Nearly 18 months ago, I began working closely with Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls to develop a new diaphragm elk call that would incorporate every characteristic I felt a diaphragm elk call should possess. It was a tall order, but I truly felt it was possible to bring the very best of every necessary feature into one elk call. For this project, those features were identified and prioritized as follows:
I have used many great elk diaphragms over the past 35 years, but it has always seemed like to get the best of one feature, you always had to compromise or sacrifice on another. Many of the calls sounded great, but only lasted a few days before the latex stretched too far to continue making those great sounds. Many of those diaphragms screamed an incredible bugle, but would crack when trying to make soft cow sounds. Some would last all season, but were incredibly hard to use. You get the point. Finding a diaphragm elk call that would sound as real as an elk, that was easy to use, that would make every elk sound imaginable, AND that would withstand multiple days of heavy use and abuse during elk season seemed nearly impossible.
Well, not only is it possible…it is here! Today, I am excited to announce the official public launch of the new Contender Diaphragm Elk Call!
The process of building The Contender began in 2016, and included procuring latex of every thickness and color from multiple sources to find a latex that would meet all the criteria listed above. A matrix of over 100 calls was created to test every possible combination of latex thickness, latex stretch, latex color, and frame design. What came from that Diaphragm Elk Call matrix was really, really good, but I was hesitant to launch the call without more intense, “in-the-field” testing. And I wanted that testing to be not just by me or a few hand-picked elk hunters…
In August, we ran a limited “pre-launch” of The Contender diaphragm to Members of the University of Elk Hunting Online Course. We limited the order quantity to 2 diaphragm calls per Member to ensure everyone had a chance to try the new call, and sold thousands of The Contenders in a matter of hours. While this should have been an exciting time, it was completely nerve-wracking for me! I know as well as anyone that one diaphragm elk call might work great for me, but someone else might not even be able to make a sound with it. The shape of the roof of someone’s mouth, personal calling styles, comfort, etc., all affect whether a particular diaphragm elk call will work for an elk hunter, and those characteristics differ vastly from one elk hunter to the next. Finding an elk call that suites everyone would be impossible, and I knew that. But I wanted it to work extremely well for the majority of those who tried it out.
Fortunately, it did. The overwhelming majority of UEH Members who used The Contender last fall loved it. From ease of use and quality of sounds to versatility and design, the Product Survey I sent out after elk season showed that we had accomplished almost everything we set out to accomplish. However, based on feedback and surveys sent out to those Members, as well as my own personal experience using The Contender during September, there was one area that showed room for even more improvement. And that area was the #1 feature I was hoping to address when I began this project – Longevity.
I found that the original Contender didn’t exceed my expectations for Longevity under heavy use, which is the one characteristic I really wanted to focus on. There wasn’t anything “wrong” with the original Contender’s Longevity, but it wasn’t any better than other calls I – or other elk hunters – had used in the past. And that simply wasn’t good enough for this elk call.
So, I took what I had learned about latex up to that point, and undertook a deeper study on how latex rubber was harvested, manufactured, preserved, and colored. If you want to know more about latex than you would ever want to know, check out this article…http://www.madehow.com/Volume-3/Latex.html
With a newfound understanding of latex at the molecular level, I applied this knowledge and created a new matrix of elk calls using specific latexes that would perform as desired – specifically in terms of Longevity. I found that the thickness and stretch of the latex are what generally control the quality, ease of use, and versatility of the diaphragm calls – characteristics that shined in the original Contender. However, I found that the Longevity of the diaphragm was affected by the thickness and – perhaps even more importantly – the color (or lack of color) of the latex. The results were awesome. The thickness and stretch of the final latex didn’t change, but the color did.
The final version of The Contender diaphragm uses a high-quality, natural latex, in its purest form, without any unnecessary fillers, additives, chemicals, or dyes that can break down and affect the long-chain polymer structure (monomers) of latex. Using this natural latex ensures the highest level of Longevity and Elasticity, while maintaining the original features of quality sound, ease of use, and versatility. Longevity was maximized, and I feel like we have produced a new diaphragm elk call that will truly be a contender, every day of the elk season!
P.S. The original pre-launch of the Contender had a limit of 2 diaphragms per Member. That limit has been lifted, and there is no longer a limit on order quantities.
P.P.S. I will be providing an elk hunting seminar (The Path to Elk Hunting S_CCESS) at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City on Saturday February 10th, 2018 and the first 200 attendees at the seminar will each receive a free Contender diaphragm!