Are Elk easy to kill?

Discussion in 'Elk Hunting' started by Topshot, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. Topshot

    Topshot Well-Known Member

    Nov 3, 2008
    I have shot plenty of Red Stags which are a bit smaller than Elk and found them easy to kill. A .243 would do OK.

    I have also shot plenty of Sambar deer which are between Red deer and Elk in size, and found them hard to kill. A 338 is a good choice.

    I saw plenty of Elk while on a Mule deer hunt in New Mexico and was impressed by their size, but have always wondered, really, how tough are Elk to kill in comparison to other animals?

    FEENIX Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2008
    Easy? Tough? I'm staying away from that debate ... way too many factors, esp when "adrenaline" is involved. IMHO, shot placement and excellent bullet design, and staying within the hunter/equipment limitations are key factors ... and yes any of the .338s are excellent choices ... I use .200g NAB (.300WM) and .225g NAB (.338WM) in my pursuit.

    Good luck and happy safe hunting.


    Last edited: Jun 26, 2009

  3. gamedog

    gamedog Well-Known Member

    Aug 16, 2007
    Elk are tough as nails!
    They have a very high will of survival.
  4. AJ Peacock

    AJ Peacock Well-Known Member

    Oct 7, 2005
    If they absolutely aren't hit in a "dead right there" area (ie. central nervous system), they can go for miles.

    I saw a cow that was hit in a single lung and heart that went for 2 miles. I think the blood filled the area around the heart and it acted like a sump pump! The hit was with a 7mm Rem Mag from about 300yds. The only reason she stopped in 2 miles was that she was shot with the 7mm again behind the ear as she looked back to see who was following her! I'm sure that 1/2" further back on the heart and she would have went only 50yds or so.

    Elk can die easily, but it's not the norm.

  5. grit

    grit Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2005
    I have personally seen somewhere near thirty elk killed, with bows to 338's. Those that were hit well died immediately. Those hit marginally or poorly exhibited an astounding vitality.
  6. bigngreen

    bigngreen Well-Known Member

    Nov 24, 2008
    If you botch the first shot then they will take you for a death march but a good shot through both lungs or the heart and they usually tip after a few steps even with smaller calibers. The most sure thing is getting both lungs, I have actually had bad luck with high shoulder or spine on an elk I have seen two bang flops then come back to life. I have had whitetail does pack more than an elk from the same gun. What ever caliber that one can shoot well and will get through the chest will kill them as long as the caliber and bullet match the range.
  7. kcebcj

    kcebcj Well-Known Member

    Jan 28, 2008
    I’ve been hunting and shooting elk for a long time and AJ’s statement above is as real as it gets.
  8. dirtball

    dirtball Well-Known Member

    Jan 18, 2007
    I had a guide in New Mexico tell me about a 360" bull that was killed by one of his hunters, and when they gutted the animal it only had one massive lung. Where the other lung should have been there was a fist size mass of scar tissue and in it was a Thunderhead broad head.
    This bull had about 20 cows with him and seamed to be doing just fine.
    YEA they are tough and a one lung hit usually is not going to get the job done.
  9. kcebcj

    kcebcj Well-Known Member

    Jan 28, 2008
    Another similar story told to me by good buddy here in Idaho who is an avid bow hunter of a bull that he had taken that had an aluminum arrow in its brisket and lung from the season before or longer. The arrow was covered with scar tissue or some sort of growth. He had cow talked the bull in and shot him at about 10 yards broadside. They are an amazing animal.
  10. remingtonman_25_06

    remingtonman_25_06 Well-Known Member

    Jun 4, 2003
    YES and NO.

    If you hit them in the right spot, they will die like any other animal. They are not bullet proof.

    If you do not hit them in a very good spot, they will take you to the deepest, thickest, darkest dam hole they can find.

    I've shot elk with a few cartridges from 7 RM, 300 Win, 300 RUM, 338 EDGE from 200-915 yards. I"ve killed 10 elk in my 11 years of elk hunting and I would say that 75% of them dropped in there tracks with a good placed shoulder hit. If your using enough gun, a magnum, with the right bullet to get through the shoulders, there is no place for that elk to go but straight down with 2 broken shoulders. I dont care about meat loss, I care about putting my animal on the ground. A little bit of meat is better then no meat, famous words from my uncle who has shot over 25 bulls and I dont know how many elk.

    I dont even go for heart/lung shots on elk because they never drop. They will still run aways and I dont like tracking. I want them DRT and if you use the right bullet, put it in the right spot, there really not that hard to kill.

    Elk are also a VERY big target and offer VERY large vitals. I dont see how people cant precisely put a bullet in an elks vitals. Amazes me actually. A nice cow or spike will easily give you a 20" radius kill zone, a big bull is even bigger then that.
  11. J E Custom

    J E Custom Well-Known Member

    Jul 29, 2004
    I have seen Elk killed with bow and gun and based on this I have my on opinion like every
    one else and I recomend 70 lbs + for bows and heavy arrows to achieve pass through

    For rifles the 270 win with 150 gr bullets would be my minimum cal , with the 338 as the
    recommended cal with 200gr+ bullets. I have never owned one but the best / most consistent
    DRT rifle In the hands of a good shot was the 340 Weatherby Mag. (A 338 cal).

    So any of the 338s will work well if shot placement is good.

    As to the toughness of Elk They are big and there nervous system will handle a lot of pain and
    stress so shot placement is very important.

    Also if most game animals are at rest/undisturbed they will go down faster because they don't
    have the adrenaline working for them.

    But if they are spooked or warned of danger they become harder to kill quickly unless you make
    a spinal shot.

    I have killed Elk with both bow and rifle and had them stand there confused and not move
    because they were totally surprised and then just fall dead in there tracks.

    But have shot them after spooking them and have them run amazing distances with perfect shot placement. (With bow and rifle). So I don't recomend running shots at all unless you have good
    shoes and plenty of time.

  12. elkthumper

    elkthumper Well-Known Member

    Dec 29, 2008
    As usual, your getting some spot on advice from everyone, I'll just throw in my two cents. Elk are incredibly tuff creatures and shot placement is critical. It was mentioned before that they do have a large vital area but hey, aim small miss small right. Out of respect for the animal I personally don't like to take running shots at them, plenty of people can it's just not for me.
    Last fall my 14 year old and I were sitting on a ridge and a group of five cows came running down the next ridge over about 350 yars away. They were loping down the mountain through sparse timber, offering no shot for my son and his 7mm-08. About three ridges behind us a group of guys started firing shots over our heads at these elk running through trees from about 1000 yards. Never did catch up to them but they sure would have gotten a piece of my mind.
    Long story short, out of respect for the elk, use the biggest calliber you can shoot accuratley, and know your own personal limitations and stick to them.
    p.s. I killed my first elk when I was 13, raggy 5 point bull that came flying in to a cow call had to shoot him through the chest in self defense at 35 yards cause he was gonna run me over, 270 win with peep sights.
  13. LongBomber

    LongBomber Well-Known Member

    Dec 27, 2008
    There are guys with alot more experience than me, but I have seen 20ish elk taken over the years, by me and my hunting partners. I have to say that when you bugle them in and they are ready for a good fight they seem to be alot tougher. If you pop one at 400 yards with a unsuspecting heart shot, they seem to go down much easier, just a little stagger and flop. You bugle one in, and he's already all charged up and they can be very tough, even with a solid double lung hit they can go a heck of a long ways. I have seen an elk hit (with a 300win mag/180 partition) in the base of the heart with half of his lungs gone go a almost a half mile before piling up.

    Personally my call for an elk rifle starts with a 3. Something from a 300wsm up to a large cased 338, depending on the ranges you a looking at.
  14. Long Time Long Ranger

    Long Time Long Ranger Well-Known Member

    Mar 12, 2002
    Elk can be extremely tough to bring down at times. Therefore plan for the toughest one out there with the strongest will to live. I remember having a lengthy discussion with Elmer Keith on this subject many years ago. At the time I was shooting a 300 wby and a 7mm-300 wby at long range elk and spouting all the ballistics crap at him like any other young know it all who had been in on 30-40 elk kills and knew it all. But thank goodness I was smart enough to realize I was in the presence of a man who had been there/done that with a few hundred elk experiences. He told me never hunt elk with anything less than 338 caliber and I really questioned that. Now that I have going on 40 years of elk hunting behind me and witnessed a few hundred shot I am firmly in Elmer's camp on this one. The next year I took Elmer's advice and built my first 340 wby which was the most power at the time on a standard mag action available to the average guy. That year I found out he knew exactly what he was talking about with the effects of the 340 on elk. Far greater than anything I had ever witnessed. Then I stepped it up to the 338-378 wby wildcat that he suggested and later again the 338-416 rigby imp. Now after all these years I know what an elk rifle is. It is what Elmer told me it was over 30 years ago.