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Serious question about caliber and elk potential

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Unread 07-20-2009, 08:45 PM
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Re: Serious question about caliber and elk potential

I agree with the posts so far. At traditional hunting ranges, just about any caliber will work for elk. You do not need a 30-378 or 338-378 to harvest an elk even cleanly. A 243 with the right bullets, range and shot placement will do the job. As with any caliber, the right bullet, range and shot placements are key for elk.

Remeber, this is a LR hutning site. Would it be ethical for me to shoot at an elk at 1200 yards with a 243? Some may say yes. Most will say not. Now as an experienced elk hunter, I have witnessed 1st hand just how"spirited" an elk can be. For me to take a 1K shot at an elk my beliefs are that for it to be ethical, I need to match the caliber, bullet to the range. Which of course leads us to calibers such as at least a 7stw, 300 RUM, 338 RUM etc......

Elk are tough, spirited animals with a drive to live that will not quite. When it comes to elk at 1K, IMHO bigger is better. When it comes to elk at traditional ranges, use what is comfortable.
Long range shooting is a process that ends with a result. Once you start to focus on the result (how bad your last shot was, how big the group is going to be, what your buck will score, what your match score is, what place you are in...) then you loose the capacity to focus on the process.
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Unread 07-20-2009, 11:07 PM
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Re: Serious question about caliber and elk potential

To me the definiton of "ethical" in this context is... Having a reasonably confident asurance of making a relatively clean and quick kill that will not result in a lost animal - and that this assurance is based on a certain amount of first hand experience with the performance of the rifle, cartridge and load. Basically, you should know everything reasonably possible about your bullet's terminal performance at different ranges and velocities. You should be reasonably confident of a first shot hit to the vitals that will produce enough damage to assure a relatively clean and quick kill. Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to hunting, but, IMO, one should never "shoot and hope". If you are not reasonably sure of your bullet's POI and it's terminal performance, you should pass the shot.

This is not me preaching ethics, just speaking to the subject of this thread.

Having said all that... What kills an elk, or any game animal for that matter? Answer: Lack of blood to the brain. Lack of blood presure results in lack of blood to the brain. Hemoraging results in lack of blood pressure. Wounds result in hemoraging. The location and extent of wounds determine the extent of hemoraging. This is why we try to shoot the animal in the lungs and/or heart and not the gut or the legs, etc.

OK, now that, that is established, the extent of wound damage creating hemoraging is dependent on the type and size of the wound channel. The best type of wound (in the bullet world) is a permanent wound channel with large cavitation, destruction of tissue, especially tissue that a lot of blood flows through. The surface area of the cavitation is what's important, The larger the area, the more the hemoraging. In other words, the bigger the hole, the better.

That being said, bullet terminal performance is critical. If a large cal 338 bullet penetrates completely through and fails to open, it will probably do less damage than a 22 cal bullet that deos open and expand.

With bullets of similar construction, a 338 that expands properly will kill an elk more effectively (quicker) than a 277 cal bullet, with same shot placement. Does that mean the 277 is not ethical? No. There is plenty of evidence that a 277 bullet can effectively kill an elk...... within certain parameters.

Bottom line... know the capabilities and limitations of your rifle, load and yourself.

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Unread 07-20-2009, 11:38 PM
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Re: Serious question about caliber and elk potential

My dad grew up shooting deer and elk with a 22mag. Not really because he believed that was the best option, but because it is what he had. His farthest shot on a bull elk was 400 yards. Most all his animals were killed with one shot. Does he use a 22mag now??? No, of course not. Not because it doesn't work but because he has better options. He still doesn't use any of the super magnums available. I think those playing the 1000plus game on elk sized critters are the ones that really require the benefit, but the average guy who thinks a 400-500 yard shot it long and decides that he could probably shoot 600 if he had a 338RUM vs his 7RM is way off base. Most guys in my opinion want the big magnum just for the macho factor, it may even lead to more wounded elk in the woods because of over confidence, possibly resulting in taking poor quality shots with the belief that a big 338 will kill an elk no matter where you hit it.
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Unread 07-21-2009, 10:16 AM
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Re: Serious question about caliber and elk potential

Kevin I agree and I suppose that your post pretty much sums up my feelings. Shot placement and confidence is as important if not more important than caliber.
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Unread 07-21-2009, 10:28 AM
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Re: Serious question about caliber and elk potential

I'll stick to my little 300WSM! The question I ask myself is, do I really want to walk that far for a critter that big? Not me, if I can't get to it via horse, four wheeler or truck, I'm not shooting it. If I can get there in the same way with any of the options of travel, maybe I will consider the shot at long range... I'm lazy, what can I say. In fact I'm looking to go to a 7WSM or even smaller. Not sure yet, could change my mind and go the other direction, but for LR ground hog and having a little target at long distance, I don't need the power, but I do need the BC. So size doesn't matter... its how you use it. LOL!!!

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Unread 07-21-2009, 01:47 PM
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Re: Serious question about caliber and elk potential

When a potential customer comes into my shop asking what chambering I recommend for a big game rifle, first thing I ask him is how far he will be shooting and then what game he will be hunting.

In my opinion, the size of game is generally secondary to the range you will be shooting, let me offer a quick explination.

Since we are talking about elk, lets stay there. THe average elk hunter will harvest their game at ranges well under 300 yards most of the time. In some rare occasions conventional hunters will reach out to 400 yards to harvest elk. My conventional hunters I mean someone that does not faithfully use a rangefinder, does not have a drop chart for their rifle, uses an optical system with simple duplex reticle and does not dial up for longer range shots.

For these type of situations, any modern high performance chambering will likely work 100% on elk size game if the proper bullet is used and the elk is hit cleanly in the vitals.

Past this, those same chambering will still easily kill an elk but its more difficult for conventional hunters to put the bullet into the vitals at longer ranges because they are basically guessing on hold over and windage holds.

So in this application, for hunting elk at ranged of say 400 yards and less, I agree, large magnums in medium bore chamberings are not needed.

Take the next step out, say from 400 to 800 yards and its a totally different ball game. Here, retained velocity and energy are such that the bullets will be less authoritative when they arrive out of any caliber so we need to reply on the bullet more. For this type of hunting, I would recommend as a minimum, a heavy for caliber bullet in a 7mm magnum or larger choice.

Again, its simply because we are asking the bullet to do more of the work with less help from retained velocity(hydrostatic shock) and kenetic energy payloads.

For hunting elk from 800 to 1000 yards, I would only recommend the largest of the 7mm family of magnums with the heaviest bullets possible. My 7mm AM with a 180 to 200 gr bullet comes to mind.

Also the larger 30 cal magnums with at least 200 gr bullets really come into their own here but lag a bit in ballistic performance compared to some other calibers, still they hit hard and work well.

This range is where the 338 magnums really start to strut. I am not saying its a nessecity to use a 338 magnum at 800 yards but terminally, there is no question that they are more impressive then any lesser caliber on elk size game.

Past 1000 yards, I simply do not recommend anything short of a 338 magnum. Again, not saying that the smaller calibers would not cleanly kill any elk at 1000 yards with a good hit to the vitals but for those shots on the fringes of the vitals, the larger caliber is vastly superior even on deer size game at these ranges.

So in my opinion, its a range issue more then the game being hunted, or at least just as much.

For conventional hunting, which it sounds like you are referring to, there is no need for a super magnum, none at all, unless you just want to use one. But for the type of hunting most on this site do every year, the larger calibers are much better choices.

Just my 2 cents.
Kirby Allen(50)

Allen Precision Shooting
Home of the Allen Magnum, Allen Xpress and Allen Tactical Wildcats and the Painkiller Muzzle brakes.

Farther, Faster and Flatter then ever before.

Web Page: www.apsrifles.com

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Unread 07-21-2009, 02:33 PM
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Re: Serious question about caliber and elk potential


Distance is the key factor for any game. The bigger the game the closer you need to be
with any caliber. Even the 338s have there limits and one must know them.

Recovery after the shot is the most important part of a successful hunt and the longer the
distance is the recovery is more difficult if the wrong caliber is chosen.

I like having the choice on making a long shot or not so I always take a rifle that will work
at the maximum range possible for the terrain I'm in. and if I get a closer shot GREAT but
if a long shot presents it self I'm ready as long as the recovery is possible.

Just my 2 cents

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