Best cartridge for Elk?


July 3, 2007, 05:11 PM
There are a lot of choices for Elk out there, some say the .270 is too light or the magnums are really too much and not needed, but what are the min. cartridge and what is the max cartridge?

If you could ONLY select 3 calibers to go elk hunting what would they be?
Also to throw in the mix, say we are hunting elk at mid range or a variety of common distances (we will say average distances).

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July 3, 2007, 05:38 PM
Max: .338 Winchester Mag
Min: .270 Winchester

1. The .35 Whelen.

2. The .35 Whelen.

3. The .35 Whelen.

30-06 lover
July 3, 2007, 05:43 PM
The Min. I think should be .270
The Max I think should be 375 Mag

My three:
1. 30-06 Springfield
2. 300 Win Mag
3. 338 Win Mag

For an Elk only round I think that 300 Win Mag and 338 Win Mag reign as the best of the best. Be safe.

July 3, 2007, 05:47 PM
Max? .50 BMG?

There's a lot of meat on an elk. There will still be some left.

The "max" really isn't that important unless you're rabbit hunting.

The real question is, "What's a good cartridge that balances cost, trajectory, effectiveness, recoil, accuracy, and range?"

July 3, 2007, 06:40 PM

Two sets of rules for an elk rifle:

1) Easterner or Californian: you MUST buy a new rifle in the latest and greatest hard hitting magnum. When in doubt, check with Boddington.

2) long time resident westerner: take your hand-me-down 30-06 and plain Remington ammo to slay giant elk.

Don't kid yourself. Giant elk know if you're a local hunter or from a different time zone or two away. Elk will NOT topple over from a 30-06 bullet unless you're a local hunter.


July 3, 2007, 06:53 PM
I believe that a 270 win should be your smallest caliber choice and I would have to say 338 win (I might chose a 375 but for the weight of most 375 caliber rifles. With the elk hunting I've done a heavy 375 would not be fun to pack around.) I have used both a 270 and my current elk rifle a 300 and both are great calibers. These caliber choice questions are like opening pandora's box though. To many choices to pick from. Good luck.

1st-270 Win
2nd- 300 Win
3rd- 338 Win

Just one mans opinion.

July 3, 2007, 07:06 PM
I have 4 centerfire rifles for big game:

I would not hesitate to use any one of them on elk...

July 3, 2007, 07:31 PM
You would use 25WSSM on an elk??? Would you be shooting it through the eye or what? :confused:

July 3, 2007, 08:01 PM
Shot placement is everything.

July 3, 2007, 08:12 PM
Started in my youth with an 06, but just KNEW I NEEDED a 300 Win Mag (though I lost no elk & filled every year). I'm back to the 06. Father-in-law of years ago used nothing but a .270 with no problems whatsoever, but the man could both HUNT and SHOOT.

July 3, 2007, 08:44 PM
Well said TR, guys that would use a 50 BMG have never shot or cut up much big game IMHO.
Me too Koja48 my '06 works great, it is a whole bunch more where ya hit em than what mega magnum you use.

July 3, 2007, 10:09 PM
In a recent Safari Club magazine, there was a whole article devoted to elk cartridges. With proper bullets and good shot placement, even the 257 Roberts is adequate for elk and it doesn't need to be a head shot either.

That said, my choice would be a 300 Weatherby Magnum with the full realization that it's power isn't needed; I just like it.

July 3, 2007, 10:45 PM
My buddy's elk guide told him most of the guides in his area carry a 25-06...The 25WSSM is a ballistic twin to it, and I am confident of my marksmanship.

July 3, 2007, 10:48 PM
300 Win Magnum is the preferred caliber in Montana and Colorado to take Elk. Though you could get away with a 30-06 ... or .270 ... most serious hunters I have seen in the past 20+ years use a 300 Win Mag due to its HUGE knock down capabilities. Its a great round for any large animal in North America :D

July 3, 2007, 11:45 PM
Get away with a .270 or the minimum of a .270? Please - the .270 is just fine. Compare a .270 and a 7mm mag and you won't see much difference - speed might be a difference but they will both knock down elk and leave a big enough exit wound to suffice.

And yes, I've dropped elk with either round with absolutely no problems.

July 4, 2007, 12:25 AM
.270 with 150 grain Federal Nosler Partitions will work awesome. If you want a cheap Elk gun just go pick up a Lee Enfield .303 British and sporterize it like this guy did: Looks awesome!

July 4, 2007, 12:35 AM
I agree with Logos, 35 Whelen, and to round it out, either 30-06 or .300 Win Mag

July 4, 2007, 01:22 AM
I'm using an -06. Working up 180 gr loads wth Barnes X and Nosler Partition bullets.

As far as what caliber for you, whichever works best for you. If you have an -06, use it. If not, what do you have in the safe?

July 4, 2007, 01:37 AM
Hell Elkhuntingfool, why not just grab a .22 short and pop it in the eye ball and save some big $$$ :D

Yes of course a .270 will take it so would a .308 Win or even 30-30, but to humanely and responsibly take an animal in the 800-1000lbs weight category I would recommend a little larger if you have it. There is nothing worse than tracking down an animal in the mountains because you did not use every advantage available :D .30-06 is really as low as I would 100% recommend even though all my elk shots have been within 100 feet, its just nice having that exit wound you can stick your fist in as a take down :D

July 4, 2007, 02:23 AM
Um, a 22 shot to the eye would be unethical.

I'm guessing you don't hunt elk much. Doesn't matter if there's a hole the size of a fist - they'll run. It's all about placement - you know that. If I can get a 5 shot grouping the size of a silver dollar at 200 yards with my .270 - why would I think I'd need a larger caliber gun? Why would anyone think that?

You guys crack me up with the supposed need for a large caliber rifle. Hell, I've dropped elk with my bow and it certainly does not have the knock down power of a .300 or .308, .338, whatever - it's all about placement.

So, take your large caliber rifles to the range and practice - oh and don't flinch because the recoil is more than you can handle.

See you in the trees - or maybe not - I'm wearing camo :neener:

July 4, 2007, 02:27 AM
Alphazulu6, go read this.

Furthermore I have killed enough elk with a '06, and a puny 150 grain bullet to know it's all you need if you shoot em where they otta be shot. One with a 308 with the same bullets and one with a muzzle loader, I did use a 320 grain bullets in the black powder. I did recover one black powder bullet that had broken the shoulder bone a ince or so below the joint, but the other one went clean through both lungs and out the other side.
I am not the great white hunter and have only killed a dozen or so but of that only one bullet was ever recovered. That was a second shot taken at at 150 to maybe 225 yards across a river as the animal was attempting to stand back up, after the first shot knocked it down. The bullet entered the neck took out 4 inches or so of neck bone, on through the shoulder blade and came to a stop against the hide on the far side.

That el cheapo hand loaded Remington core-lokt bullet still weighed over half it's original weight, jacket and lead were still together.
I got that bullet caliber advice from a older uncle that " got his elk" 17 years in a row and that was what he always used and it seems to work OK for me.
Them elks ain't got no tougher than they were back then neither.

Elk are not bullet proof and it's darn seldom one weighs 800 Lbs much less 1000. Go read a bit of that page I linked cause it's right on. The elk I shot last year yielded 150 something pounds of clean boned meat.

Guys read to durn many magazine articles and get magumitus IMHO.

July 4, 2007, 02:27 AM
I dont think that the recoil from a 30-06 is any different from that of a .270 or even a 300 mag. At least I don't notice it??? But I agree with you to the extent that I know that I can hunt an elk with a .308 which is less powerful than a .270. I do however take into account the size of the animal and always try to be responsible with the caliber chosen to take it with. :D Thank god I have never had to shoot an animal twice nor chase a wounded one down but I can assure you that I have always used the correct caliber for the game. And as such will not recommend that someone hunt elk with a .270 if they have a larger caliber at their disposal.

And a 30-06 will take any animal in North America... no doubt about that. The debate was over a .270 vs 300 mag to take an elk... In the higher peaks of Northern Montana... they must just feel more than 800 lbs when your packin the darn things out.. :D I try to err on the side of the .300 mag :D But all three were in my three gun line-up I guess.

July 4, 2007, 02:31 AM
I see guys flinching constantly at the range - pretty pathetic - which is one reason why I bow hunt - those morons wouldn't be able to hold a 70lb bow at full draw for too long and they'd give up and go back to the rifle hunt.

I'm not a huge fan of big calibers - a .270 has dropped many many elk - not as many as the 30.06 - but still quite a few. It's a very versitile round and the recoil is manageable. My son shoots a .270 with no issues and while there are larger calibers available to him - why bother? He's just fine with a
.270 and the elk do not know the difference between a .270, 30.06, 7mm mag, .300 ultra, etc...

July 4, 2007, 02:40 AM
Yes true until you get into the .300 Mag the ballistic differences between the three are not substantial.

July 4, 2007, 03:09 AM
where I am the most seen calibers you see for elk hunters is the 30-06 or 7mm. You do see some city twits with the 300 to 338 mags but they cant seem to hit a elk with the things or much but the dirt 50 feet from the target when sighting at the range the day before the seasion opens. I have also seen a lot of elk killed with the .270 and 25-06 but thats not as common is it used to be. Myself I mainly use a 8mm. Some years ago one of the guys I was hunting with had a scoped 94 in 30-30 he could not hit a barn with and I let him borrow my old 94 25-35. He dropped at pretty nice 6x6 bull at just over 130yds with it.

July 5, 2007, 04:46 PM
Hey there, fellas...

I just moved to Oregon, and am looking forward to the opportunity for some new game species, including elk. The only gun I have that might be appropriate is a lever action 30-30. I know the range limitations of the gun and the round, but assuming that I can get within a reasonable range, is a 170 grain 30-30 round adequate/ethical for taking an elk?


July 5, 2007, 05:01 PM
If I was stalking and could get between 30-75yrds of an elk I'd have no problem using a .30-30.

July 5, 2007, 08:35 PM
eliphalet, your tune surely has changed since the the thread about hunting deer with a .357 mag... I seem to recall you being pretty addamment about using enough gun and then some.:D

Sorry about the highjack........

July 5, 2007, 09:07 PM
13 I wasn't gonna reply but will add this. There is a world of difference in a experienced hunter armed with a good rifle in 30-06 and some one that is asking if a 4" barrel 357 is enough for deer. Of course a 357 can kill a deer and in the right hands, under the proper circumstances would be fine. That said, if someone is having to ask there is a real good chance he otta have more gun.

July 5, 2007, 09:16 PM
So, phantom shouldn't use a .270 because he had to ask?:neener:

July 5, 2007, 09:24 PM
Of course a 357 can kill a deer and in the right hands, under the proper circumstances would be fine. That said, if someone is having to ask there is a real good chance he otta have more gun.

Yeah exactly. Lets be reasonable and humane to the damn critters. A 30-30 is really pushing it for elk. A .357 mag 4" barrel for deer.... come on. I could say that I dropped a deer with my Ruger 10/22 but it would not be ethical for me to tell others that its perfectly ok to go out and do the same. (and no I have not ever shot at a deer with a .22 I was just using it as an example of being an unethical sportsman)

Texas Colt
July 5, 2007, 09:25 PM
Going back to the original question about which 3 calibers would you choose for elk...

I am surprised that no one has mentioned the 45-70. It certainly has more than enough power. The 38-55 is another great old caliber with plenty of punch. As a bow hunter and handgun hunter, when I do hunt with a rifle it's within 100 yards and with open sights.

Of course, shot placement is the bottom line. So no matter what caliber you choose, be really good with it.

Here's my picks:

1. 45-70
2. 38-55
3. 7.62x54R

July 5, 2007, 09:44 PM
It might be wise to use a proven and premium bullet in whatever caliber you choose. Spare no expense and research it a little.

The question of the .357 is interesting. I'd call it a stunt, and at a range of no more than 25 yards and a good round in a long barrel.

The good .25 calibers with a premium 120 grain bullet are not much different from the .270 and are still acceptable, but I'd sure prefer a shot that goes behind the shoulder and takes both lungs and doesn't have to deal with bone.

The OP is right to ask about these things. I hope he chooses wisely.

Respect the elk. He is an animal of some dignity and grace......and all animals that we take deserve to die well and quickly.

July 5, 2007, 09:58 PM
Never miss a good opportunity to shut up!"

Marksman13, you might find it advantageous to follow your own signatures advice.
Sorry forum I know I shouldn't but couldn't resist and will say no more whatever is thrown at me.

Josh, if a 30-30 was all I had I wouldn't stay home but would be very careful with distance and shot placement. If your hunting in western Oregon there would be a good chance of close distances. I would want a standing broadside shot in around the 100 yards or less category. I killed a elk with a 50 caliber black powder last fall with just such a shot. Good luck.

July 5, 2007, 10:03 PM
Respect the elk. He is an animal of some dignity and grace......and all animals that we take deserve to die well and quickly.


July 6, 2007, 12:02 AM
Respect? If we really respected them we wouldn't take their lives :) You don't kill something or someone you respect. :)

July 6, 2007, 12:03 AM
Respect? If we really respected them we wouldn't take their lives You don't kill something or someone you respect.

Haha too funny. I plead the fifth.

July 6, 2007, 12:11 AM
I prefer to Honor their lives by eating their meat. Makes me feel better about killing them LOL.

Art Eatman
July 6, 2007, 10:54 AM
Enuf wandering about. That elk's done run off and gone...

:), Art

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