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Location: Colorado Springs
Joined: 02/23/2009
Posts: 182
Elk Hunt with 25-06?

Hello all, I've been on the East Coast for about the last 9 years and have sold all my .30 rifles. Now I'm back in Colorado and want to get into bow hunting. However, I still want to be able to hunt Elk with a rifle here if I'm not successful with the bow. The largest caliber rifle I currently have is a 25-06, do any of you have experience hunting Elk with this rifle? I handload and know that there are many new bullets out there available, maybe one of you could make a good recommendation. My ultimate goal is to be able to hunt Elk responsibly with the 25-06 so I can focus my money on a proper bow set-up for Elk. Thanks!

WesternHunter's picture
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Joined: 05/05/2006
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Elk Hunt with 25-06?

If I were you I would consider buying back one of those .30 cal rifles! The .25-06 is a spectacular pronghorn and deer cartridge, but.... Personally for elk I would steer you towards a larger caliber that offers a heavier bullet than the the .25-06, if you are looking to take heart/lung broad side shots. Consider something in 7mm or larger. I use a .270 winchester for every biggame animal I hunt (pronghorn, deer, elk). Many prefere the .30-06 spgfld or the various .30 cal magnums. Elk are large heavy animals and you will need a cartridge that offers a heavier bullet with enough energy to punch through thick muscle and bone on those broadside heart shots. The velocity of the .25-06 is certainly on par for elk. If you do decide to use your 25-06 then stick with the heaviest bullet you can get, which I believe is a 120 grain and try and make only head or neck shots with it. Again for elk I would recommend a larger caliber/cartridge.

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Joined: 01/22/2007
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Elk Hunt with 25-06?

I have shot a lot of elk with a 25-06 using 120g Partitions. Mostly cows and spikes. Up to 300 yards it has done the job on these animals.

I live here, I've harvested lots of elk. I know if I pass on a shot, I'll get another shot tomorrow. So I don't have a problem passing on a so-so shot. The lek I've shot with the 25-06 have all be neck or lung shot. and it has put the elk down.

That said, When I go after big bulls, I carry my 30 caliber rifle.

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Elk Hunt with 25-06?

Sorry WesternHunter, I really don't like to encourage people to head shoot elk or any other animal. It's a very difficult shot. Most guys assume(and I'm not saying anyone here has done this) when the animal doesn't fall to the shot that means they have missed. As often as not, it's been shot in the nose or jaw and will now starve to death.
Neck shooting is another thing, but elk are more likely than any other animal I know to get back up after being neck shot. You have to actually sever the spine to kill them, but a shock to the spine will certainly knock them down in that awkward back- legs- first- kind-of-fall. That being said, if you're comfortable then go for it, just don't walk up with your gun slung.
When I used to cull deer and hogs, my partners and I experimented quite a bit with bullet placement and there are downsides to everything but the heart/long shot. I settled on the high shoulder shot(scapula) when using a bipod or sandbagged rest, which I liked more than the neck shot. It gives a little more margin for error with just as immediate results as a neck shot, plus the deer actually die while they are stunned due to the lung and blood vessel damage. But there is kind of a "no man's land" with that shot as well, so I don't do it when I'm actually hunting anymore. I'm speaking from several lifetimes of the average guy's game shooting experience (not hunting, just killing). Just stick with 120 grain Partitions or 115 gr TSXs, put them on the shoulder or just behind it and you'll be fine, especially with cows (assuming you are bow hunting bulls)

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Elk Hunt with 25-06?

exbiologist, I beg to differ. I always hear certain folks trying to make the claim that head shots are way too difficult when in reality the vital area (heart, lung) of a biggame animal is roughly the size of the animals head. Also I take issue with certain hunters needing such a huge area in which to place their shots. Practice makes perfect (or pretty close) and every responsible hunter should be able to consistantly place his/her shots into an area much much smaller that the size of the animals entire head. If a hunter can't accomplish this then he/she needs to invest much more time at the range practicing off-hand in various positions at various distances, without a benchrest. I believe that most hunters can accomplish this feat by both off-hand target practice, patience, and taking closer shots if need be. Besides, what ever happened to taking shots at reasonable distances? Sadly too many newer hunters today are getting into the habit of thinking that 300 + yard or even longer range shots on elk are normal. This new idea is leading to too many wounded and lost animals. My whole opinion on it is that if a hunter can't get within 100 yards of a game animal then that hunter needs to re-think his/her strategy.

I mostly take head or neck shots because I'm not a trophy hunter, but instead a meat hunter and a humane kill with the least amount of meat damage is done by taking head or neck shots. You also have to consider that my advise given by taking one big thing into concideration. I wasn't sure that the guy asking the question would use the heaviest bullet possible. Now, as far as your findings on shots to the high shoulder (scapula), I can only agree with you on that one.

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Elk Hunt with 25-06?

I don't want to start a pissing match, this isn't 24hourcampfire, where everyone thinks everyone else is an idiot. You're obviously an experienced hunter and what you do works for you, I just don't like recommending it to a novice elk hunter. So please don't take offense.
But I've got to disagree with one of your statements. An elk's entire head is close to the size of the heart and long area, true. But the elk's brain is smaller than it's heart, and nobody likes seeing elk running around with their muzzles shot off. So you have much less margin for error with the brain shot. Obviously if you hit within a few inches of the brain or spinal column, you'll still kill the animal, but same deal with a heart shot. Also, the head moves much more than the torso, even when the animal is stationary, which adds to the difficulty of the shot.
Should a hunter be capable of hitting an elk's brain? Yes, of course, especially at ranges under 200 yards. Are you damaging meat by hitting the shoulder? Yes, but I'm willing to accept that trade off.
AFHunter is a handloader, and most handloaders shoot more than most factory load shooters, so he's got the opportunity to practice his offhand and kneeling head or neck shots, but to keep things simple I'd still recommend a heart/lung shot with the heaviest premium bullets his gun will shoot well.

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Elk Hunt with 25-06?

No No. Don't misunderstand. Not meant to argue at all here, just trying to debate. Didn't mean to come off as though I was thinking everyone was an idiot. Just trying to make a point about shot placement on an animal. I certainly understand what you are saying and why you say it and not degrading your experience in any way. But a lot of what you just said does speak to my point about being able to place a bullet into a very small area at reasonable distances.

But back to the original question. The .25-06 is capable of taking elk. I just recommend something a bit bigger.

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Location: Colorado Springs
Joined: 02/23/2009
Posts: 182
Elk Hunt with 25-06?

Well fella's, I greatly appreciate the advice. I've been doing some more research today and there seems to be better bullets on the market today vs. the last time I loaded/hunted with rifle. One guy I spoke with today said he unted Elk with 25-06 shooting Barnes triple X bullets. First I've heard of them, but will research further. Another suggested the Hornady SST, but they seem to similiar to the Nosler Ballistic Tips and I don't want to risk having the bullet exploding on impact due to the thickness of the Elks hide. Painted Horse, I'd love to buy back my .300 Win. Mag., but that's not an option. The .300 RCM on the other is an option if I can get the rifle and bow for uner $1200. As far as head shots with the 25-06, that's not an option for me either. While I'm confident in my abilities and rifle, I just don't want to risk wounding the animal. Any other advice/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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Elk Hunt with 25-06?

The Barnes Triple Shock X bullet is a great bullet. They make both a 100 gr and a 115 gr. I'd recommend the 115. Barnes' latest manual has them in the mid 3100 fps range. I wouldn't feel undergunned shooting cow elk with those. I'd like something a little bigger for bulls, but I've done it with a .264 (only 0.007" larger) and had complete penetration through both shoulders using Nosler Partitions.

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Location: Pueblo Colorado
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Elk Hunt with 25-06?

Just to add something, my gunsmiths wife and daughter hunt elk every year with 243's and have been quite successful. They limit their shots to broadside heart lung out to 200 yards and premium bullets. Nosler, I believe. Getting as close to your target as possible is always the best idea whatever you're toting.

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Location: Kentucky/ Colorado
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Elk Hunt with 25-06?

We have killed 4 or 5 elk with our 25-06. All were double lung shots with 117-120 grain bullets. The last one was my wife's 5x5 bull and it took a few shots to anchor him. IMO the 25-06 is a little light for a mature bull. They tend to knock the cows down easier.

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