Serious question about caliber and elk potential

Discussion in 'Long Range Hunting & Shooting' started by happylilcuss, Jul 20, 2009.

  1. happylilcuss

    happylilcuss Well-Known Member

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    Ok so a little about me first. I was an outfitter in OR for 6yrs for Upland, waterfowl, deer, and elk. I have wittnessed big game animals taken with just about every range of caliber (from .223 to 30-378) some taken cleanly some not. I like most have had the campfire chat about caliber and usefullness eithics and respect for the game. This is just an fyi to show background and expierence.

    Ok so the one burning question that I seem to harbor is this: (Now please dont take this as me taking a shot at someone or me thinking I am right and everyone else is wrong cause I really dont know the answer.) Well, anyway here goes.

    Why do so many people seem to have the thought process that in order to take an animal of elk size that you have to use a large caliber? IE. if you are going to go elk hunting you should go into the field with no less than a large .30 round. And if you are really out to take care of business you should be using a .338 or bigger?

    I have a couple examples to compare for this question.. Early in this last century the 30-30 killed as many big game animals as any other cal. I have witnessed a .270 kill with one shot no less than 10 bull elk. I have read in the book "the alaska wollf man" that he killed moose, cariboo, wolves, and dall sheep with one shot with as small as a .220 swift. It is legal to take elk with as light as a #40 bow. So why is it that when a firearm is involved it seems so many think that a large cal bullet is all that is ethical..

    To be continued so as this post doesnt get too long to read.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2009

  2. happylilcuss

    happylilcuss Well-Known Member

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    Re: Serious question about caliber and LR potential

    Now understand I am not advocating everyone go out and start hunting with "light" cal weapons.. I am also not so much talking about how BC comes into play with the bigger cals.. Come to think of it I am also not talking so much about what most on here consider LR..

    I am well aware how with the larger cal the error factor is increased. I am also aware how the larger cal BC come into effect. However I read on here a lot about how the 7mm is prob on the light side. It has BC better than most of the .30 cal bullets.

    It is my opinion that sometimes the larger the cal the poorer the choice for most hunters. Now let me clarify.... I strongly feel that no matter what rifle you choose it mostly boils down to shot placement and comfort of the rifle. If you can shoot your 243 lights out all day long but flinch every time you shoot your 300 wby than I feel you should take your 243 hunting and understand its limitations..

    OK sorry for the rant I probably shouldnt have even posted this as its all conjecture and opinion.. Sorry guys.,, Flame On!!
     

  3. Coyboy

    Coyboy Well-Known Member

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    Re: Serious question about caliber and LR potential

    On this site it has to do with the range of the target, I doubt the 30-30 has ever killed an elk at over 500 yards.

    With respect to the 338 on this site that has to do with high bc bullets and less drift at LR.

    Under 300 yards I fully agree, about any modern cartrige with a bore over 25 with a good bullet will kill elk.
     
  4. AJ Peacock

    AJ Peacock Well-Known Member

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    Re: Serious question about caliber and LR potential

    The easy answer is that this is long range hunting. If you want to shoot deer and elk at the distances that most folks shoot them at (75-250 yds), just about anything will work because perfect shot placement is easy. Get out at 700yds or more on elk in field conditions and I wouldn't want to be shooting a 270win or a 220 swift.

    I've seen Bull Elk taken with a 22-250, .243, 270win, 7mm-08, 7mm Rem Mag, 300win Mag, 30-30win, 338Edge, 338Allen Mag and probably a couple I don't remember. I'd have no problem killing an elk with any of the above, but if I drive across the country and incur the expense of hunting elk, I'm not going to use the lighter end of this list.

    AJ
     
  5. Coyboy

    Coyboy Well-Known Member

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    Ha, I finally beat AJ on the keyboard:)
    Only by seconds :rolleyes:
     
  6. AJ Peacock

    AJ Peacock Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, but it appears that we always agree no matter which one of us is fastest on the keyboard.

    AJ
     
  7. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

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    Re: Serious question about caliber and LR potential

    Just one fella's experience.

    Had total commitment, back in the day, to the 270 Win. Way before 140 class bullets were developed for it. Used 130s exclusively. Shot lots of muleys a moose and no elk.

    Moved next to a fella that has harvested many elk. He's one of those big bore fellas.

    His elk rifles consist of 338 Win Mag w/200 gr bullets??? 358 Norma with heavier bullets and a 375 H&H. His long shots are off hand and a couple fo hundred yards.

    Has lost several animals. But its infrequently. Always a bad hit.

    Elk are a magical animal to many hunters, mostly from back east.

    Experience seems to reveal that elk are hard to kill.

    Every one seems to think that bigger is always better.

    I think it comes down to macho stuff. As my Ford is better than your TRD...........

    Having said that, my carry rifle is a 338 RUM w/300 SMKs and a 375 Allen Mag is under construction and my 270 shoots 170 class bullets really fast and far.........
     
  8. Michael Eichele

    Michael Eichele Well-Known Member

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    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.
     
  9. MontanaRifleman

    MontanaRifleman Well-Known Member

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    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.

    -MR
     
  10. Kevin

    Kevin Well-Known Member

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    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.
     
  11. happylilcuss

    happylilcuss Well-Known Member

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    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.
     
  12. liltank

    liltank Well-Known Member

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    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!!!:D

    Tank
     
  13. Fiftydriver

    Fiftydriver <strong>Official LRH Sponsor</strong>

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    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.
     
  14. J E Custom

    J E Custom Well-Known Member

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    +1

    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

    J E CUSTOM