View Full Version : Minimum Caliber for Elk ?
07-23-2002, 06:01 PM
We as elk hunters always find ourselves talking about the best caliber for elk; but what is the basic minimum caliber to use on elk? I am sure that there are different perspectives as to what that minimum is. What are the limitations placed on that minimum caliber? What are the ideal situations for using that caliber? What would be the best bullet for this caliber?
For example every hunter is different; & amongst us we have young hunters, women hunters, old hunters, big hunters, small hunters etc...
Each of us has different shooting skills, & sensitivities to recoil & noise etc...
For example.... ###My daughter (11 yrs & 80 lbs) was drawn for cow elk this year. She has available for her use a - ###.44 mag carbine, a .243, & a .30-30; all of which she can shoot proficiently & handle well (bigger calibers are a bit too much for her right now) . They each have their pro's & cons & each have their own limitations depending on the situation.
I have heard the opinion that no one should hunt elk if they can' handle at least at .270 ###- I just thought that it would be interesting to come at the "caliber for elk question" from a different angle. ### ###What do you think???? ###
07-23-2002, 06:39 PM
it will depend on if you have the mental disipline to wait for the perfect shot placement, I have a friend that has taken several elk and dozens of deer with 120 grain bullets in a 257 roberts but he wont take a shot over about 150 yards and only takes broadside heart/lung shots because hes well aware of the calibers limitations as far as range and penetration goes. if you limit your shots to 100 yards a 44mag shot from one of those handy lever action carbines with the correct handloads will get the job done with correct bullet placement but I would suggest that the 7mm08 is about as small as can reasonably be expected to get the job done most of the time without too many limits on its use, as to range and entry angles, now I use a 340 wby mag with 250 grain bullets, why, well after 35 years of elk hunting Im positive that any elk that offers a reasonable shot under 400 yards or so is within the guns ability to take effectively. the smaller calibers have some range and angle of entry limitations that I choose not to be limited by! does that mean I ###will take those shots that are far from perfect? no! but it does allow me the option to do so, a very reassureing thing to know! a good minimum like I said will be the 7mm08 but you better practice enough that quick shots can be carefully placed out to about 200-250 yards which is about the limit Id put on that cartridge as to its max reasonable useably range, for broadside heart/lung shots only and then only if your a very good shot!
as the cartridge will not allow rakeing angle shots that need to punch through the hips, paunch,and more than 2 feet of elk and stomach contents to reach the heart reliably . ###bottom line here is that shot placement and bullet construction and your ability to wait for that correct shot will be more important than your choice between lets say a 270 win and a 308 win. and yes a heavier bullet of larger caliber moving faster does have advantages but your ability to shoot well means more!
(Edited by 340mag at 10:40 pm on July 23, 2002)
07-24-2002, 09:33 AM
I agree with the 270 as being a minimum cal for elk. It leaves a little margin for error, but not much. It is the smallest cal that I have shot an elk with, and based on that, It would have been nice to have had something bigger. Before that and after that I use a 300 mag. IMHO a great elk caliber. I don't add in the ability level for shot placment and things of the like, because you never know what the situation is going to be like for every shot oportunity. There are too many unknowns in hunting to be able to skim by with a small caliber, respectively. Weather you are out of breath from walking up a hill, unideal shot angle, and the so on.
07-24-2002, 03:44 PM
I'll have to let the experienced guys make the call on the better caliber, although of the three you listed I'd throw my money on the 30-30 if you can keep shots inside 100 yards. ###I don't even like the .44 rifle for deer, and while I am a real big fan of the .243, that's a really light bullet for something as tough as an elk.
But if your girl can handle the kick of a 30-30, I can't imagine she'd have any trouble with a .270. ###Then again, I can sure understand if you don't wanna go out and buy her a new rifle. ###At 80 lbs, she'd most definitely need a youth model which means whatever you buy is probably a short-term purchase.
07-24-2002, 05:05 PM
dont think that 44 mag carbine wont work well, I use cast, gas check 280 grain bullets in my marlin carbine, 300 grain work well also, while I have not yet used it on elk I have used it many times on deer, it far out penetrates ###a 30-30 and will easily kill elk with a good shot to the heart lung area as long as you stay within its range limits (about 100 yards) and don,t think that 30-30 won,t work either, altho those are not popular ###picks mostly because they limit your range, they do have the power necessary within 100 yards. ###but how many times do you hear guys saying they shot elk at 500 yards with a 300 mag, well in many cases a 44mag with a 300 grain bullet or a 30-30 with a 170 grain bullet at 100 yards range hits harder and penetrates better than that 300 mag does at 500 yards so just teach your daughter to shoot accurately and judge the range ###with some accuracy too.
(Edited by 340mag at 8:09 pm on July 24, 2002)
07-24-2002, 05:19 PM
My friend has shot 2 big Bull elks with his .270. It's all were you place the shot. I personally wont go lower that a 30-06.
07-25-2002, 10:24 AM
I am going after my first elk this year. It will be a cow elk. I will be using a 7 mm rem mag. I figure if I do my part I should not have a problem bringing it down.
07-25-2002, 03:44 PM
If you do your job, and get her within about 150 yards or less, she will be just fine with either the 30-30 or the .44. ###I would shy away from the .243 even though many elk have been killed with it. ###Make sure she has shot placement pounded into her, and have her focus on where the shot is going, not looking at the animal as a whole, have her focus behing the front shoulder.......
07-26-2002, 08:22 PM
I was talking to one of the locals in a small town gun shop up in North East Az. It is big elk country & he states that the youth hunters up there use the .243 alot. They use the new 100 grn. moly coated Nosler Partitions. He uses the fact that bull hunting is alot different than cow hunting because of size.
I am still leaning towards the .30-30 with 170grn. Federal Premium Nosler Partitions or the .44mag with Winchester Supreme 250grn. Partition Golds. We hunt mostly in the timber & I have gotten my daughter within 100 yds of elk while scouting. She does very good on paper & as long as she can "pick a spot" and not get buck (cow) fever she should do well.
07-27-2002, 06:26 PM
here this might help, and just remember its bullet placement and penetration that will determine the outcome 99% of the time,get close and place your shots percisely and any bullet that will penetrate, expand and leave an exit wound, will work.
(Edited by 340mag at 9:29 pm on July 27, 2002)
07-27-2002, 08:00 PM
I posted this in the deer hunting forum so I'll add it here.
Back in the Mid 80's I hunted with a outfitter & guide in Idaho Ken Smith(I think that was his name) he used nothing but a 243 BLR this guy his killed more Elk then all of us put together.
I have shot Elk with a 270, 30-06, 300 Sav. and a 338, I feel that in each cases they all did what they were suppose too, some were 1 shot kills and one cow took 4 shots, I like to fit my rifle to the terrain & surroundings, if I'm hunting public land with other hunters i'm shooting 338 with 225gr bullets and I want to brake bone like in front shoulder or both then there is little doubt about who when & where did the shooting.
If it's private land either my 06 or 270 with my opened sighted 300sav. in thick timber or brush I have used it on a cow and a 5x5 bull and both where neck shots at less then 60 yds while still hunting.
Where you put that pill is what counts & the distance you take the shot.
Some hunters could use a 460 Weatherby and it would make no differance, and others could use a 22LR and they would be one shot kills.
I agree with huntducks, there are many calibers that I would consider minimum for elk, but it depends a lot on the situation, ie: hunting in timber or long cross canyon shots.
A well placed shot from a 243 will drop an elk quicker than a poorly placed shot from 338 Win mag.
Like in the deer section, if I had to pick one rifle for elk, it would be a 300 Win mag or a 300 WSM.
If I had to choose between what you got I'd take the .243 but that's me. What does your kid prefer? I believe confidence in what you use is more important than what you use. I've been hunting elk a long time, and my experience is, one kills just as dead as the other.
07-28-2002, 10:47 PM
Minimum caliber is determined by your state wildlife department.
Two young hunters in my family have taken their first elk with the 6mm (243 relative).
My 10 year old son will use a model 7 youth synthetic in 6mm this year for deer, elk, ###bear and cougar (if he's lucky) . The 308 and 300 are just a bit much for him yet. And he's comfortable shooting the 6mm. 100grn. Nosler partitions have always given us the best performance on deer (coues, mulie, whitetail, blacktail), sheep, elk, javelina, varmints. You can expect solid pass-through on most shots. It's a very explosive little round. Delivers lots of shock.
I'll just throw out there that the .270 is not a great elk caliber. Nor was it designed to be. I grew up in MT and, like the 30-06, many folks used it for just about everything. Like the 30-30, they have taken about everything. But it's core compitency is as a deer cartridge. I think you'd like the results best if your daughter were to shoot the .270 or the .243.
best of luck.
07-30-2002, 10:37 PM
This has been an interesting coversation, with different opinions. That is what is cool about JHP; we can all provide some input & learn a little in the process. It seems to be that no matter what opinions we have as "minimum caliber" we would all agree that the ethical thing to do is....
1) know your game animal & approximate size
2) Know your gun & calibers limitations
3) Every hunting situation is different & presents it own challenges. (keep that in mind)
4) know your own shooting skill level & hunt accordingly.
5) use the best bullet for the job at hand
6) note the position of the animal & the path the bullet will take (moving, angled shots etc....)
7) use the largest caliber you can handle safely & effectively.
### ### ### Got any more ???
### ### ### ### ###
08-01-2002, 04:29 PM
8) be as precise as possiable placeing your shot
9) your not shooting (at an ELK) your shooting (at a spot that will allow the bullet to slice through the lungs and heart and hopefully break the far side leg!
10) never rush your shots,hold out for a reasonable shot you know that you can make,be extremely sure of the target its better to not wound and lose and elk than to blast away at anthing with hair and possiably kill next years troupy ###unrecovered in some valley miles away. the "if its brown its down" attitude sometimes results in accidents where horses, and other hunters are hurt!
11)enjoy your self,most years youll get several chances durring the season if you spend most of your time actually hunting in the timber time spent in town and in camp rarely gets you an elk[/b] watch the wind, read the topo maps, this is a dry year, water sources are a good place to look for elk sign, and north and east slopes have more timber and water on average so spend most of your time there LOOKING CAREFULLY
12) waiting near a water source if they are limited in your area and placeing yourself where your sent woun,t spook the elk, durring the first and last hour of light will often prove to be a good tactic, wait till full dark before leaveing the water hole(thats what flash lites are for!)
(Edited by 340mag at 7:36 pm on Aug. 1, 2002)
I got to agree with 340 on # 11, if you ain't having a good time, ya might as well stay at home. Some of the best hunts I've had here ones when we never killed anything.
08-09-2002, 05:34 PM
I am glad you guys are having this discussion....I am going on my first Elk hunt to Colorado this year, and have been stewing on what weapon I should take. Being from Pennsylvania, I have used a 30-06 all of my life, and have shot lot's of deer, and a bear. My buddy that I am going with has been hunting elk for the last 10 years recommends I don't take the 30-06 because I will be limited to shot distance. I have decided to take my father in laws 300 win-mag instead ( I have shot it lot's of times before, and will have it the rest of the summer to practice with). I am not planning on taking any ridiculous shot's, butI like the idea of being able to shoot a little bit farther than the 30-06, and have more knock down power (we are hunting on public land). Hopefully that will do the job if the oppurtunity presents itself. Thanks for the information everyone.
08-20-2002, 02:27 AM
###Hi folks, eternal topic huh? I'm a gunsmith, live at 8,600 ft. in Colo., have built rifles for years, and have hunted elk a time or two. ###Anybody ever heard of the .276 Rigby? A famous African hunter used it to take about 100 elephants. The .276 is nothing more than a 6.5x55. He carefully chose his shots and most were one shot kills. ###My guess is that elephants are alot tougher to put down than elk. ###Patience and bullet placement are far more important than caliber.
###I know it's tough- you see a bunch of elk about 500 yards away, 15 cows and a big bull .You know there are probably a few satellite bulls around, and you for sure haven't spotted all of the cows, so you may be stuck. What to do? 500 yards is 500 yards, unless you are "dead-nuts" on your yardage and you have practiced at that distance,be patient,work your stalk, or walk away and try again tomorrow. ###I don't care what caliber you prefer, it's tough. Very few calibers are up to the task, and most shooters aren't.
###My personal experience has shown me that it's not what you use , it's how you use what your'e comfortable using. ###"Beware the man who only has one gun, he probably knows how to use it". ###I would rather see someone use a .243 that they've used all their life, that that same person use an unfamiliar .375 H&H, just 'cause it was a more powerful cartridge. ###Use the best bullets, realize the cartridges limitations, and take a deep breath. Be patient, your shot will present itself. If the animal you have chosen has not noticed you, work around to get closer( the less adreneline, the better the meat) . Be patient. ###
###Now for the sermon. ###Ignore the stories about somebody killing an elk at 600 yrds. with an SKS. ###Those people are jackasses! ###A 7.62x39 will kill elk, at 75 yrds and perfect shot placement. ###Bannish the thought. ###Use the most powerful cartridge you can shoot well. ###Use the best bullets you can find( core bonded, partition, etc.)not the cheap power-point or core-lokt stuff, they have serious core seperation problems. ###Practice alot with the good stuff, plan on worst case scenario. ###If you can hunt, chances are that won't happen.Choose an appropriate bullet weight for you caliber( usually the heavier the better) Again, use what you shoot well- a heart shot from a .243 beats a gut shot from a .338! Have confidence, practice, show patience, execute discresction, be sure of your shot, and have a good time.
08-20-2002, 12:45 PM
Sound advice, gangbanger, and welcome aboard. It sounds like a few of you out there have "seen the elephant" a time or two in the past.
09-06-2002, 12:10 PM
Gangbanger - the .275 Rigby is not the 6.5X55. it is the 7X57 Mauser. Both are exellent cartridges for low end on elk, mild of voice and recoil, very good accuracy. I've hunted with both extensively.
09-06-2002, 05:58 PM
I wouldn't go lower than a .270. A friend of mine has taken tw onice bulls with a .270 Weatherby. Anything under that is risking it.
09-09-2002, 10:33 PM
I have shot about 3 dozen elk with chamberings from the 6.5x55 up. Placing a well-constructed bullet in the proper place is the key to harvesting any game animal, but as the animal gets bigger, bullet placement becomes increasingly critical. I agree with those who stated that the 243 will take elk, with the same qualifications. I would use the 100 Partition and make sure she passes up any shot that was less than ideal. I have shot moose with the 6mm Remington. It does the job well if you do your part. One shot for each moose, and then the work began! By the same token, I feel that the ideal "elk" cartridge is a 30 cal magnum, but I am not stuck on that theme so tightly that I would condemn anyone using a lesser rifle, as long as they recognize and adhere to the limitations of that gun. Regards, Eagleye.
09-23-2002, 05:54 PM
I trophy hunt. I don't want to be under-gunned. When my choice was 25.06 Rem. or .308 Win. I always went with the .308.
My head-scratching decision was always bullet weight. I like to go light & fast. In the .308 I always use 165 to 168 Gr. bullets.
Now that I've added the 300 WSM to my small arsenal I would use it for elk with the 150 gr. slug.
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