.
Thirdly, your ability with mouth reeds primarily determines what you sound like. If you have to depend on a tube with an external reed, you are seriously limiting your options and flexibility in the field. Learning to call proficiently with mouth reeds far out weighs any difference in tubes, and those tubes mainly enhance the sound you’re making with your reed anyway. For example, I have heard many people say you want to sound smaller than the bull your calling. Ok great, but have you ever heard a bull screaming 40 yards away? There isn’t any human on the planet, despite the tube, that CAN sound bigger than that. No matter how big the tube, no matter how hard and loud you bugle, trust me, you sound smaller than any real bull in the woods.
Finally, my thought on tubes are much like rifles, use what is comfortable and gives you confidence. The best tube is the one you personally enjoy using. I like medium tubes, flexible, that carry well and are comfortable to call through. I also like whiffle ball bats. Simply cut the end out with a hole saw on your drill, cut off the handle at desired length, modify tube with some plumbing hose from your hardware store, tape, and run a string.
In the next post, I give more detailed instructions with photos on building your own, for around nine bucks.