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Are Elk easy to kill?

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Old 07-02-2009, 12:18 PM
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Location: Blackfoot, Idaho
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Re: Are Elk easy to kill?

Long Time Long Ranger,

Yep, that was Elmer!

In my younger years a about split myself at the crotch trying to keep one foot in Jack O'Connor's camp and the other in Elmers.

Since seriously attempting to harvest an elk the first two number to the right of the decimal are 33 and 37 and am feeling more comfortable all the time.
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Old 07-03-2009, 12:28 AM
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Location: South of Canada and North of Wyoming
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Re: Are Elk easy to kill?

Long Time Long Ranger,

Great story! Sounds like you could command a few nights around the campfire.

Top Shot,

I shot a large bodied 6 point bull once that probably went 900 lbs or so (my guess). I bugled him in and he had an attitude. It was almost self defense. Shot him at 15 yds through the boiler room with a 7mm RM 160 NPT. I could see his body shudder violently with the impact of the bullet. He lept straight up into the air and spun 180 degrees. As he came down he made a leap downhill and piled up right there.

In the scheels in great falls I saw several mounts of large bulls taken with a .243. I have a friend who has shot 3 with a .243 and NPT's and pretty much dropped them where they were or within a few yards (one shot kills). Would I recommend a .243? No... but a good expanding bullet placed through both lungs will kill them them fairly quick. If all I had was a .243, then yeah, I would hunt them with it and try to get within a 100 yds.

Of course the bigger the cartridge the better. They are tough critters, but if hit well they go down fairly quick.


Last edited by MontanaRifleman; 07-04-2009 at 08:07 AM.
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Old 07-04-2009, 12:45 AM
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Location: Wyoming
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Re: Are Elk easy to kill?

To add to the 24 caliber and elk. I guided a lady elk hunting for several years and she shot a 240 weatherby that I built for her. She used 100 grain nosler partitions loaded by her husband. She killed her bull every year. One year I had rifle problems in Alaska and had to borrow a 243 winchester for a moose hunt. Took a 65" bull with nosler partitions. Yeah, you can kill them with anything at times. But at the same time I have seen numerous bulls lost. I could name many instances with many rifles but one in particular was a very nice bull by a guy who swore that he could kill anything with his 7mm rem mag. I called in a bull and he shot it square broadside through the chest with it at 35 yards and the bull shuddered and hunched up but didn't go down. He whirled around before a second shot and was gone never to be seen again. The small caliber hole was covered by the thick hide and hair so he did not bleed much. He never said another word about the world beater 7mm rem mag. I built him a 340 weatherby the next year. If he had shot that bull with the 340 wby he would have the largest bull he ever saw on his wall instead of bear bait at some unknown location. Usually any rifle will do the job, but every once in a while bad things just happen with small caliber weapons on large game.

Roy, I had the good fortune to be in hunting camp with Jack up in Montana's Bull Mountains not long before he had the heart attack on the cruise with his wife. I was after elk with a bow and he was chasing deer and antelope with an outfitter up there at the time. He never wrote about the big ones that got away from his 270 that I know of. From my discussions with both I would charachterize them like this. Jack was a writer who hunted with top guides. Elmer was a true blue fronteirsman hunter and shooter who had some guys help him write in his later years. Jack was certainly more polished and Elmer was pretty rough around the edges. I treasure the chance meetings and discussion I had with both. Way beyond an average guy like me for sure.
Predictions are difficult, especially when they involve the future
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Old 07-04-2009, 04:58 PM
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Re: Are Elk easy to kill?

I shot a bull a couple of years ago slightly quartering away, took both lungs and shattered the offside shoulder. His front quarters collapsed at the shot and then he just stood back up. I hammered him again through the neck into the chest as he quartered to me. That put him down for good. This was with a 225 gr Accubond from a 338 RUM at 320 yds. Would he have died from the first shot? I'm sure. Might he have wandered off in the thick oak brush with little to no blood due to the lack of exit hole, yep. I've never seen a deer take a hit like that and stand back up. My rule of thumb on shooting elk (as drilled into my head by my elk hunting buddies with 20 and 30 years experience) is to keep shooting until they are on the ground. And use enough gun (translation leave the 25-06 at home if you are going to shoot the 85 gr Ballistic Tips that kill deer so fast. If you must bring it, use TSX or Partitions or the like).
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Old 07-06-2009, 11:20 AM
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Re: Are Elk easy to kill?


I know a guide here who also said he has seen some 7mmRM pass through shots on elk that resulted in the elk running off. Whenever I hear a story like this, two questions come to mind. Shot placement and bullet performance. On the first question, when it comes to guides, their clients will probably fall into one of two categories. One client will be a very proficient marksman and hunter and the other has no business being in the field with a rifle. I have personally "guided" a handfull of friends and associates hunting antelope, deer and elk and have experienced both situations. I had to put down a deer and an antelope with follow up shots, while they were running off, after they were both shot with poorly placed shots with a 7mm RM and 30.06, with a friend and an associate. Both gut shot. In another case, a deer hit the ground when shot and when we got to the other side of the coulee, where it was, it had gotten up and departed. We tracked it for a couple of miles and lost the blood trail and also lost the deer. This was with a 30.06 at about 200 yds.

I find this to be a very interesting subject, because of the range of results one may experience or hear. In one case, maybe a DRT elk from a .243 and another, a lost elk with no blood trail from a 7mm RM. In the case of the guy you were hunting with, did you actually see the impact of the bullet? A lot of guys will completely loose their bearings when confronted with the kill shot, especially if it's the animal of a life time. My old taxidermist told me that he has seen numerous antlers and horns with bullet holes through them. I looked at him in amazment and disbelief, and he said yup, guys will get fixated on the horns and shoot. A couple of years ago, I actually saw a huge Rocky Mtn Bighorn ram that scored 195, that the guy had just shot a couple of days earlier, and it had a bullet hole in the horns.

Speaking of bighorn rams and bullet performance. I also shot a B&C ram (back in 89) with the same rifle and load that I shot my large bull with. The immediate results were a little different. I shot the ram at about 150-200 yds right through the middle of the rib cage and saw him shudder and stumble forward a couple of steps and then he just stood there while his two friends trotted off into the badlands of the Missouri Breaks. I chambered another round, aimed and fired again. Nothing happened - he continued to stand there. I chambered and fired a third time and again, there was no movement or sign that he had been hit. I chambered my fourth and final round and put the cross hairs on the back. He shuddered and swayed and tipped over. When I climbed up to him, I saw that he was a very large animal with massive horns - I'm guessing well over 300 lbs. He scored 185. When I got him home (in 2 parts) and skinned him out. I found three entrance holes in the middle of his rib cage that could be covered with a silver dollar and three nickel to quarter sized exit holes that formed about a 2-3 inch group and the fourth shot through the top of the back bone. The ram was dead with the first shot but didn't know it. The first bullet (160 Partition) performed well creating a good wound channel. In the case of my point blank shot on the big bull, I'm guessung the front end of the bullet came completely apart resulting in some shrapnel wounds and destruction. I didn't really bother checking for bullet performance. It was almost dark, so I just field dressed it, went home, got my father-in-law the next morning, went back and he cut it up while I packed it out, so I never even saw the exit hole.

In the comparison between a 7mm and 338, the 338 will certainly be a better killer, but the difference in wound channel isn't all that much. If we assume the same construction of bullet and say a 2.5 increase in frontal area from expansion, the 7mm will create roughly a .71" diameter wound channel to the .845 diameter wound channel of a .338.

You have a lot more personal experience in the killing of elk than I, but my question is, how many elk have you seen run off to excessive distances and then actually recovered with both lungs shot through with a well performing, properly expanded bullet? Maybe I'm wrong (and that is always a possibility no matter how remote ), but I just do not not see an elk running off more than a couple of hundered yds with a .7" hole through both lungs. And if the bullet performs properly, it will certainly leave an exit hole large enough for a good blood trail, assuming good shot placement.

So my theory is that when an animal runs off and is not found due to lack of blood trail, is that either the shot was poorly placed and/or the bullet did not perform well, creating a large wound channel and exit hole. Maybe I'm wrong.


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Old 07-07-2009, 11:39 AM
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Re: Are Elk easy to kill?

That couldn't be any more right. Shot placement and the right bullet selection combination is often misunderstood.

A person recommended tsx or partition for 243s on larger animals. These bullets do penetrate better but the wound channel isn't as large.

I know the 7mm 168vld causes wound channels as large as 18" on elk. Anybody think that elk will recover like some others did? Don't know how large the wound channel gets with a 243 vld.

If the time comes that I have to kill an elk with a 243, it would be with the berger vlds due to excellent penetration and violent expansion. But the problem with the vlds is that they are not consistent for pass through (pretty much a granade goes off inside of the animal) so some hunters go with harder bullets for pass through like tsx and partitions.

Or you could do yourself a favor and get a larger caliber.

Elk are so dang tough!!!!

Its funny to see the topic "are elk easy to kill" -yeah with a cannon okay, okay, okay they can also die from a headshot with a 22.
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Old 07-07-2009, 12:53 PM
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Location: Michigan
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Re: Are Elk easy to kill?

Originally Posted by theodore View Post
A person recommended tsx or partition for 243s on larger animals. These bullets do penetrate better but the wound channel isn't as large.

I know the 7mm 168vld causes wound channels as large as 18" on elk. Anybody think that elk will recover like some others did? Don't know how large the wound channel gets with a 243 vld.

If the time comes that I have to kill an elk with a 243, it would be with the berger vlds due to excellent penetration and violent expansion.....

In my opinion, you can't have both excellent penetration (ability to deeply penetrate even when shot is at less than a perfect angle) AND violent expansion.

Bullets that expand violently and rarely exit will not (even if they are Bergers) penetrate deeply enough when a less than optimum shot is taken (rear qtr -> through pounch -> into vitals) with smaller caliber (like .243) bullets.

If some is good and more is better, then too much is just right.

My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought, cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives
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