My first elk hunt

Agirdude

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Jul 26, 2021
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Lewistown, Montana
I will be hunting elk this year in Colorado. I have a 308 and 6.5. Both shoot very accurate out to 500 yard. I practice shooting from 300 to 500
Are both guns enough for an ethical kill I read ballistics and plan to use 1500 ft lbs of force giving me a range of 400 yards. I will be using Hornady eldx
If 6.5 is a creedmor, 300 yd Max. 1500 ft/lbs is insufficient, 2000 better. 308 slightly better, but not much. Do not start your elk hunting career off with a wounded, or worse, lost animal. Either of those two are rather marginal, and will require ideal shot placement, no running shots. Even the much maligned ‘06 is better. If afraid of recoil, take up bowling! If you can’t stand the punch, don’t get in the ring. Agirdude.
 

michaelfelix13

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If 6.5 is a creedmor, 300 yd Max. 1500 ft/lbs is insufficient, 2000 better. 308 slightly better, but not much. Do not start your elk hunting career off with a wounded, or worse, lost animal. Either of those two are rather marginal, and will require ideal shot placement, no running shots. Even the much maligned ‘06 is better. If afraid of recoil, take up bowling! If you can’t stand the punch, don’t get in the ring. Agirdude.
Great answer . I cannot believe how much knowledge you communicated in so many words.
 

dogz

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SWMT
If 6.5 is a creedmor, 300 yd Max. 1500 ft/lbs is insufficient, 2000 better. 308 slightly better, but not much. Do not start your elk hunting career off with a wounded, or worse, lost animal. Either of those two are rather marginal, and will require ideal shot placement, no running shots. Even the much maligned ‘06 is better. If afraid of recoil, take up bowling! If you can’t stand the punch, don’t get in the ring. Agirdude.


Different minds think different ways for sure and while I agree it's no bueno to wound an elk as the big buggers can cover a lot of real estate but.......as for the 308 or the 6.5 CM being marginal rounds I don't concur at all.

I totally agree when it comes to running shots though, I'll only shoot at a running critter if it's already wearing a bullet!

Different strokes I guess.
 

michaelfelix13

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Different minds think different ways for sure and while I agree it's no bueno to wound an elk as the big buggers can cover a lot of real estate but.......as for the 308 or the 6.5 CM being marginal rounds I don't concur at all.

I totally agree when it comes to running shots though, I'll only shoot at a running critter if it's already wearing a bullet!

Different strokes I guess.
You are right on.
 

M77Fan

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Oct 26, 2020
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Wyoming
Ah, a first elk hunt. Nice to see through someone's eyes again what that is like. Have a great time! Hunting elk is very different from hunting eastern white-tailed deer, but in some ways can also be similar. One difference is when you blow elk out of an area they are g.o.n.e., no circling back or showing up in the same place tomorrow. They cover huge swaths of ground. But it is still possible to follow up spooked elk and get a second chance - as long as you don't let them know you are there. The lead cows are very crafty though.

Short answer, I would go .308. It will deliver a result very similar to the .30-06. I don't have one, and have only ever shot a deer with one, so I cannot be accused of being a fanatic on that caliber. But the rifle I did use was used by a friend for years on all his elk until he "learned that caliber was considered inadequate on elk". Hmm fed his family for years, and he eventually went back to it for his elk hunting.

My first few elk fell to a .270 Win. I was careful of shot placement, used Partitions, and collected meat. At some point, hunting Montana around grizzlies, I shifted up to 7mm Rem mag. I use that or a .338 Win mag depending on bear density. I am still careful of shot placement, but the larger two break bone better if I am off a little or the animal moves. Plenty of comments on calibers, but I got that you have the two and are not really looking to buy a new rifle just for this trip.

In CO my shots probably ranged an average of less than 70 yards, but from 13 to maybe 130. There I hunted dark timber almost always. In WY, there have been some long and some short shots, probably the longest closer to 250. Different cover of thick timber and larger park openings (grassy clearings), or ridge to ridge shots in those WY areas.

DRT does not happen except with certain damage. In my experience (from necropsying animals to evaluate damage) a spine or forward central nervous system hit is DRT. Hitting the major arteries as they exit the top of the heart is DRT. Most others run or walk a bit. One through and through double lung went at least a quarter mile at a gallop. Tricky tracking on dry pine needles, that one.

Personally, because of bad hits and horrible results I have seen on still living but doomed animals that others did not recover, I don't take head shots. Shot off jaws, shot-through swollen tongues, and other such damage does kill the animal eventually, and very cruelly. They can run a long ways, but they can't drink or eat. Like some commented on neck shots, you can shoot through a lot that is not immediately fatal, but they do die in a few days.

Just a few thoughts based on experience.
 

michaelfelix13

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Messages
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Ah, a first elk hunt. Nice to see through someone's eyes again what that is like. Have a great time! Hunting elk is very different from hunting eastern white-tailed deer, but in some ways can also be similar. One difference is when you blow elk out of an area they are g.o.n.e., no circling back or showing up in the same place tomorrow. They cover huge swaths of ground. But it is still possible to follow up spooked elk and get a second chance - as long as you don't let them know you are there. The lead cows are very crafty though.

Short answer, I would go .308. It will deliver a result very similar to the .30-06. I don't have one, and have only ever shot a deer with one, so I cannot be accused of being a fanatic on that caliber. But the rifle I did use was used by a friend for years on all his elk until he "learned that caliber was considered inadequate on elk". Hmm fed his family for years, and he eventually went back to it for his elk hunting.

My first few elk fell to a .270 Win. I was careful of shot placement, used Partitions, and collected meat. At some point, hunting Montana around grizzlies, I shifted up to 7mm Rem mag. I use that or a .338 Win mag depending on bear density. I am still careful of shot placement, but the larger two break bone better if I am off a little or the animal moves. Plenty of comments on calibers, but I got that you have the two and are not really looking to buy a new rifle just for this trip.

In CO my shots probably ranged an average of less than 70 yards, but from 13 to maybe 130. There I hunted dark timber almost always. In WY, there have been some long and some short shots, probably the longest closer to 250. Different cover of thick timber and larger park openings (grassy clearings), or ridge to ridge shots in those WY areas.

DRT does not happen except with certain damage. In my experience (from necropsying animals to evaluate damage) a spine or forward central nervous system hit is DRT. Hitting the major arteries as they exit the top of the heart is DRT. Most others run or walk a bit. One through and through double lung went at least a quarter mile at a gallop. Tricky tracking on dry pine needles, that one.

Personally, because of bad hits and horrible results I have seen on still living but doomed animals that others did not recover, I don't take head shots. Shot off jaws, shot-through swollen tongues, and other such damage does kill the animal eventually, and very cruelly. They can run a long ways, but they can't drink or eat. Like some commented on neck shots, you can shoot through a lot that is not immediately fatal, but they do die in a few days.

Just a few thoughts based on experience.
Thank you M77. I may consider purchasing a new rile. I will have a few months to shoot and become comfortable. I now a 300wm will be sufficient. Any other suggestion on on caliber?
 

memtb

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Dec 30, 2013
Messages
1,702
Location
Winchester, Wy.
Ah, a first elk hunt. Nice to see through someone's eyes again what that is like. Have a great time! Hunting elk is very different from hunting eastern white-tailed deer, but in some ways can also be similar. One difference is when you blow elk out of an area they are g.o.n.e., no circling back or showing up in the same place tomorrow. They cover huge swaths of ground. But it is still possible to follow up spooked elk and get a second chance - as long as you don't let them know you are there. The lead cows are very crafty though.

Short answer, I would go .308. It will deliver a result very similar to the .30-06. I don't have one, and have only ever shot a deer with one, so I cannot be accused of being a fanatic on that caliber. But the rifle I did use was used by a friend for years on all his elk until he "learned that caliber was considered inadequate on elk". Hmm fed his family for years, and he eventually went back to it for his elk hunting.

My first few elk fell to a .270 Win. I was careful of shot placement, used Partitions, and collected meat. At some point, hunting Montana around grizzlies, I shifted up to 7mm Rem mag. I use that or a .338 Win mag depending on bear density. I am still careful of shot placement, but the larger two break bone better if I am off a little or the animal moves. Plenty of comments on calibers, but I got that you have the two and are not really looking to buy a new rifle just for this trip.

In CO my shots probably ranged an average of less than 70 yards, but from 13 to maybe 130. There I hunted dark timber almost always. In WY, there have been some long and some short shots, probably the longest closer to 250. Different cover of thick timber and larger park openings (grassy clearings), or ridge to ridge shots in those WY areas.

DRT does not happen except with certain damage. In my experience (from necropsying animals to evaluate damage) a spine or forward central nervous system hit is DRT. Hitting the major arteries as they exit the top of the heart is DRT. Most others run or walk a bit. One through and through double lung went at least a quarter mile at a gallop. Tricky tracking on dry pine needles, that one.

Personally, because of bad hits and horrible results I have seen on still living but doomed animals that others did not recover, I don't take head shots. Shot off jaws, shot-through swollen tongues, and other such damage does kill the animal eventually, and very cruelly. They can run a long ways, but they can't drink or eat. Like some commented on neck shots, you can shoot through a lot that is not immediately fatal, but they do die in a few days.

Just a few thoughts based on experience.

M77Fan, very good comments......and much as yourself, head shots are forbidden! We too, have seen animals suffering from “FAILED” head shots! Any animal wounded and suffering a lingering death is a very sad testimony......but, to slowly die from thirst when water is available seems especially cruel! We as hunters owe our game much mire respect! memtb
 

Teri Anne

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May 24, 2021
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49
Location
Wisconsin
I will be hunting elk this year in Colorado. I have a 308 and 6.5. Both shoot very accurate out to 500 yard. I practice shooting from 300 to 500
Are both guns enough for an ethical kill I read ballistics and plan to use 1500 ft lbs of force giving me a range of 400 yards. I will be using Hornady eldx
For most of my ballistic information I use the Federal ballistic data. Using the Premium Centerfire Rifle data for the .308 180 gr, .308 165 gr as well as the 6.5 140 gr data and their ballistic charts here are the projected energy, drop and wind drift at 500 yards.

Trophy Bonded Tip 180 grain 51.1 drop, Drift @ 10 mph 20.3 inches. Energy 1313 ft lbs.
Trophy Bonded Tip 165 grain 49.9 drop, Drift @ 10 mph 22.1 inches, Energy 1182 ft lbs
Accubond 140 grain 48.4 drop, Drift @ 10 mph 19.2 inches, Energy 1086 ft lbs

I know that there are probably many who will argue (because there always are) that there are better loads available across the board however the Federal Premium are known to be extremely accurate as well as 100% reliable. I personally would not take a chance on handloads on what could be the trophy hunt of a lifetime.

The most important factor is what happens when the bullet meets the intended recipient (Elk) at any given range and that is the energy that is imparted on the target. In this case with all other things being really negligible difference in drop and drift the .308 with the 180 grain Trophy Bonded Tip bullet wins hands down at 1313 ft lbs at 500 yards compared to the 165 grain Trophy Bonded Tip Bullet at 1182 ft lbs against the 6.5 140 grain Accubond with only 1086 ft lbs. The .308 180 grain is clearly the winner here.

On another note, presuming that this is going to be the hunt of a lifetime perhaps you should consider spending a bit more and purchasing (Or borrowing) a magnum class rifle which will do a better job that the .308. The .300 WIN MAG or 7MM REM MAG. Barring that a 30-06 or .270 are a lot better than either the .308 or 6.5. There is still enough time to decide on a rifle to take on the hunt, get it sighted in and ready for the hunt.

On another note a Browning ABolt, Savage Axis both available in a packages including a scope are available for under $700.00. Think about it.
 

Quintus

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Apr 15, 2013
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1,060
I know that there are probably many who will argue (because there always are) that there are better loads available across the board however the Federal Premium are known to be extremely accurate as well as 100% reliable. I personally would not take a chance on handloads on what could be the trophy hunt of a lifetime.
Interesting the different points of view. Many share this opinion and I certainly understand it. I am on the other side. I cannot imagine trusting any hunt to mass produced ammo, or a borrowed rifle.

One thing to consider about the 300 magnums. they are the 308 started faster, so same bullet potentially just energy retained further. If you are just starting with a magnum and have not mastered shooting it, you have a better chance of a poor shot at any range. Elk are not cape buffalo or coastal grizzlies. They have a good sized vital area and if you are a master of your 6.5 or 308 and let reason and not pride dictate your shot, you will be fine with a good bullet from either. Part of the reason the hated Creed has such a reputation as a good killer is that folks simply shoot it better and put bullets where they need to go. My $.02.
P.S. You may still want to take advantage of the "excuse" to buy another rifle;)
 

michaelfelix13

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Apr 16, 2015
Messages
62
For most of my ballistic information I use the Federal ballistic data. Using the Premium Centerfire Rifle data for the .308 180 gr, .308 165 gr as well as the 6.5 140 gr data and their ballistic charts here are the projected energy, drop and wind drift at 500 yards.

Trophy Bonded Tip 180 grain 51.1 drop, Drift @ 10 mph 20.3 inches. Energy 1313 ft lbs.
Trophy Bonded Tip 165 grain 49.9 drop, Drift @ 10 mph 22.1 inches, Energy 1182 ft lbs
Accubond 140 grain 48.4 drop, Drift @ 10 mph 19.2 inches, Energy 1086 ft lbs

I know that there are probably many who will argue (because there always are) that there are better loads available across the board however the Federal Premium are known to be extremely accurate as well as 100% reliable. I personally would not take a chance on handloads on what could be the trophy hunt of a lifetime.

The most important factor is what happens when the bullet meets the intended recipient (Elk) at any given range and that is the energy that is imparted on the target. In this case with all other things being really negligible difference in drop and drift the .308 with the 180 grain Trophy Bonded Tip bullet wins hands down at 1313 ft lbs at 500 yards compared to the 165 grain Trophy Bonded Tip Bullet at 1182 ft lbs against the 6.5 140 grain Accubond with only 1086 ft lbs. The .308 180 grain is clearly the winner here.

On another note, presuming that this is going to be the hunt of a lifetime perhaps you should consider spending a bit more and purchasing (Or borrowing) a magnum class rifle which will do a better job that the .308. The .300 WIN MAG or 7MM REM MAG. Barring that a 30-06 or .270 are a lot better than either the .308 or 6.5. There is still enough time to decide on a rifle to take on the hunt, get it sighted in and ready for the hunt.

On another note a Browning ABolt, Savage Axis both available in a packages including a scope are available for under $700.00. Think about it.
Thank you. I have studied ballistics data, sectional density, bc coieffent etc. I know my guns are on the light side. My son a lefty soots the famous Jack O'Conner 270. I am considering and new gun . Perhaps the 6.8 western. I am pretty good with both of my rifles out to 300 and at 500 can place in an 8 inch target . If I maintain a distance if 300 yard I think both will work with the correct bullet to penetrate the shoulder and get to the heart.
Thank you for your very informative reply can you advise who has the rifles you quoted? Is the browning much better than the axis. All our rifles are Tikka.
 

dluehrs

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michigan
Last year was my first Elk Hunt. Year before was my first moose hunt. Both bulls were taken with my Remington 788 in a .308 1/10” Twist 18.5” barrel. Used Federal Terminal Accent factory ammo 175gr. Both animals were around 180 yards and both were moving ,not running, and quartering away. Many may say I should have had at least a longer barrel or different ammunition or a different caliber but I shoot this rifle well, it’s light enough that I can carry it up mountains, quickly get it out of a scabbard while riding a mule and does the job. Bull moose went about 20 yards. Bull elk turned and charged directly at me, disappeared because of a draw between us, appeared about 55 yards away, turned sideways and dropped. When I go back for elk or moose it will be used again. I have my personal limits set for range, animal location, speed and direction. I have 06, 300 mag as options but this handy little rifle works for me within my limits.
 

michaelfelix13

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Messages
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Last year was my first Elk Hunt. Year before was my first moose hunt. Both bulls were taken with my Remington 788 in a .308 1/10” Twist 18.5” barrel. Used Federal Terminal Accent factory ammo 175gr. Both animals were around 180 yards and both were moving ,not running, and quartering away. Many may say I should have had at least a longer barrel or different ammunition or a different caliber but I shoot this rifle well, it’s light enough that I can carry it up mountains, quickly get it out of a scabbard while riding a mule and does the job. Bull moose went about 20 yards. Bull elk turned and charged directly at me, disappeared because of a draw between us, appeared about 55 yards away, turned sideways and dropped. When I go back for elk or moose it will be used again. I have my personal limits set for range, animal location, speed and direction. I have 06, 300 mag as options but this handy little rifle works for me within my limits.
Agree I also shot a moose in Maine with my ,308. First shot 75 ydrs drop him to his knee second shot 80 yds drop him. Ran another 30 yds and dropped. Another hunts in camp with a 338 RUM shot a bull 100 yds went down got back up and ran off never located the bull. Mine was pretty big for Maine. 44 inch spread over 1000 lbs
 

Northkill

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Thank you. I have studied ballistics data, sectional density, bc coieffent etc. I know my guns are on the light side. My son a lefty soots the famous Jack O'Conner 270. I am considering and new gun . Perhaps the 6.8 western. I am pretty good with both of my rifles out to 300 and at 500 can place in an 8 inch target . If I maintain a distance if 300 yard I think both will work with the correct bullet to penetrate the shoulder and get to the heart.
Thank you for your very informative reply can you advise who has the rifles you quoted? Is the browning much better than the axis. All our rifles are Tikka.
6.8 Western would be an excellent choice.
 

M77Fan

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Wyoming
Thank you M77. I may consider purchasing a new rile. I will have a few months to shoot and become comfortable. I now a 300wm will be sufficient. Any other suggestion on on caliber?

There are so many choices that several will work. Really it is splitting hairs. I am a throwback, so I use what I refer to as "classic" calibers. Were it not for having my pet 7 mag, I would be using a .30-06 where I am not worried about a grizzly encounter. (In reality, a .30-06 is adequate for a L48 bear.)

Any caliber that sits ballistically around a .30-06, as a .308 does with a good bullet, really ought to be sufficient on elk. Much smaller, meh, how much do you want to have to look through black timber deadfall snarls all day because you were a little under-gunned?

But things to consider if you actually do want to expand your stable of rifles: What might you use that new one for other than, or in addition to elk? And, what can you presently get appropriate ammunition for so you can sight in, practice, and have sufficient left to hunt with? That second question is one that until recently we never would have asked at all, but these are weird times.

Others have other opinions based on different experiences, but personally, I like to see a lot of internal damage in the heart-lung area when I necropsy an animal, and I don't like having to track one a long ways. I don't trust the minimal calibers and lighter loads on elk or even deer. I prefer adequate loads and calibers for the size of the game, in case I can't get it perfect. For certain, it is not always perfect.

Sending more detailed PM.
 
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