Elk hunting



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  • Elk hunting

    In conversation today with a good friend and experienced hunter, I was told about a 6X6 Bull Elk he had taken recently,(his first) and how far it managed to go before piling up on the ground after being shot. The Caliber was 7MM Mag. (162 GR. Nosler partitions) Two shots had penetrated side to side and taken out both lungs (neither exited the body cavity) and still the animal managed to walk 150 - 200 yards before coming to a "head drooped stand still" in a clearing, where a final shot finished the job.
    I suspect the Bull was travelling on shock and adrenaline , for the most part. The hunter commented on how heavy boned the Elk was, the heavy quarters, and how dense the meat. (Compared to moose)
    I have never hunted Elk, but have taken both deer and moose with calibers ranging from .243 up to .30-06 and witnessed the internal trauma caused by such calibers.

    Would appreciate if a few of you other experienced Elk hunters could relate some of what you've witnessed in the field when hunting Elk.
    What kinds of shots you have taken (broad side, quartering, etc.), calibers you used, distances shot, how the animal reacted when hit, what the field dressing revealed about the bullet performance. Would also appreciate hearing your opinion regarding "best all-round" caliber for Elk.


  • #2
    Sounds like your friend is prepping arguments for his wife to justify buying a new gun. He should just go ahead and buy it.

    Having shot a fair number of both Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt elk as well as moose, I don't see any difference in density on bone and muscle between the them. Rocky Mountain elk are quite a bit smaller in the body than Roosevelts, and at their largest Roosevelts can approach moose size. Even if it's true, it shouldn't matter on lung shots like he made.

    I've shot elk or seen them shot with probably a dozen calibers ranging from a 257 Roberts to 375 H&H. All shots were well placed into the ribs/lungs, and not a one moved more than a half dozen steps. The two "best" or most consistent killers in terms of dropping them in their tracks without moving were the 7mm Rem Mag and the 30-06. Noslers or factory soft points in both. The slowest killer was the 375 with 300 grain bullets. There was little to distinguish between a 338 w/ 250gn Noslers and a 300 Winnie with 200gn Noslers.

    His experience simply doesn't compute for me. Maybe he ran into a mutant elk.
    "Lay in the weeds and wait, and when you get your chance to say something, say something good."
    Merle Haggard


    • #3
      Thanks for the reply BrownBear.

      It's interesting your opinion on most effective calibers falls into the
      7MM Mag / .30-06 class. For all the writing I see regarding the big boomers, I expected they would have garnished more praise.

      Anyone else care to share some experience?



      • #4
        My elk...

        My first spike bull I took when I was 12 years old with an 1883 Marlin chambered to .38-55 with Remington 255 gr. jacketed factory loads. Hit in the left shoulder, it penetrated completely, and the bullet fell out from under the hide on the far side, and still weighed 230 grains. I still have that bullet...That small bull didn't go ten feet before he piled up and went to the big meadow in the sky.
        My last one was a raghorn five point over in Hog Park in Wyoming. Used a .308 Winchester with handloads using 165 Hornady flat base spire point. First shot entered the chest from the right side, took both lungs out, he went stiff-legged, snorted and blew pink snot all over the area. Turned around and looked like he was going to try to make it back to the timber where he'd come from, and my second shot entered the chest from the left side, took the top of his heart off.
        He STILL was moving well, and wanted to get back into the black timber, so I put a third shot just below his left ear, and it exited the bridge of his snout and he dropped. All three shots took perhaps ten seconds, shooting prone, with my rifle resting in my Stetson, which I'd placed on a large rock.
        I've taken antelope and big mule deer with the 235 Speer in the .375, drops them in their tracks. Really. Bonus is that on animals this size, there's no meat damage, you literally can eat the meat clear up to the bullet hole.
        In the years since, I've been packing a .375 of one kind or another, almost exclusively loaded with the 270 gr. Hornady. Not sure why, when the little Speer does such a good job. I don't doubt for an instant that the smaller .375 bullet would do as well on elk as it does on big Muleys. Just have to get the animal and me in the same spot at the right time to test the theory...I'll let you know how it turns out.


        • #5
          Sounds like the old 38-55 held up it's end of the bargain quite well. A lot of ammo makers seem to suggest the 38-55 is best applied to deer and black bear size game. Don't hear too many stories about that old cartridge, expect there are a few out there.
          Your experience with the .308 certainly attests to the tenacity of these
          large animals.
          Will look forward to hearing how the .375 works out.
          Good hunting.


          • #6
            I've shot elk with a 270 Winchester and a 338 Win Mag. The elk I shot with the 270 just stood there and let me shoot it 3 times behind the shoulder at about 120 yards. Oddly enough the 3 shots were about 1.5" apart (best group this gun ever shot). Pretty good for using a pine branch for a rest from a standing position. His lungs and heart were destroyed. I think 2 bullets were trapped on the far side of the hide and one penetrated. Used 140 grain bullets (can't remember what variety). He didn't act like he was affected until he dropped. Weird he didn't move though. This elk was a medium sized 5 point.

            The next two elk I shot were with my 338 Win Mag using 225 grain Hornady Interlocks. The first elk was shot behind the shoulder at 275 yards. He started to run off and I hit him again, right behind the shoulder. He slowed down and I missed with the third shot, but he dropped after a total of 30 yards. The exit holes were the size of baseballs. The 338 made a bigger, more destructive hole, but didn't drop him much quicker. The last elk I shot with my 338 was a 200 yard one shot kill. He stood there for a few seconds before he dropped, never moved his feet. He was in a herd of 50 elk and after I shot it took awhile for all the running elk to clear this guy. By the time I had a chance for another shot he was down. Another 225 grain interlock behind the shoulder. Once again a large exit wound with a bunch of internal damage. The third bull was larger than the first 2.

            I don't think the 338 will perform any better on broadside shots, but on a raking shot, or a shot that was less than perfect it is added insurance. I have friends who have hit elk well and they ran a considerable distance, but I've seen the same thing with mule deer, antelope, and whitetails. My stepdad shot an antelope with a 7 Mag that destroyed the heart and lungs and it ran several hundred yards. I've also seen cow elk downed with one shot from a 223. Some animals must be tougher than others.

            I think the 300 Win Mag is tough to beat for elk if you can handle the recoil. If you are recoil sensitive get a 7MM-08 or a 270. I've always liked the 338 win mag, but would never hesitate to use my old 270 for elk again.


            • #7
              I was looking for some feedback about the .338 for Elk. Fully expect it would offer a definite edge on quartering shots, when situation warrants.
              Jack O'Connor, would probably be nodding his approval regarding your comments on the .270
              Thanks for sharing.


              • #8
                I think the qualifying differences are broadside lung shots and marksmanship. If you start angling shots, mobetta is mobetta, provided you can shoot. The 7 and the 06 have fared so well on our place because the guys using them typically have only one rifle, have shot them lots and shoot them well. Guys who show up with boomers mostly have bought them in the last two months because everyone keeps telling them their "deer rifles" aren't big enough. We are pretty careful to put them into situations for broadside, rested shots only, so when a guy is a stinky shot with a boomer he's afraid of, it really shows. We always have "site in" sessions before a hunt to make sure the gun is on, but mostly to see how a guy shoots and learn how close we are going to have to get him and how solid a rest he's going to need so he has a chance in hell of hitting.

                Gimme a guy shooting his scuffed up old 7 or 06 any day over the guy who shows up with a brand new 338. If the elk standing and unspooked, it's going to drop real fast.
                "Lay in the weeds and wait, and when you get your chance to say something, say something good."
                Merle Haggard


                • #9
                  The wisdom in what you say is borne out many times over. There are many bargains to be had from those caught in the "bigger better" magnum arena. I once witnessed three young hunters arrive at the local range with a newly aquired Ruger .300 Mag. They proceeded to set up their rest and each, in turn, fired a shot. After much shoulder rubbing and comments about recoil died down, they packed up the 300 mag and were gone.
                  To say the least, it was entertaining to watch.
                  I'd have to agree with you, the worn rifle usually attests to time spent using it.
                  Last edited by JWB; 09-17-2006, 21:44. Reason: Better wording


                  • #10
                    Elk Hunting


                    I have taken a few elk with various calibers. The 270 Win accounted for two, on rag horn and one very good heavy bull. That one wasn't an easy one. Two with the 30-06, one with a 338 WM and one with 338 Lapua. That last one was a 400 plus yard shot on my very best 6x6 and the only one shot drop. (bang, flop!) I think there was a smaller bull with the 338-06 and another in there some where. The big bull with the 270 took three 150 grain Noslers, the first broad side through the lungs at about 175 yds, while on the run and the next two were quartering away from the short ribs to the boiler room. The old bull went more than a half mile up hill and over before piling up, then sliding down a shale bed into a rocky canyon. That was loads of fun getting him out. The 30-06's were with 180 grain Nosler partitions and they worked very well. One quartering away into the ribs to the far side shoulder, broke it and he ran up hill about a hundred yards. The second -06 was crossing on the trot about 150 yards away, two in the ribcage and he went about 50-75 yards then stopped and tipped over.

                    The 338, I think there may have been two with it but I recall one with the 225 Swift A-frame. He was running away and up hill at about 150 yards and I'm below and shooting up at a 30 degree slope. The bullet took him in the left rump, missed the bone and did not exit, but caused all kinds of internal problems. He hit the ground and bounced up and began to run back at me down hill at about mach one. He tried to turn and collapsed and slid down to with in 50 yards of me. The horses were 100 yards away and we could walk right to him. The bullet was in the muscle of the brisket just under the hide, it penetrated about five feet of elk.

                    The Lapua shot was the last day to hunt and we were packing up to leave one morning when he was bugling up the mountain side above us. Shooting up hill from the prone over my saddle and my bed roll and my hat and a dead cat. Anything and everything for a rest to get the gun up in the air enough to make the shot. A 250 Nosler partition at about 2900 fps hit the point of the left shoulder joint. Shattered the bone and shredded a lot of good elk meat. The bullet exited the ribs on the far side and took out everything in between. I missed my mark of the rib cage because I didn't see the way he was standing. I am a lung shooter on animals that I intend to eat.

                    I think the 30-06 with good 180 grainers is enough gun for most shots but I would pass up shots like my rump shot, and of course limit the range. I would not feel handicapped with it though.

                    The problem for me is the seasons are broken up to a few days here and a few there and if you travel to elk country, and want to get one you may have to take shots that are not ideal and that's where the heavier calibers (338's) come into play. I would not or should not take the rump shot or the long 400 plus yard shot with a 30-06 or 7 mag. I have hunted with guys carrying 7 mags and various 30 caliber mags and the performance of them is about equal to the 30-06. The 300 mags will reach out better than the old -06.

                    I have hunted twice with the 375 H&H with 235 grains and 260 partitions but never got a shot. I have taken several elk sized critters with these loads and they do work very well and do reach out to the 300 yard mark.

                    Horse pack elk hunting is my favorite style of hunting in the whole world. I love the mountains of the west and intend to get back to that country again to hunt elk. I have an old pre war M70 300 H&H that will fit into a saddle scabbard and I think I'll give that a try. I also have, well I'm getting a Marlin '93 in 38-55, hopefully this week and I think with the lyman #66 peep sight it will fit the saddle even better. I would like to try that along the edges of the black timber. As far as I can connect I think the 255 grain Barnes original will do the job. That would be a fun hunt. Lot's memories of good elk hunts here.
                    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?


                    • #11
                      Thanks for the feed back Murphy.

                      Am getting quite a cross section of response on this subject. Sure makes interesting reading when people begin to relate what they've seen in the field.

                      Think I'll just "bush sit" for a while and see what other experiences and
                      calibers get related.


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