Introducing the Clearwater Elk Reed Frame and Diaphragms
By Danielle Higley
Fall 2022, something new was creeping its way up mountain slopes. Carried in the packs and pockets of avid outdoorsmen and women, 1,000 brand-new Clearwater elk reed frames and diaphragms were making their debut, ready to be tested in real-world hunts.
The new design, crafted by Joe McCarthy, product innovation lead at Slayer Calls, sought to answer three specific user challenges:
- Fit — Why are diaphragms always so uncomfortable in the mouth?
- Consistency — How is it that two reeds, made by the same company, can feel and perform so differently?
- Durability — Why can’t a single diaphragm last a whole hunt? Or better yet, the entire season?
But McCarthy had more than a customer problem on his mind. Like many Idaho hunters, he’d long been inspired by the state’s Clearwater region. Now he wondered if it were possible to blend inspiration with a revolutionary new call design.
“The Clearwater region of Idaho is home to many of our Slayer family and home to some of the best elk hunters of the West,” says McCarthy. “Our goal was to bring together the toughness of the mining and logging industries, with Idaho history and the world of elk hunting.”
Thus, the Clearwater frame and series was born. Featuring seven unique diaphragms and a revolutionary new frame design, the Slayer team is excited to share the new lineup of elk calls with hunters around the world. Here’s what you should know about the new products.
The Clearwater elk reed frame
The Clearwater elk reed frame is different from anything else on the market, with a better fit and stronger design.
First, it has an inverted frame, crafted from strong aluminum that won’t bend or torque when tongue pressure is applied. “It’s built with a stiffer aluminum alloy for less ‘rebound’ in the pressing process,” says McCarthy. “It gives the call greater grip of the latex and an increased ability to resist bending.”
The call also gives hunters 180-degree contact on the latex, increasing its longevity and consistency. “Hunters can buy the exact same call over and over, and the mouth feel will be exactly the same,” says McCarthy. That means no more wasted moments spent getting comfortable with a new reed.
Callers may also notice the Clearwater frame’s unique length and depth. “This frame maintains traditional width designs as many manufacturers produce, but has been slightly lengthened to allow differences in latex seating, adding variation and depth of sound,” explains McCarthy.
The front edge of the frame has been bent down slightly during the seating process. That allows air to pass over the leading edge of the latex, causing it to start easier with less sticking.
Finally, the Clearwater frame is noticeably more comfortable. Its inverted design causes the bottom side of the frame to cup upward when seated in the mouth, creating a closer match to the human pallet. Likewise, the underside of the call is ridged for a better fit. All told, the Clearwater frame sits more firmly and comfortably in the mouth than any flat frame.
The Clearwater diaphragms
The main goal McCarthy set out to achieve with the Clearwater diaphragms was durability. “Getting a reed to last longer than a day is a common problem for hunters,” he says. “My son, Cody McCarty [another member of the Slayer team], used more than 30 reeds for a single competition.”
McCarthy’s first reed in the Clearwater series was the Miner. “We thought it fitting that our first elk reed be named for the miners who worked the Clearwater region, and whose settlements ultimately prompted President Abraham Lincoln to name Idaho a United States territory in 1863,” says McCarthy.
“Those miners were tough men in tough country. They were determined dreamers,” he says. “Just as Idaho’s miners led the discovery of lands that would later become some of the best elk hunting areas of the West, our Miner elk reed leads Slayer’s newest product line in our Clearwater series.”
Next, McCarthy created the North Fork reed, named for a part of Idaho that once held the largest elk herd in the state. “The North Fork’s headwaters start in the Bitterroot Mountains and flow 135 miles from the Idaho-Montana border to its confluence with the main Clearwater,” explains McCarthy. “It’s a destination spot for Idaho outdoorsmen and the backyard of Slayer Calls for testing and development.”
McCarthy designed the North Fork specifically for his son, both for North Fork hunting and to use on stage in competition.
For his third call, McCarthy designed the Logger. “Loggers are dependable workers who get up at 3 a.m., head into the mountains and work all day. Men who push their bodies and equipment to the edge of failure but keep pushing on through heat, mud or snow. They don’t quit, and they’ll do everything they can to get a job done,” says McCarthy. He’s hopeful that the Logger reed is indicative of this same dependable, durable spirit.
Four additional Clearwater diaphragms complete the Clearwater series. While each individual design seeks to answer a unique calling need, as a whole, the collection’s diaphragms can all be counted on to perform better, longer and with more consistency.
Clearwater elk reed frame and diaphragm performance
A thousand Clearwater elk reed frames and diaphragms were distributed and tested by hunters across the country. Here’s what those testers had to say about their experience:
“I was fortunate to try out Slayer Calls’ new diaphragm reeds this season on a DIY elk hunt. I quickly noticed how easily they conformed to my mouth and how simple they are to use, as they produce a wide range of rich sounds, from low raspy growls to high pitch bugles. These reeds also seem more durable than others I have used. I tried to wear one out this September, but ‘unfortunately’ could not as it called in plenty of bulls, resulting in me getting a little trigger happy and putting an early end to my season!” —Shawn Greathouse, Colorado
“By far the longest lasting reed I’ve ever used. I was hesitant to switch to Slayer at first, but once I tried the new reeds, it was a no-brainer. With just a little practice, I was able to hit distinct notes and hold them with ease. They honestly made me obsessed with bugling.” —Ryan Farrens, Idaho
“This is the first diaphragm call I’ve used that I didn’t feel the need to modify in some way. I also never felt like I blew out the latex to where I couldn’t make certain sounds (high note bugles) like I have with other brands.” —Ryan Hill, State
“I’ve used calls from every major brand out there, multiple different styles among years of differing experience levels. I can confidently say that these calls are the easiest to pop right in and get running right off the bat; with quality sound to boot. The first sounds produced were crisp and clear, no real typical learning curve like you inevitably experience with diaphragm calls that you haven’t used before. In addition, it was refreshing to be able to distinctively tell a difference between different reed configurations and their intended purpose/styles. Without knowing much about what actually goes into reed construction/variability, I was able to differentiate with probably 90% accuracy exactly what Joe’s description of that particular reed’s construction style was intended to lean toward.” —Kevin McDaniel, Idaho
Why not try it for yourself?
There’s something new for elk hunters here at Slayer Calls. If you’re ready to elevate your calling experience this season, look no further than the Clearwater elk reed frame and diaphragms. More reeds are on their way, so if you’re not seeing something specific, check back later. And as always, feel free to reach out to our team with any comments, suggestions or questions. We love hearing from you.