Here it is,the thread you have been waiting for....(BignGreen)
Im going to start it of by sharing the advice my Dad gave me when he finally let me go after Elk."Hit'em square in the shoulder and dont stop shooting till they stop moving".He didnt let me go after elk till I was big enough and experienced enough to shoot the 7 mag (his idea of the bottom end of the LR elk rifle caliber) and my first elk kill was a 600+ yard bedded cow,we shot simultaneously and neither his bull or my yearling cow got out of their beds.The next year I went out by myself and deciding I knew everything there was to know about elk hunting I took a poor shot (head shot) at a spike and spent the rest of that day tracking a wounded elk and the rest of the next day dragging it out piece by piece from the hell hole I followed it in to,would have been a 500 yard downhill drag if I had dropped it where it stood with a good shoulder shot.My embarrassment at having to explain to my Dad why I needed help the next day was excruciating,wounding game was not a hot topic with Dad. Elk are Elk no matter where you hunt and Id share his advice with anyone looking to hunt them,the small amount of shoulder meat you might destroy by anchoring them with a shoulder shot is of no matter when you compare it to the alternative.If you have hunted elk for very long you know how tough they are and should have enough respect for them to take a shot that has the best chance of dropping them with as much gun as you can shoot confidently.Will a .223 through the heart kill an elk?Yep.Will a lung shot elk hit with a 30.06 run over a couple ridges never to be found?Quite possibly.Will an elk with 2 broke shoulders and/or a severed spine get very far. Nope. There are lots of guys out there who dont have the experience some of us do with Elk and I dont see how discussing our opinions on how they should be killed is in any way detrimental to a hunting forum.Many new elk hunters can pick up some very valuable advice from reading these posts and Im sure some of them enjoy reading the differing opinions on calibers and shot placement.My "elk rig" is an 8mm Rem Mag loaded with 180 gr Barnes TSX,the exact rifle my Dad had in his hands the day I took my first elk(been re-scoped and restocked a few times since then),there are plenty of rifles in my gun room that will do the job but none of them make me feel close to my late Father the way the "8 mag" does when it drops and elk in his tracks.
Remembered I had a pic from that day...we shot from that ridge in the background,(my Dad was so proud of me making my first "LR" kill he made sure he got the shooting location in this pic when we came back the next morning) had to drag them out the bottom the next day.That was 1990,about 20 elk ago.
Since my post spurred this thread I thought I would copy in the conversation from another thread.
Originally Posted by HAMMERHAND View Post
Rich, I'm sorry that this happened to you. This is a terrible way to be humbled.
Have you had good luck with soft tissue shots (lungs, lower chest, etc.) at long range on elk?? I've either shot elk or have seen elk shot in the ribs / lungs at various ranges from point blank to 800 yards with nosler ballistic tips, partitions, accubonds, sst's, bear claws, bergers, sierra MK's, etc. and not a single one of them provided me with evidence that they were adequate for the purpose of quickly and humanely dispatching an elk. I know alot of guys subscribe to the theory of intense soft tissue trauma in long range shooting, which may work for things like deer and antelope, but I've witnessed a much higher failure rate in this type of shooting in an animal who can run for miles on 1/2 of a single lung functioning.
I shot a 4 point bull in Colorado one year that we saw in muzzle-loader season (late august) that had obviously been wounded by a bowhunter, and I killed it in 4th rifle season (mid-november). It came limping by me, and I dispatched it, and I called the game warden. The game warden issued me a tag for it, but not before opening it up to discover an 11" chunk of carbon-fiber arrow with a broken 4-blade broadhead inside. One lung was completely crispy green and black with no function...sounding like a paper bag crunching, and the other lung was almost 2/3rds gangrenous and filled with fluid. No way he would have made it through the winter, but he made it 2 1/2 months with that type of injury.
Having witnessed that, and also having shot plenty of elk through the lungs leaving holes you could fit a baseball through and watch them run for a half-mile I now subscribe to a different school of elk killing. I either have the ability with gun and bullet to completely break both shoulders / major bone structure, or I don't shoot.
I'd like to get an idea of what most guys are doing when it comes to ELK specifically at long ranges. I understand something in the 300 grain category could be valuable for such a task, and I also understand smaller caliber weapons with frangible bullets hitting an animal at the terminus of the spine and shoulder causing instant death as well, but you're also talking about a coffee-can sized area to hit as well. Where I hunt we simply cannot risk an elk running even 500 yards because it enters private land, or runs off into a wilderness canyon where the retrieve will be a gruelling technical climb to get the meat out. The two long range bulls I have killed were both high double-shoulders and single shot kills with Barnes TTSX. I've had the opportunity to shoot at some bulls farther away, knowing full well that I could hit body, but not both shoulders specifically, so I opted not to shoot.
My family and I have ALWAYS went for the boiler room and NEVER the shoulder. I have never seen an elk with 2 blown up shoulders or even one for that matter not have the majority of the shoulders meat ruined. We have lost 2 elk in 81 total combined years of hunting Elk. If I would include my extended family we are now talking in the 200 years range and to my knowledge the number of lost elk would not be much more than a handful. That is a TON of dead Elk over those years that were successfully taken with heart/lung shots. Thats also a huge amount of meat that didnt get ruined because of deliberate shoulder shots. Not saying we never hit a shoulder because we have and we all get mad as heck when we do. While I can see where shoulder shooting has a legitimate purpose, I for one would rather have the meat. To me hunting is for the meat first, horns second. If your that worried about grounding them on the spot, shoot em in the head and save your meat. Elk have heads that are as big as the boiler room of a decent deer or Antelope. When it comes down to hunter ethics there are so many gray areas and to me shoulder shooting and ruining the meat is for sure in the gray area. You have to use the right bullet for the type of shooting you do. Boiler room shots are not as effective when using a bullet designed for the shoulder shot and visa-versa. Just my .02. ......that was last night.
Now I must regress some....because I wasn't as specific in my post as i should have been. In our experience the weight retaining, and deep penetration/pass through design bullets can be a poor choice for shooting behind the front shoulder (Boiler room). I really did not mean that anyone that shoots for the shoulder is unethical. I firmly believe an Elk cant live with no heart or no lungs or no brain. Call me crazy, I dunno LOL. I can see where at long range the shoulder is a huge target zone thus greatly increasing your odds of meat in the freezer. That is a great thing. But lets examine this a little.
When it comes to hunting we all have a responsibility to kill the animal as quickly and humanely as possible and really, to eat the animal as well. So we all on here are here because we love to shoot long range. Does that mean we have to? Is it ethical to pass a shot on a bull at 200 yards and wait for him to reach 800 before we shoot. No it is not period! You should take the shot offering the highest odds possible.
So when you have the perfect opportunity to take a a boiler room shot and not unnecessarily ruin the meat, IMHO you should. I take my shots to try and retain as much meat as possible. Thats where shoulder shooting to me is in the grey area. At times I can see where it is useful and even important, but if you dont have to shoot the shoulder and do....at the risk of sounding almost tree hugger, well I believe your doing a disservice to the animal that you took the life of. It is not necessary and it is wasteful. If you are only getting a few OZ. of meat off of the front shoulder like some have said, you need a different butcher. We do our own butchering and there is a ton of great meat on the front shoulders of an Elk. We use the shoulder meat for things like strips for Fajita's and stir fry, or cut chunks for stews and now are bottling the meat as well which is EXCELLENT. Now an Antelope, well that's a different story. I still wont shoot for the front shoulder at closer ranges but if I hit one there, it certainly isnt much of a loss.
So what is the best way to kill an Elk? Well IMHO it is one shot one kill. Take the shot you are most comfortable with. My point in my response is to maybe help some to remember that the shoulder shot may not be needed and you have a chance at that much more great meat if you move those crosshairs a few inches.
Never pass up a kool-aid stand or lemonade stand. Remember it is a young American learning the American dream.
I for one go for the "boiler room" and if I happen to hit a shoulder so be it. The deep penetrating bullets such as the Barnes bullets are not as good on thin skinned game as they are the thick skinned game such as elk. I have killed a few mule deer with the Barnes bullets and they didnt take a step. But I was pencil hole in and slightly bigger pencil hole out. I just don't think that those bullets due as well on smaller thin skinned game because there just isn't enough stuff for the bullet Togo through to open up properly. Now on an elk, you have a massive body, large organs and a thick hide that will get those deep penetrating bullets to open up properly. It is my thought that two holes is always better than one. Of they do run off after the hit, the blood trail is easier to follow from the exit wound because the bullet will have sucked all that blood out from the exit wound and the blood will flow easier from that hole.
I am now trying other bullets for deer but will stay with Barnes for larger thicker animals and will for sure stay with the boiler room shots. Just my humble opinion.
I pretty much am in agreement with your dad for the following reasons.
Look at the X high on his shoulder. If you hit that spot he's going down even if your bullet only makes it partially through is body. At most he'll run a few hundred yards before he gives out. If you get a complete pass through, even if you miss the spine, he's down unable to use either front quarter.
If you are a little high. It's stright into the spine.
A little left, and it's through the spine in his neck.
A little right, you have both lungs taken out.
A little low and you have both lungs or the heart.
Aiming at that point gives you the highest degree of possible a fatal impacts even if you are off a bit.
You can be as much as a foot high/low or two feet left right and still drop him dead with one shot.
That's pretty much my desired point of impact on anything except the largest boars and varmints. On the really big boars Just low and behind the ear is my preferred spot. On varmints I don't care as long as they die.
Without the First and Second Amendments the rest of The Constitution is Meaningless.
I completely agree with WildRose; hitting the tip of the shoulder usually puts them down immediately and ultimately leaves you a greater kill radius. IMO the small amount of meat loss is negligible. I don't mean that there isn't enough meat on the shoulder to matter I mean the amount of meat you have to trim off (blood shot) is usually a small amount, especially on an elk. I also agree fully with two other points that were brought up: 1) keep shooting until they are down no matter how good of hit it was 2) (IMO) take the first opportunity to dispatch the animal with the highest degree of success don't intentionally let it get out further just to take a long range shot. I like long range but I always take the shot as soon as possible.
Another mistake I have seen a ton of elk hunters make is shooting for the neck. Bad idea on a elk. For one, the majority of the neck is covered in LONG hair and it can be hard to tell exactly where the neck actually is. Second the way the spine runs in an elk is more of a "S" shape than straight. Ever notice how a cow elk running looks like a camel? You stand a big chance of missing the vital area when shooting at the neck! If I need a finisher and the neck is all I can see I will shoot at the neck but I will NOT take a neck shot as my initial shot. The bull my Dad shot last year was shot in the neck by another hunter right before the bull ran to where we were. He had missed the spine by 2". Meat in our freezer and not his due to a bad choice in shot placement. Only thing he managed to do was alert us that Elk were on the move. That bull would have easily recovered.
Never pass up a kool-aid stand or lemonade stand. Remember it is a young American learning the American dream.