I've never hunted elk but I killed a PA black bear in 05' with a 162 grain A-max at 505 yards. The bear went about 10 feet. Shot placement is key, same as on any game. Your bullet choice should work on any given game you mentioned just put it in the right spot. With practice you'll find that out to 400 yards isn't too hard to hit a 1 moa target with a good load, good gun and great optics.
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bowhunthard,**** Shot placement is paramount. The 165/168gn would be my bullet weight choice for the .30-06. I have never tried to take a deer with a SMK, I have however, killed a lot of crows with the 52gn SMK out of a .223 and .22-250.
I get the feeling your friend doesn't have that much experience behind a rifle if he has nightmares about 400yd shots. He might be better suited with a softport boat-tail. I've read of mixed results with the SMK, some being non-expanding and "penciling" through.
As for Ballistic Tips, the first sentence refers. I think they get a bad rap because some people aren't as precise in their shot placement as they should be or rush the shot. They aren't made to shoot length-ways through a deer (Triple-shock will). They will take out soft tissue like the heart and lungs and are accurate enough I have taken head and neck shots out to 200yds.
Whatever bullet you load for your friend, make enough he can practice, practice and practice some more.
I think that was a spine shot too. My reasoning; at the shot the deer hit the ground and his back legs "tucked" up under him and didn't move. Classic spine shot. His front legs were not "taken out", they continued to "claw" until he expired. The blood pumping out is normal. Not trying to start a fight just stating an opinion. JohnnyK.
bowhunthard: I agree with you on the spine shot. Most people do not know that the spine of a deer lays behind the top 1/3 of a deers shoulder blades. I have never seen one of those deer targets that has the vitals outlined that have the spine angle right. Most have it too high up on the animal. I think the bad rap of the Nosler ballistic tips that some refer to is from when they first came out with them. They were too thinly constricted when they first came out. They were extreamily accurate but they would go through the hide of a deer and expload and the deer would run off a ways and not leave a blood trail. This was my experience with the 30 cal. 150's from a 30-06. I would not use a BT for years after that. I did not know that when they went to putting them in the 50 count boxes that they had changed the bullet and made it thicker toward the base. It is a very good deer bullet now. The other reason for the bad rap on the BT is like you said, bad bullet placement and bad shooting and too little experience using it. Most people will base their bad rap on one or two at the most examples. If I did that I would say that the 30 cal. 155 Berger VLD is the worst deer killing bullet that was ever made because of the only deer that I have shot with one this past year. 112 yards perfect front shoulder broad side shot and the deer just took off running and went 50 yards over into a very think cutover and left no blood trail. But upon finding the deer it had a baseball size exit hole and the vitals were mush. You could not ask more of a bullet. I had this also happen this year for the first in over 150 deer shot with a 25-06 and a 117 Sierra. Same crossing of a log road the above deer was at 112 yards away. It was a perfect front shoulder broad side shot and like normal the deer bounced it hit the ground so hard. But! That deer got up off the ground and took off like a shot and went about 50 yards back into the cutover before dropping. Some deer are just plain tough and do not want to die even though they are dead one nanno-second after the bullet strikes them. I now use the Nosler ballistic tips in many of my deer hunting rifles. 125's in 308 & 30X47HBR, 120's in 6.5X55 and am going to give them a try in my new 264 mag. next year. I did use the 130's in a 270 until I traided it for the 264 mag. I hunt in east NC where the deer run 80 to 175 pounds average.
Not to hi jack the post. I forgot you guys were there and skinned the deer. You clearly can see the bullet strike the deer directly in the front shoulder. A fragment of bone or bullet shrapnel may have gotten lodged in his backbone and paralyzed his back legs but both front legs on that deer were jello with the shoulder plate bones on both front shoulders destroyed. Why he kicked his front legs like he did after both of the shoulder plates were destroyed, you'd have to ask the deer. The video was just to show what a 168 grain bullet will do to a deer at the distance. Think what you want, enough said. Back to the topic at hand.
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I use a 270 custom with a 26" Hines pipe on it. never had a problem dropping a deer with 130 gr. Hornady SST. But I just got a lazzeroni 7.82 WarBird and I can't wait to see what it will do. I'v been shooting at 700 yards and holding a 6" group. Going to try it at a 1000 yards next. I'm shooting a Nosler 165 gr Spitzer 104 gr. of reloader 25 at 3640 fps. But like they say practice makes prefect (or beter than you were).