View Full Version : Exactly Where to Put Crosshairs on Elk?

147 Grain
March 13, 2005, 08:25 PM
Besides shoulder shots, EXACTLY where do you put the crosshairs when shooting elk when they're broadside? Have a 30-06.

March 13, 2005, 09:04 PM
:) I always aimthroughthe animal to the opposite shoulder. That goes through the heart/lung area and hopefully breaks the shoulder.
Don't hold back of the ribcage unless you're angling forward, toward the shoulder.


March 14, 2005, 05:41 PM
hold a few inches back of the shoulder and a few inches above the bottom of the animal. of course this theory seldom works since a true broadside shot at 100 yards happens about one in fifty. if your a little off you will be forgiven because the vital area is rather large on an Elk and because the .30-06 packs a real punch and if you use a good bullet you should be covered

Rich Lucibella
March 14, 2005, 06:23 PM
I'm with swifter on this, in terms of thinking through the animal. I have made the mistake of shooting an animal as though it was two dimensional.....less than satisfactory results. Shooting for the far shoulder is generally gonna get you there on broadside and quartering away shots....but as has been pointed out, this is seldom the shot you're presented with.

Always shoot for the organ not the impact point. For elk I suggest this: Picture a basketball riding between its shoulders; then from any angle, get your bullet thru the center of the basketball. This tends to force us to think in 3 dimensions.

147 Grain
March 14, 2005, 07:21 PM
Found this link on Elk Anatomy:


In looking at an elk's bone structure, there appears to be two good spots to shoot for.

1. Heart and Lungs

Slightly behind the front leg and near the top of the shoulder.

2. Spine / Base of Neck Area

Following the forward portion of the front leg 1/2 to 2/3'rds up to where the neck meets the spine. There are a lot of major support bones in this area that when broken, should anchor the animal very quickly.

Any other follow-up advice is appreciated!

Al Thompson
March 16, 2005, 07:17 PM
Use good bullets. Nosler Partitions are about where I'd start, with Trophy Bonded or Barnes X bullets where I'd want to be. :)

147 Grain
March 17, 2005, 02:19 PM
Any experiences with Nosler's new AccuBond round that's supposed to have the accuracy of a Ballistic Tip and the same penetration of a Partition?

March 17, 2005, 03:57 PM
This brings up a more general point I have been pondering about "shoulder shots." John Taylor repeatedly talked about using shoulder shots on everything from dik dik to elephant as his favorite way to anchor an animal with the first shot. He said it would tend to blow bone splinters from the shoulder inward through the maze of great vessels leading out of the heart so that they would bleed out faster. Meanwhile, the broken shoulder would disallow meaningful locomotion from the spot. I believe it was also he who said that a heart shot animal could still run several hundred yards before collapsing. If this is valid, it doesn't give one much room for error since the shoulder joint and periarticular bone represents only a small area - perhaps the size of a small orange on an elk. A couple inches anteriorly and you have a clean miss. Check out the skeletal graphic on the link sited.

March 17, 2005, 06:53 PM
thats an excellent point rich that should help a lot

March 17, 2005, 07:52 PM
I usually go for lung shots on deer and they usually go 50 yds.Last year I hit the shoulder totally smashing the joint [45-70 partition] then through the lungs - it still ran 50 yds !!

Rich Lucibella
March 17, 2005, 08:11 PM
I don't know that putting them on the ground most quickly is the operative question.....that's always dependent, to some extent, on luck of placement, give or take an inch.

I think the issue is what provides the quickest death, whether they run or not. Yes?

March 20, 2005, 08:25 PM
Lungs, I'm a meat hunter and shoulder shots are a waste to me. As far as putting the quickest death, a deer with 3/4's of it's heart blown away by a 444 Marlin is a running dead animal for 100 yards. He just doesn't know it yet. A lung shot with just about anything, and he'll go for 30 - 50 yards. For a 30-06, I personally stay away from the fancy, high priced bullets. An 06 is standard velocity and a standard bullet is all that's needed IMO.

March 30, 2005, 05:17 AM
On elk as well as deer I like to use the method already described and aim for the offside shoulder. In hunter's safety, they told us the broadside shot was best, and I suppose for archery hunters it may be, but for a high-powered rifle, I prefer quartering shots that put the bullet through a shoulder either upon enterance or exit from the animal. I tend to aim about 1/3 of the way up the chest cavity from the brisket on an imaginery line going through the point of the offside (quartering away) or onside (quartering too) shoulder. My reasoning is simple--this puts the bullet diagonally through the chest cavity--the bullet penetrates further through the vital organs, is in the chest for longer, and therefore disrupts more tissue and sheds more of its velocity (energy) in the target. I do however like to see exit wounds, which is asking alot from a bullet. On broadside shots, I usually just aim 1/3 of the way up from the brisket as usual and put the crosshair in the crease of the shoulder above the elbow. Unless my anatomy is way off, these shots should all put the bullet through both lungs with a good probability of it hitting the heart or a major artery coming from the heart. Also, most of my shots are well within the distance for which my rifle is sighted. Aiming low in the chest cavity assures me that if the bullet hits an inch or two above my point of aim, it is still a solid double lung hit well within the vitals of the animal I am hunting. That way, the only time I need to compensate for range is past 300 yards (a 160 gr bullet at about 3000 fps from a 7mm Rem zeroed for 250 yards doesn't tend to drop much in the 50 yards between 250 and 300 yards). Or at least that is how it should work in theory. In fact, my farthest shot on a game animal is around 50 yards. Which is actually quite disappointing to me as I bought the 7 Mag so I could "reach out and touch something."
As for the Nosler Accubond, I have no experience with them on elk. I am using the 160 gr .284 cal in my 7mm Rem Mag over I believe 63 grains of RL22. The Nosler #5 says this should produce around 3100 fps from the Partition, but in my experience, they tend to be about 100 fps optimistic and I would estimate the actual velocity to be in the 3000 fps range. I am loading them 20/1000 off the lands, IIRC, and if I do my part, can get 3 of them around .75 MOA off a bench @ 100 yards. Most of the time I am running 1 to 1.5 MOA off the bench at this range, but I am not near the rifleman I wish I was and intend to one day be. I did shoot a 3x2 muley this last season with this load. An uneducated guess for live weight would be in the 220 pound range. I was hunting some thick larch stands towards a field I knew deer bedded in frequently. As I entered the field I noticed movement off to my right. The buck had jumped up about 50 yards from me and stood broadside checking me out. I stepped around a larch and shot off hand. The buck went straight down and trashed a bit then lay still. The bullet had been deflected by some brush and hit back near the last rib and high--top 1/3 of the chest. Judging from the oblong shape of the enterance and exit wounds, it appears the bullet keyholed. It tore the diaphram, damaged the rear quarter of the right (onside) lung and curved upwards, shattering the spinal column and exiting. I'd say that given I tried to put it through a patch in the brush and it got deflected, it behaved quite well. I am hoping to shoot a couple more game animals with it before I make my final analysis. My brother also sends word from BASIC that he wants us to work up a load with the 200 gr Accubonds for his .300 Win as well so we'll see how they do. Hope this helps.

March 30, 2005, 01:19 PM
This website has some nice drawings showing where to shoot various animals. www.pistoleros.no

March 30, 2005, 02:27 PM
Neck shot. Closer to the head than the body, and between the spine and the esophagus. It should be either an instant kill or a slight flesh wound.

March 31, 2005, 12:08 PM
My grampa told me aprox the same thing when i was 11 years old look inside and see the hart son and it has been working all these years.he used an 03 in 30-06 (now sitting in my hall closet) how he could see through all the smoke from the chesterfields I'll never know .

April 3, 2005, 04:23 PM
I believe it was also he who said that a heart shot animal could still run several hundred yards before collapsing.

i have yet to see that.
ive hit several mule deer through the heart and one through the lungs with a .270 and a .243 and they have yet to move more than 20 paces on me.
when a 100 grain .243 partition or a 150 grain .270 Power Point rips the heart almost cleanly in two there isnt much chance of a deer going more than 5 yards.

Rich Lucibella
April 3, 2005, 06:11 PM
I've seen it. On hog and on Cape Buffalo.

The shoulder shot advocated by Taylor had two advantages: It created secondary missle fragments from bone and it hobbled the animal's ability to locomote. But I think he was speaking on animals with a typical ball and socket shoulder; not an articulating shoulder blade like a dog or hog.

Long Path
April 3, 2005, 07:05 PM
Neck shot. Closer to the head than the body, and between the spine and the esophagus. It should be either an instant kill or a slight flesh wound.

Ah, but there's the fallacy of the neck shot. Sure, you get some spectacular immediate kills (CNS shots always are impressive), but you run your highest risk of a horrible wound that will never heal and which will likely cause a long, terrible death. Hit the esophagus, and you've just torn out the animal's ability to eat or drink. Infection can and often does set in. With high-velocity rifles, true hydrostatic shock can cause enormous bloodclotting around the area where the bullet hit, which will cause necrosis if the animal isn't put down.

At 100 yards, it takes more than 1/10 of a second for a bullet traveling 3000 fps to reach its target. Do you realize how far a deer or elk's head can move in 1/10th of a second? Several inches, at least. Think snake. These are prey animals, and constantly lift and drop their heads to check out their surroundings.

Add in your reaction time from when your eye sees the movement to when your brain processes it as a signal to not shoot or to change aim point (Commonly considered to be .25 to .4 seconds, but we'll take the low end at 1/4 second), add in lock time, and you're getting up to 1/3 to 1/2 of a second between the neck/head's beginning to move and your bullet impact. Heck-- in that time, a whole elk could get completely out of the crosshairs at 100 yards, on occasion. (I've had it happen.)

We owe it to the animals we hunt to use the shot that provides for the highest probability of recovery and quick finish. The largest kill target is in the chest. Impact too high hits spine, too low hits the heart. Too far back hits liver (lots of shock and rapid blood loss), too far forward hits shoulder (lots of shock, secondary missiles, and helps immobilize). On a bull elk, you're looking at a target that's about beachball-sized there.

There are times for neck shots (mostly to put down wounded animals), but as a rule, I don't like 'em.

April 3, 2005, 07:50 PM
For me, lung shot, through and through. With a pneumothorax, that animal just ain't going to go very far at all.

I've never had an animal run more than 30 yards. They just can't.

Now, that means if it's not a broadside shot, you still aim as if you want to take out both lungs. Figure the angle and make it so. From the rear, you will get the liver or spleen, depending on which side you're on. Either way, you get them to bleed out faster.

Hitting the shoulder, to me, ruins meat. If I'm ruining meat as a habit, (in my opinion) I shouldn't be hunting.

April 4, 2005, 12:12 AM
It is true that a shot which only hits the esophagus would be a horrible occurance. Similar the a bungled head shot, where the lower jaw is blown off. However, unlike a jaw shot, I would find it hard to conceive of a bullet hitting the esophagus alone, and not severely damaging or rupturing the surrounding vital structures (trachea, spine, carotid artery, jugular vein). You mentioned that a strike from a high-velocity rifle cartridge would cause massive blood clotting. If so, this would cause a stroke by clotting the aformentioned major blood vessels. So a neck shot has the advantages of a body shot (high target concentration), without the risk of a gut shot or an escaped dying animal, though in a smaller area.
The risk of an animal moving in the time it takes to make a shot is faced by all hunters, no matter where they are aiming. For instance, on my last deer, I aimed for the heart/lungs. The deer took a step just as I was pulling the trigger, and ( I was very excited, and in that "slow motion" state) I saw the motion right at the same time that I realized that it was too late to stop the firing sequence. Had I not done an split-second over-adjustment, I would have gut-shot the deer. As it was it was a perfect neck hit. But as you said, an elk can move out of the crosshairs very fast, and I believe you. This is a risk no matter where you aim, and a neck shot has the lowest risk of hitting a bad spot, such as the jaw, stomach, bladder, etc in the event of such a move. :)
This is not to denigrate the heart/lungs shot. It has taken thousands of deer cleanly and humanely for centuries in the past, and will for centuries in the future. But it is not the only clean and humane option.

April 4, 2005, 05:30 PM
A .444 Marlin put a hole out the back side of a whitetail you could easily stick your thumb in, 3/4's of the heart was gone. Ran full out for 110 yards with blood spraying 8' out of the exit wound.