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Location: Arizona
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Minimum Elk Cartridge

What is the minimum cartridge that should be used on elk?

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Minimum Elk Cartridge

243 with 100 grain bullets at no more than 250 yards with a clear line of sight and a good rest so you can shoot again is probably the very barest of minimum. Some may say that is pushing your luck too.

Of course if you like to stalk your game, a 22 at point blank range will do the job (shoot'm in the head) although I've never tried it and you would look pretty silly poping out of the bushes wielding a 22 in front of a big bull. A big bull or cow might very well just charge your a$$ for such a silly stunt.

On the safe side a 30-06 with 165 grain bullets is probably a better choice, more reach, more kinetic energy, better chance of one-shot kill.

Location: Utah
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Minimum Elk Cartridge

As I said on another topic I believe the 30-06 is the minimun. I here people say a 30-30 will make a elk just as dead as a magnum and to a certain extent thats true. But the difference is a 30-30 has a much greater chance of only wounding an elk rather than a quick clean kill. You hit any bone in an elk and a 30-30 shell won't have the velocity to punch through it. In my opinion a 270 is in the grey but a 06 is definitely a great elk round.

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Location: Northern Wisconsin
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Minimum Elk Cartridge

curious about the comment regarding .270 versus .30/06. With the exception of being able to shoot a 185 gr. bullet versus a 150 grain bullet, the ballistics on these two guns are near mirrors, in fact I beleive the .270 actually carries more downrange energy thereby making it a "flatter" cartridge. I know one person in particuliar that has shot several elk as well as 3 moose using a .270. All of these were one shot kills. I guess my point being, the .270 is a very solid reliable caliber that should not be sold short.

Location: Utah
Joined: 02/24/2003
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Minimum Elk Cartridge

There are lots of opinions on the 270 and this is just my take. A 150gr bullet is not a elk bullet in my opinion and thats the biggest you can get in a 270, its a deer bullet. In an 06 you can go up to a 180gr bullet plus you have more cross-sectional density. The 180gr bullet does have more energy down range, not a whole lot but enough to make a difference.

Thats the numbers now real world experience. I know, I've heard old timers say from here to Timbucktoo that a 270 has not failed them in 100 yrs of hunting but heres MY experience. Everybody in my elk camp have eventually moved to a bigger cartridge for stories like this.

The last guy in my camp to change, a die hard 270 fan. Said he'd never change. One hunt we got him on 4x5 average sized bull. He took 5 shots out of his 270 and that bull still run off. We tracked him for almost 2 miles and a day and a half. When we found that bull 4 of the 5 shots had hit vitals, it just simply didn't take hime down. Its happened with other cartridges but this has happened to me more than once with a 270 so I've seen em take plenty of elk but sick of them not finishing the job on a few occasions. That guy went out and bought a 300 min mag the next day.

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Minimum Elk Cartridge

This is an interesting thread.

While I respect the opinion that a bigger caliber is necessary for more clean kills, the difference between calibers is null if the shooter pushes their limits. So the minimum caliber is defined by the shooter, more than the characterstics of the gun.

I partially wrote the statement about the 22 at point blank to be silly, partially to be serious. The point being that minimum caliber is meaningless if you are not also defining shot distance and the accuracy of the shooter.

If you have trouble consistently hitting the vital region of an elk at 100 yards, you shouldn't be using a 243 and should go for the maximum kinetic energy your shoulder can handle. The reason simply being that if you do hit the beast (gut, butt, front left hoof), you damage it so it doesn't go terribly far and you have time to pump more rounds. On the other hand, there are people who are deadly accurate with lighter calibers and will not have a problem plugging an elk with a 243 year after year.

I'm not calling you out Rather_Be_Huntin (strange things can and do happen), but I do find it hard to believe that a bull would go 2 miles if it had 4 shots in a vital region from a 270.

People have different definitions of vital. To me there are only a few vitals that assure a quick kill.

- Upper bronchial portion of the lungs near, or just after where the bronchial tube branches into the two lungs.

- The heart

- Any spinal shot from just behind the front shoulder up to the brain case.

- Any of the major arteries/veins that connect the heart, lung, brain case (carotids/jugulars). If you happen to hit the descending aorta or the lower vena cava (the big artery/vein that comes off the heart and feeds/returns blood to the entire back half of the body) near the spine (moving back to the pelvis from the heart) they will bleed out quick. This is why sometimes somebody will break the lower spine and the animal is inexplicably dead when you get to it. The aorta/vena cava is ruputured.

A liver, kidney, or clipping a lung simply won't do it (unless the animal is weak already for some reason), nor will anything gastrointestinal (stomach/intestines). Hitting these will kill them, just not quickly.

Here are a few indicators I look for after taking a shot.

A upper spinal shot is very clear. The head will go limp and they "drop like a light". They literally crumple.

A lower spinal shot is harder to tell, but they usually "spin" down rearend first.

A vital chest shot (lungs/heart) will cause:

A). A charateristic "whooomppppinng sound". I don't know how to explain this if you haven't heard it before. A gut shot will not make this sound nor will a lower chest cavity (liver/kidney) shot. The sound is distinct and cannot be mistaken.

B). A "humping" of the animal. At about the time you hear the "whomp" or shortly before they will "hump" up for a short while. They kind of arc their back front shoulder area, and bring in their front legs and the head goes down for a bit. Sometimes mule deer will jump with their front legs a little, but even while jumping they will still "hump up".

[ This Message was edited by: bitmasher on 2003-02-27 00:02 ]

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Location: Northern Wisconsin
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Minimum Elk Cartridge

Truce everyone? In reading everyone's responses, it's clear we all share a passion for the sport of hunting and carry with it years of unique experience and wisdom. I have to agree in part to what everyone has stated thus far...I own a .270, have for 20 years. I'm going on my first elk hunt this fall and bought a new rifle to accompany me, a 7mm RUM. Why? Hell at this point who knows. I'm confident as all hell that inside of 200 yards I can kill anything with the .270, beyond that is uncharted water. Ballistic charts state that the .270 is on the light side for longer shooting, incidently so is the .30/06. But regardless, killing cleanly requires dedication. Dedication to practice, attention to detail and confidence in one's abilities. It also requires a high level of self control, not taking certain shots.
It's not easy when you've waited hours, days, month's, even years for a trophy to appear only to have it not give you a good shot. I would trade any number of successful days in the field to take back the one that left me standing at the end of a blood trail with no animal in sight. Wasn't the gun's fault, or the calliber, or the range, it was my fault... I vow it will not happen again.

Location: Utah
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Minimum Elk Cartridge

Bitmasher you bring up some good points and I couldn't agree more with you about being able to place your shot well. You don't belong on the mountain packin a rifle if you don't know how to use it regardless of the cartridge. But thats the problem who can control everything in real hunting conditions. Almost no one! You've got wind, uphill and downhill shots, ranging errors, moving animals, quatering away or to you, and lets face it its not bench shooting. How many animals walk up and stand perfectly broadside until you range them and let you pull out your bench. Yes we make errors but there are also those uncontrolable variables.

And yes my friend hit the vital area 4 times on that bull. One hit the blade but the bullet shattered and didn't completely take his wheel out. One was a single lung shot but didn't do alot of damage. The other 2 hit the liver and kidneys.

My point? If he would've had a larger cartridge, that bulls wheel would've been taken out. His lung would've sustained more damage and in my opinion he would've gone very far. In perfect conditions a 270 is just fine for elk. But when I buy a rifle I don't ask what it can in the best conditions I ask what it can do in the worst conditions. And in my opinion a 150gr 270 caliber bullet is not a reliable elk bone tool, especially out past 200 yds and thats my 2 cents.

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Minimum Elk Cartridge

I agree that it is best to err on the side of too much firepower than too little. It is simply being humane.

The point of my rambling above was really just an attempt to rub an itch and not directed at anyone in particular. The itch being that too much emphasis is put on caliber selection, IMHO. Caliber selection is important, but so are shot placement and practice. This ongoing pet peeve of mine, sometimes leaks out even when it isn't necessary. sad

Any way, welcome to the board Rather_Be_Huntin, always nice to have new people around. Wink

Good Luck on your first elk hunt, Keepitsimple. Where are you headed?

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Minimum Elk Cartridge

Thanks Bitmasher. I'm going to be hunting Idaho, the Selway Bitteroot Wilderness system. It's been a long time coming. A wife, 2 kids and a demanding flatlander job has kept me stuck here in great old Tundra.
What part of Colorado are you from? I lived in Dillon for about a year shortly after college. Never got to hunt, did a lot of great fly fishing though.

Location: Utah
Joined: 02/24/2003
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Minimum Elk Cartridge

Thanks for the welcome bitmasher. I was taught from day one that a rifle is only a tool and can only be effective in the hands of someone who knows how to use it. And since we are talking an animals life we owe it to them to be as skilled as possible with it. I agree with you 100% on the importance of shot placement.

Good luck on your elk hunt keepitsimple. You're in for a great experience. Take warm clothes, dress in layers and get in shape. You can never be to in shape for an elk hunt.

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