Elk Rifle Setups...School me

jorswift

Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2018
Messages
99
Location
Indiana
This was my 2nd time tagging along for an elk hunt. Both were with rifle, 1st time was OTC for 2nd season and this year was limited 1st season. How do you setup for elk during 1st rifle season? I know weather/snow play a big part of the game, but what are your preferred setups?

We tried to find high spots to glass grassy open areas in the mornings/evenings and then glass the north sloped timber during the day. We either seen elk or heard elk every day scouting a few days prior to season opener. On opening day, we had a spike run through our lane, but was pretty quiet afterwards. About 11a across the ridge I glassed up a few bulls bedded in the north slope. It was about 650yards to the other side. We made our way down but could only cut off about 50 yards before we got into the thick stuff on our side of the ridge and had to shoot up, through it. My buddy and I practiced this summer/fall shooting long range, so we felt comfortable with the shot of 600 yards. Shot was perfect and I watch through the binos as elk take off after the shot. We walk back up the ridge, collect out things, eat some lunch and talk about what just happened and how we could have done it differently. We then make a gameplan on how to get to where the elk were and head that way. Sure enough, there were multiple elk bedded and the shot was good, as we have blood. We tracked for a good while, but he kept going and going. So after a couple hours we decide to back out and come back the next morning, and surely we would find him dead after the long cold night. We get back to our last known location and sure enough, we find blood and tracks, but no elk. WTF. So we make a game plan and track the elk through the snow. We tracked for another couple of miles up and down, over and under blowdowns and along the ridges. We finally caught up to him and luckily for us, was right off a trail now! Ended up only being a 3/4 miles pack out. Man these things are tough animals, to travel so far after a well placed shot! Much respect. BTW, this is our first elk.
 

Attachments

  • 06178EBA-82F3-4C2D-9F5C-5A5F1D096636.jpeg
    06178EBA-82F3-4C2D-9F5C-5A5F1D096636.jpeg
    499.8 KB · Views: 256

Samson7x

Member
Joined
Oct 29, 2019
Messages
57
Congrats on the bull!

In your case, not being able to get closer for a better shot and only cutting off 50yds, I would've likely shot from 650yds with a cleaner line of sight. I regularly practice out to 700 prior to season.

Out of curiosity, what caliber and where did the shot hit?
 

OXN939

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2018
Messages
1,371
Location
VA
The .300 is a great caliber and elk are tough.

Agreed, props on keeping with the tracking job and congrats on the elk! As a ballistic note, most 180 grain .300 WM loads are doing 1900 something FPS at 600 yards... not exactly the kind of load where you'll see a lot of DRT kills. By 700 yards, you're down to about the same amount of energy as a .357 magnum pistol.
 

BigAntlerGetter

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2012
Messages
528
Location
Gypsum, CO
.300 win mag has and will get the job done, to me sounds like shot angle was the main issue. The way you explained it sounds like it was uphill and quartering away? Bullets can do some funny things inside an elk, only hitting 1 lung and breaking off side leg sounds weird to me though, but 1 lung would explain why he went so far.

Next time I probably would have hiked back up to the original spot and shot at 650 with a better angle.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

ericwh

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2017
Messages
387
Location
PA
Agreed, props on keeping with the tracking job and congrats on the elk! As a ballistic note, most 180 grain .300 WM loads are doing 1900 something FPS at 600 yards... not exactly the kind of load where you'll see a lot of DRT kills. By 700 yards, you're down to about the same amount of energy as a .357 magnum pistol.

This might be true in VA but not everywhere.
 

TraderMike

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 21, 2013
Messages
247
The idea of what constitutes a "perfect" or "well placed" shot is subjective, to say the least. I think a little luck played into your recovery of that bull, and while I personally welcome as much luck as I can when trying to locate elk, I would much prefer not having to need "luck" after the shot. As you recognize, elk can go a long way when not hit lethally and expiring moments after bullet impact. Do you think you would have found that bull if you didn't have snow on the ground to aid in tracking? I commend your willingness to stay with the trail and finding your bull. I bet you probably don't have to push your imagination much to envision an outcome where that bull fed the coyotes and ravens instead of your family. Enjoy the steaks while you plan your next elk hunt.
 
OP
J

jorswift

Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2018
Messages
99
Location
Indiana
The idea of what constitutes a "perfect" or "well placed" shot is subjective, to say the least. I think a little luck played into your recovery of that bull, and while I personally welcome as much luck as I can when trying to locate elk, I would much prefer not having to need "luck" after the shot. As you recognize, elk can go a long way when not hit lethally and expiring moments after bullet impact. Do you think you would have found that bull if you didn't have snow on the ground to aid in tracking? I commend your willingness to stay with the trail and finding your bull. I bet you probably don't have to push your imagination much to envision an outcome where that bull fed the coyotes and ravens instead of your family. Enjoy the steaks while you plan your next elk hunt.
Yes, luck was on our side. A lot of could have went bad or better. I would have much rather been closer to the elk if possible. I do think the snow helped aid the tracking. We did track through several dry clearings as well with good blood, but the snow def helped. Thank you, we will cherish the meals!
 

hunting1

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2012
Messages
1,133
Location
Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States
Standing by if anyone has load data that shows really impressive hunting ballistics for .300 WM past 600 yards!
I shoot steel at 750 regularly and have killed antelope at 600-yards but you wanted a load data and dope sheet. 77 grs H1000, F215M, Win brass, not condoning shooting elk at 600-yards or recommending the load.
 

Attachments

  • 300WM 200 Gr NAB Dope Sheet 4.jpg
    300WM 200 Gr NAB Dope Sheet 4.jpg
    224.5 KB · Views: 79

BuzzH

Senior Member
Joined
May 27, 2017
Messages
1,409
Location
Wyoming
Hence the title.. School me..
Here you go...there's a 356 bull bedded in the shade of the hill in the center of this photo:

AZ_Elk%20025.jpg


Here's zoomed in with the camera I was carrying that day, he's 440 yards away.

AZ_Elk%20026.jpg


I was carrying my 7 RM that day and 440 is within my shooting range, but if you notice in the first picture, there's a ridge in front of that bull, meaning I could get closer.

Rather than blast away at 440, which I'm sure I could have made that shot, I chose to get to the ridge in front of the bull.

The worst thing can happen if you try to get close is you blow the stalk, the bull could move, or something along those lines. The bull may get away, it may suck to work hard and not capitalize. Worse thing about shooting 4-5-6-7-1k hundred yards is you wound a bull that you never recover. Sucks for the hunter, and sucks even worse for the elk that has to die a slow death hours, days, or weeks later.

As it turns out I stalked that bull to about 50 yards, he sensed I was there and got up from his bed and started to move off. I took a knee and killed him with a single bullet at 55-60 yards...I like my odds wayyyyyyyy better at 55-60 yards than 440. Didn't have to worry about tracking a bull all over the place, didn't have to think about doping wind, didn't have to worry about spinning a turret, only had to worry about getting him back to the truck. I could have killed that bull with my 6mm, 243, 338, 7 RM, 7-08, 30-06, 300 win, 25/06...hell even my 22-250 just as easily, rifle set up meant nothing.

Lots of calibers, really most ANY caliber is fine when you're shooting sane distances. As range increases variables creep in, don't care how much you shoot or how much you think you "know" about your rifle, wind, etc...just a fact. I've shot 2 elk at what I consider long range, and they both worked just fine but I don't like to do it. Not that I don't know HOW to make it happen, just not my bag. Judging by the amount of shooting I hear each year, I'd suspect there's a lot more that shouldn't be shooting LR at elk.

Knowing when, and more importantly when NOT to shoot, at any range, is what makes the difference between packing dead elk and chasing wounded elk. I'd rather pack dead elk.

Rifle set-ups DO NOT make up for poor decision making or poor performance at long range...period.

AZ_Elk%20056.jpg
 
Last edited:

BigAntlerGetter

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 5, 2012
Messages
528
Location
Gypsum, CO
One thing I will say for all shooters is know you and your guns and bullets limits.

Get with the bullet manufacturer and find out the minimum velocity the bullet needs to properly expand, a bullet that needs 1800fps to Expand properly and is only traveling at 1200 isn’t going to do its job.

Same with suggested ft/lbs of energy for harvesting your quarry, they suggest elk be 1500 ft/lbs of energy, coupled with proper velocity for expansion could cut your range from 800 to 500.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

ericwh

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2017
Messages
387
Location
PA
Standing by if anyone has load data that shows really impressive hunting ballistics for .300 WM past 600 yards!

Didnt mean to derail the thread. Congrats to OP. Great job sticking with it.

This is my .30-06 180gr Gameking 2,780fps at 8,000 elevation. The velocity at distance, especially, is very different than at 800' here in PA. Which is what I meant regarding VA. 300 wm would be faster still and a more aerodynamic bullet even better.

Obviously need to use the other atmospherics from at least the general conditions of your hunt...

Screenshot_20211029-070821.jpg

Screenshot_20211029-073337.jpg
 

OXN939

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2018
Messages
1,371
Location
VA
Didnt mean to derail the thread. Congrats to OP. Great job sticking with it.

This is my .30-06 180gr Gameking 2,780fps at 8,000 elevation. The velocity at distance, especially, is very different than at 800' here in PA. Which is what I meant regarding VA. 300 wm would be faster still and a more aerodynamic bullet even better.

Obviously need to use the other atmospherics from at least the general conditions of your hunt...

View attachment 341261

View attachment 341267

Always appreciate a good factual discussion! My point is simply that, as many others have alluded to, terminal ballistics are much less impressive than most people think at distances past 600 yards even if you assume a perfect shot. That's probably why the OP had an involved tracking job.

For a little ballistic perspective, people would laugh if anyone suggested hunting elk with the little 16" Winchester '94 Trapper carbine in .357 mag I'll be using for deer with this weekend... but it's moving faster than the tables you show above at 600 with a similar weight bullet.
 

AaronMColeman

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2018
Messages
711
Location
Wyoming
I think we worry way too much about the rifle and bullet, not to say we shouldn't worry at all but there are a few factors to consider.

1) Most rifle cartridges will kill an elk just fine at 300y and even 400y.
2) Most shooters are not comfortable past 300y.
3) Most hunting situations allow for getting closer.

So those three things together account of probably 95% of elk hunting scenarios. All of the weeds we get bogged down in account for 5% of scenarios, hunters, and rifles.

My advice is always, get comfortable on the range out to 600y so a real world 400y is doable, get better at figuring out how to get closer and also be willing to lose some elk to scenarios you shouldn't be shooting in, and get a 30-06 (or similiar). Range time, and woods time eliminate so many of these debates.

Lastly, 10 years ago I would have said anything over 400y is probably unethical for 99% of humans. But long range scopes and sub-moa rifles are so cheap and good now that a lot of people can shoot further consistently than they could in the past.

All this to say, I think for huge majority of hunters a 30-06, 308, 7rm, 7mm-08, or something in that range is perfect and will work just fine out to 500y or more. Range and woods time are irreplaceable. A 2 mile sniper who has never hunted before needs to learn the woods skills and get closer, a hunter who has never shot more than 200y needs to work on range skills to reach further. Do both of those and the rifle barely matters.
 
Top