View Full Version : Minimum caliber for elk

November 7, 2009, 12:15 AM
I would say .270 maybe 25-06 just want some opinions

November 7, 2009, 12:35 AM
Whatever the legal minimum in your state is. Here its .243

November 7, 2009, 12:40 AM
I know what the law is just what is the smallest round you would recommend I sure as heck wouldn't recommend a .243

November 7, 2009, 12:54 AM
Depends on alot of things, How far and how big.....I guess if it were all i had a 243 would do out to 100 yards, Like a 270-3006 out to 250 or so, and anything past that would be 7mm mag, 300 win, 300 ultra 375 ext...... wouldnt RECOMEND a 243 for elk, but its been done before and will again im sure....

November 7, 2009, 12:57 AM
Hunting elk with a 243 I believe would be along the lines of hunting deer with a 223 or 22-250. Defintely do the job within reasonable ranges, but not for the novice rifleman/hunter. For most, I would say the 270 would be the minimum.

November 7, 2009, 01:07 AM
My buddy just took a nice elk with a .264 Mag, I personally use a .270 Win. but I don't think he's giving up anything to me.

Big Bill
November 7, 2009, 01:10 AM
It'd have to be a 30 caliber for me. However, I do have a .25-06 that I would use in a pinch, but... I prefer my .300 WSM.

November 7, 2009, 03:36 AM
I took a cow elk in CO with an A-Bolt .25-06 at about 300yds... Neck shot, ran about 25-30yds then she went to elk heaven...:p

November 7, 2009, 01:02 PM
I think the minimum caliber for Elk should be 270 Win or 7mm 08. I know Elk have been killed with about any caliber you can mention but to me to get a quick kill at any distance out to 300 yards these are the smallest that I would pick.

I prefer 30 caliber or larger and I hunt mostly with a 300 Win Mag and I'm now working up loads for my new Remington CDL in 35 Whelen. My son Jim has killed more Elk then anyone in our camp and he hunts with a 30-06 with Federal Premium ammo in 165 grain.

November 7, 2009, 01:08 PM
I use a 270, but alot depends on the shooter and the hunting conditions. 2 years ago I hunted in a downpour for 4 days straight, when you saw elk, it was measured in feet not yards in thick cover. For 4 days I crept thru the trees with Rock River in .223:eek:, one of my younger brothers used his SKS, and the other a Mosin. My friend's mother used a mini-14 in 223 for years on deer and elk. She would wait for her shots and pass on alot. She never lost one she hit, but she always put her shot exactly where she wanted it. Generally I think minimum is around 270, 264 win, but again conditions and shooter ability can change the equation tremendously.

November 7, 2009, 01:20 PM
Both of my elk were taken with a .30-06. A 150gr Hornady SP and a 180gr Corelokt respectively. Both bullets penetrated the heart and lungs. Both animals died quickly.

I'm fairly certain that any bullet following the same path through the body would have had the same result.

If I go elk hunting this season I'll use the same .30-06 that I used the first four times. It'll be because I like the rifle not because I think .30-06 is above some minimum caliber.

November 7, 2009, 01:24 PM

November 7, 2009, 01:43 PM
My outfitter who has been doing this for 25 years, is second generation outfitter, and is recognized by his peers as one of the best, requires 160 grain minimum bullet weight. Says nothing about caliber or cartridge.

You can argue about this in perpetuity.

Since he has tracked more wounded elk and seen more quickly dropped than most anybody, I decided to take his advice.

November 7, 2009, 01:43 PM
Take a look at the "Once In A Lifetime Elk Hunt" thread on this forum. That elk is incredible!

Hopefully, nobody would be inclined to carry either a .243 or a 30-30 when hunting a bull such as the one pictured.

November 7, 2009, 04:01 PM
.270 and up ,here in the PNW it`s a little tighter than some places 30-30 can kill Elk ,I prefer my .270 great gun

November 7, 2009, 06:58 PM
I have seen over 100 elk taken and with various calibers. The main problem with a thread like this is only sucesses are recorded and failures forgotten. On animals that are hit and not recovered the blame almost always goes to caliber failure. If the animal isnt recovered then how do we know it was from too small a caliber and not poor bullet placement or bullet failure? I know of a father and son team that have wounded and lost 3 elk in 2 years. Their solution was to by bigger more powerful rifles. I autopsy every animal i see taken and can say with some certainty that shot placement is the most critical thing with proper deep penatrating bullets a close second. That being said, a caliber from 25-06 up will do the job nicely.

November 7, 2009, 07:07 PM
6.5 would be a decent starting place.

James R. Burke
November 16, 2009, 06:14 PM
Lots of answers. .30-06, .270, 7mm mag, etc. Somewhere in that range.

Brian Pfleuger
November 16, 2009, 06:20 PM

Women and/or those with and aversion to recoil kill elk all the time with the 243. The true question is more if you know the limits of any given cartridge than if the cartridge is enough.

"Enough" at 200 yards? 800 yards? Broadside? Facing you? What bullet?.....

Anyway, 243 is "enough", if you know its and your limits.

November 16, 2009, 06:27 PM
Elk can be tough or they can die easy. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I wouldn't use anything lighter than a .270 Win with 150 grain bullets, I've killed a few with that combo and wouldn't hesitate to do so again. It is all about bullet placement and even then a properly hit elk doesn't always know it is dead.

Take a look at the "Once In A Lifetime Elk Hunt" thread on this forum. That elk is incredible!

Hopefully, nobody would be inclined to carry either a .243 or a 30-30 when hunting a bull such as the one pictured.

"Once In A Life" elk are killed every year with .243 and .30-30's it all depends on what kind of hunter you are and what you are willing to pass on. I wouldn't hesitate to hunt elk with a .30-30 but I have the opportunity to hunt elk on a yearly basis. If that lifetime bull presented a shot at 150 yards or less with my .30-30 I'll have antlers on the wall and meat in the freezer. A .30-30 has the same energy at 150 yards as a .30-06 at 400 yards. I know what range I'd rather shoot an elk at, and a .30-30 in the hands of a competent hunter is nothing to sneeze at.

November 16, 2009, 06:42 PM
I know what the law is just what is the smallest round you would recommend I sure as heck wouldn't recommend a .243

You need to realize, what I’d use myself might be very different than what I’d recommend to the masses. Most shooters don’t show much dicipline when there’s a big bull across a canyon, and they have a valid tag in their pocket.

For them, the 30-06 would be a likely minimum. A .270 or 25-06 would also work, but a 30-06 would work better IMO.

For myself, I’d feel comfortable with a .243 Win. I know it’s capabilities, and I know my capabilities with it.

Even so, I’d probably opt for a 7mm rem mag or some such. It offers more options when it come sto taking a shot.

But, as a minimum that I’d use myself, the .243 could get me by.

I’m seldom a minimalist when it comes to bigger animals, but since that was the question, that’s my answer.


Jack O'Conner
November 16, 2009, 06:59 PM

300 Savage has same trajectory and approximate energy as 30-06 and .308 out to about 175 yards. After that, the larger cases gain the advantage. Yet 300 Savage is a moderate recoil cartridge. Any good 180 grain big game bullet will do the job. Hand loaders can flatten trajectory by loading 165 grain Premium bullets.


November 16, 2009, 07:02 PM
Any decent rifle caliber in 6.5 or above will do just fine. Personally, I prefer 7mm calibers for their flat trajectory

Brian Pfleuger
November 16, 2009, 07:29 PM
But, as a minimum that I’d use myself, the .243 could get me by.

I’m seldom a minimalist when it comes to bigger animals, but since that was the question, that’s my answer.

Precisely. The question was not "What is the most ideal caliber for elk?", the question was "minimum". One should logically expect the minimum to perform to, well, minimum standards.

The 243 is minimum for elk. It is not "great", "perfect" or "ideal". It is not for 800 yard shots, it is not for steep quartering shots or frontal shots.... it is "minimum".

On the other hand, I'd rather have a lady shooting a 243 with which she could shoot the fleas off an elks back than a 375H&H magnum with which she could not hit a 3 foot square target at 100 yards because of the fear of recoil. So, in some ways, in some circumstances, for some people, the 243 IS both minimum AND ideal.

November 16, 2009, 08:15 PM
338-06 with 200gr Horndays @ 2810

James R. Burke
November 16, 2009, 08:20 PM
My wife use's a .243 with a good bullet for whitetail. Just myself I think it would be a little light on a elk. You no doubt can do it. You probably no your rifle, practice alot, no your limits, and when to leave them walk. Not everyone knows all of that. Most follks just dont shoot enough. A few shots before season the gun is on, and thats it. A .22 rimfire probably killed lots of whitetails, elk, moose etc. but would I use one for that? Would you use a .223? Why or why not? On Elk?

November 16, 2009, 08:22 PM
243. win is what the legal minimum caliber is usually. But i wouldn't use anything much smaller then a 270. win with the exception of maybe a 257. weatherby magnum. That caliber seems to really impress me

December 20, 2009, 10:02 PM
+1 for moderate recoil allowing for good shot placement.

My wife uses a 7mm-08, in a Remington M700 Youth Model, the shorter stock and 20" barrel fits her 5'-5" size well. I handload for her, 145 grain Speer Grand Slams, at ~2600 fps, about 200 fps less than factory. She took a nice bull this year with one shot, broadside at 170 yards, through ribs, hit the heart and broke the offside shoulder bone. The bull made one jump and died.
Our hunting plan for her was to limit shots to 200 yards, standing broadside or quartering with exposed ribcage. With the mild recoil, and the good R3 recoil pad on the M700, she was able to comfortably shoot up to 20 rounds at the range. Her range time was spent shooting from all field positions at cardboard "deer", not bullseyes.

December 21, 2009, 11:35 AM
I think any good constructed HUNTING bullet that develops 2000 ft lbs of energy at the range the critter is to be taken, within the legal limits of the law.

James R. Burke
December 21, 2009, 05:33 PM
There are a few good ones. I agree with a .243 being a little to small. It is a great rifle, and my wife does have one for whitetail, but even with them shot placement is key, just like any rifle. She has got everything she shot at, but has let a few nice ones walk away not having the placement. For Elk just myself a 30-06 with a Nosler Partition. But there are many good ones .270, 7mm, etc.

James R. Burke
December 25, 2009, 12:42 PM
My wife has a .243 for deer and I use a 30-06, that .243 has dropped a few deer. There is no doubt the correct placement and it would work on a elk, but I would not use it, if I had a choice. I bet a few been dropped with a .22LR but whats the point?

December 25, 2009, 07:11 PM
Seven years ago, I took a Bull Elk with the help of a Mescalero Indian guide at approximately 45 yards with a a Ruger Super Redhawk chambered in 480 Ruger with a Burris 4X pistol scope in North Central New Mexico.

December 25, 2009, 09:59 PM
for elk i dont think you can really go "too" big, my elk gun is a 338 ultra mag,or a 300 win mag, 375 H&H,7mm mag at least 300 and up, IMO

December 26, 2009, 11:38 AM

160gr bullet at 2500fps is gonna leave a mark on both sides of an elk

December 26, 2009, 03:58 PM
Sounds like we better go .50BMG just to be safe. :D

I don't worry about hunting southern whitetails with a .243. For elk I'd want to go just a little bit bigger. Friend of mine did all his elk hunting with a .270. I reckon that's big enough. I probably wouldn't feel bad with a 6.5 Swede either. If you shoot your rifle enough to know its limits and yours then I think you're good to go.

December 31, 2009, 08:23 PM
.223, or .243 depending on range.

Art Eatman
January 1, 2010, 11:35 AM
".223...depending on range."

I dunno. The blowback from a contact wound can be messy. :D

Pardon the sarcasm, but some ideas are just plumb silly...

January 1, 2010, 01:00 PM
I would not like hunting with a .243. I would be dreading pulling the trigger.
If I left today it would be a .270 as that is what I deer hunt with currently.
Given two weeks notice I would slap a scope on my 7mm rem mag Encore barrel and work up a load for nosler partitions in 175 or 160 grain.

W. C. Quantrill
January 1, 2010, 01:20 PM
O'Connor liked the .270. I would say that it is the minimum caliber to head out hunting elk with. If you live in elk country, and you know the lay of the land, and you are used to shooting at that elevation, and know your rifle well, then I would say that finding a good blind and getting the elk into within 50 yards, you could make a humane kill with a .243, but that is not for the average once a year hunter. If struck square in the chest, the .243 will explode the heart, and its game over. Likewise a side neck shot will do it also at close range, but the little 80 grain pill is not going to penetrate a shoulder at long range.

Lots of common sense needs to be applied here. Do you shoot at least 1000 rounds a year? If not, then better get an elk gun. The .308 will do nicely and it wont kick much more than the .243. However 165 grains of Hornady is much better elk medicine than 80 grains.

January 2, 2010, 02:07 PM
Whatever the legal minimum in your state is. Here its .243

I disagree. I wouldn't depend of the "state" to give any type of great opinion on hunting or firearms used. A 243 is a joke. At least a 270. I would rather have a guy use a 50cal before he used a 243. I'd rather have a guy with too much than not enough. Just my opinion.

January 2, 2010, 02:19 PM
It is our responsibility as hunters to use enough weapon to do the job. I have helped track elk wounded by others while using .243s and .338WMags, mostly because the bullet did not go where it needed to go.

Be an ethical hunter, and don't forget, PETA and other anti-gun groups are watching our every move, in order to criticize our field manners.

Good hunting to all,

January 2, 2010, 08:23 PM
I personally side with all of those that say "you need to understand the cartridges ability, and your ability". I like to think that most hunters do so in an ethical manner. Then again, I see deer carcasses littering the dirt road I drive home on with only the ham and back straps cut off. If a person is disciplined enough to hold off on a questionable shot, then .243 (or even .30-30 to a very limited distance) should work adequately. For those that aren't that disciplined, I would recommend the -06 or similar powered cartridge on up. Even then, they are still likely to shoot beyond their capability as a human, and that extra firepower will do no good. Darned if you do, darned if you don't.

January 2, 2010, 10:38 PM
While I feel I could kill one easy enough w/ my .243, I have never taken it after elk. 140gr and up for me.

January 3, 2010, 04:30 PM
Art, i wouldnt want to use a 223 on elk lol. I wouldn't even use a 243. In fact, i have no idea if the .223 would make it to the vitals before it exploded and did all that wierd stuff they do. But, that is the minimum i think you could shoot once at the vitals, and actually kill the elk without it becoming a wild goose chase. I'm pretty sure even a .22lr can kill an elk, they've been used to kill much bigger animals :P

Art Eatman
January 3, 2010, 04:52 PM
Our whole deal, here, is "clean, ethical kill". And, I figure on what are generally thought of as reasonable distances, which means out to maybe 300 yards. Sure, closer is good, but terrain and elk-notions have more to say about the distance than most hunters do.

So, I'd not figure on a .243 as my primary tool for the job. I'd want something with heavier bullets for more reliable penetration and all that happy stuff. Not any sort of absolute, but anything with around 140 to 180 grains of bullet and around 2,800 ft/sec or better of muzzle velocity.

Multitudes of cartridges in that general range, plus all the bigger stuff...

January 3, 2010, 05:55 PM
For Clean Humane Kills, I would start with the .270 Win and work my way up to .325 WSM has become a very popular caliber for Elk Hunters.

January 4, 2010, 01:36 AM
I've jumped in on these enough, and have stated enough that I use a Remington 6mm extremely effectively on elk. It's not for everyone, but it IS most effective IF you understand the capabilities and are a little picky about your shot. To back this up, a friend from work finally took hunters safety this summer so she could go hunting with her husband. When presented with the 300 win mag he suggested for elk, she said "no way, no how". She was excited to announce she got her elk clean with her .243 with a lung shot--it took two steps and dropped flat. 4x5 bull at 200+yds using 105gr. sierra soft points (as near as she could describe them). SO... I'll continue to say----if you can use your weapon better than point and pull, YES--a .243 will do the job. Many elk that have come and gone with time in my freezer will testify. ;)

January 4, 2010, 05:16 PM
.243 minimum....7mm-08 for balance.....300 is about perfect.
Not an elk alive that won't die from a well-placed 243 with a premium bullet.
Plenty will run away from a bad 300winmag shot.

January 5, 2010, 11:45 AM
:eek: Did someone again suggest a .243 for Elk? No way, Jose!
Too many varibles occur in hunting situations for that size caliber to be used on Elk. So, it cannot be considered (in my opinion) the proper caliber for these size animals with their bone structure width and weight. Yes, you can kill a animal this size with a .243 but that does not make it the "minimum" size caliber just for the sake of wondering.....
My minimum caliber choice would be .308, .270 and 6.5x55 to be fair to the Elk being hunted. These calibers are proven to take elk on a regular basis, although probably a .30-06 or higher would be my personal selection.

January 5, 2010, 11:57 AM
I own a 270 and that is what I would use. For me that would be my minimum caliber choice. If I had a 7mm Rem, I'd use that as it gives you a bit more range. But I wouldn't take a shot at 900 yds like I see on TV.

January 5, 2010, 12:17 PM
As a minimum I'd say a heavy .264 bullet with 1500 ft/lbs unless neck shots are utilized.

January 6, 2010, 02:48 AM
Did someone again suggest a .243 for Elk?

Skydiver>> Not meaning to single you out, but YES--I did say that my 6mm (.243) is very effective at taking elk. I can't help but notice your location---Florida? I'm going to wager a guess that you don't get out after elk that often. I'm from Montana and now reside in Colorado, and have decades of experience with elk. They don't seem to buy into the propaganda any more than I do, and seem to die with predictable, swift regularity when I hit 'em with that ineffective, puny little .243 caliber pill. If you want some numbers, pull out any reloading manual of your choice and have a look at velocities and ft-lbs. just grabbing my Nosler book... The 100gr. partition that my 6mm fires at just over 3100 fps (average load) is hitting with over 1700 ft-lbs at 200 yds while the all-mighty .308 180gr partition spitting out at 2400 fps (again, average load) is hitting with just over 1500 ft-lbs at that same 200 yds---considerably less. And I can tell you from personal experience just how much damage that little 100gr. bullet (105gr in my case actually) does to the vitals of an elk, as well as how effectively it penetrates all the bone and muscle mass on the way to the vitals. So lets not spread further propaganda. ;)

Too many varibles occur in hunting situations for that size caliber to be used on Elk.
Larger caliber does NOT justify taking more chances on risky shots. The only shot that I know I can't hit the vitals of an elk with my 6mm is a direct-away running--which isn't a shot for any caliber anyway. Every other facing provides lungs/heart or CNS easily reachable with a .243 caliber premium bullet.

phil mcwilliam
January 6, 2010, 07:59 AM
Rangefinder- I found it difficult to believe that a 243 firing 100 grain projectiles would have higher energy at 200 yards when compared to a 308 firing 180 grain projectiles, so I took your advice and consulted several ballistic charts and you are incorrect.
I would prefer to use my 308 on Elk as a minimum, but if a 243 was all that was available I wouldn't feel under gunned if good broad side or frontal shots can be taken within 200 yards.
I think the 30 caliber and upwards tend to prove themselves as a minimum when less than ideal shots are taken, especially if an animal is quartering away from you.
As hunting is not a predictable business, I would go with the largest minimum legal caliber in your state that you are comfortable in using.

January 6, 2010, 12:28 PM
I found it difficult to believe that a 243 firing 100 grain projectiles would have higher energy at 200 yards when compared to a 308 firing 180 grain projectiles, so I took your advice and consulted several ballistic charts and you are incorrect.

Yes--you ARE correct. I saw the wrong column. At 200 yds the .243 100gr with mv of 3100 is only hitting with 1500 ft-lbs, not 1700. So it's running equal impact, not higher. ;) good eyes.

...that you are comfortable in using

There is the key to the whole question right there. The .243 isn't for everyone--nor is a .300 Weatherby mag. I prefer my 6mm because I know every grain in the wood as well as how it performs in every condition I can muster a thought about--and it has proven itself effective many times on every elk I've killed with it. My whole point is to NOT underestimate it based on incorrect hear-say.

January 6, 2010, 12:45 PM
Most of the elk hunters I know use 7mm mag. or .300 mag. because of the options it offers in varying mountain terrain. Also an unseen leaf or twig in the way is less likely to deflect the shot as much.

They are all still careful picking the shots they take. Mostly because they are old and like to be able to drive to the down animal. If you have ever had to quarter and pack an elk out of rough country you can appreciate the preference to drive up to it.

January 16, 2010, 05:28 PM
For me, it would be the .270.

January 31, 2010, 08:57 PM
Although members of my family have dumped Bull Elk with a .243 win.,my advice would be 25-06 as a minimum. They shoot flat and fast, hit hard, and are recoil friendly, which makes them easier to shoot well consistently.

January 31, 2010, 09:36 PM
350 grn arrow with a cutting diameter of 7/8 inch. I am usually closer to the 400grn mark and usually have at least a 1" cutting diamiter Broad head. Its the only way I have ever been able to take an elk. Seems that every time a drag a rifle through he woods they hide from me. Althoug next year I might get a chance to try a .54 cal:D

January 31, 2010, 09:43 PM
:) As a matter of fact, I was just recently (in the fall) out in Colorado and Montana but did not get a good shot at an elk with archery equip. I would still recommend something with a little more weight for elk than a 6mm (100 grain bullet). But what the hey, that is just my opinion. Congrats on your elk with your 6mm.

February 1, 2010, 12:32 AM
killed many of elk with the ol 243 win practice and only take the ethical shots and you are fine but now i don't step into the woods with anything but the 300 ultra now worries and no such thing as overkill

February 1, 2010, 07:47 AM
The overwhelming opinion of decades of hunters and outfitters suggests something larger than a 243 is appropriate. I doubt they are all bad shots or have magnumitis. If you can shoot a 243 and kill elk it's your decision, but it's bad advice. It is also bad advice to suggest a cartridge with recoil that the shooter can't tolerate.
As far as minium I could say 22 LR because I could have certainly killed several with one over the years, but it would be beyond foolish to take one elk hunting.

July 28, 2010, 12:30 PM
With the right bullet u could easily kill an elk out to 250 wit the 243 there just wouldn't be room for error wit a bad shot though my grandfather has used a 25-06 for elk most of his life and loves it and as for the gentleman that said the 30-06 is only good out to 250 yards I have personally witnessed two elk killed wit a 30-06 at six hundred fourty yards I was one of the shooters I was usin 150 grain sierra spitZers out of a rem 700 wit a twenty two inch barrel the other elk was shot 165 grain nosler partition personally I wouldn't go lower than the 25-06 wit a good solid 115 grain bullet just go wit wat ur comfortable wit elk really rnt that hard to kill u don't need anything huge all it takes is a well placed shot and they will die

Red Devil
July 31, 2010, 01:34 AM
.260/6.5x55 140 gr. NP minimum.

.270 150 gr. NP personal choice.

.338-06 210 gr. NP in bear country.

Jack O'Conner
August 1, 2010, 10:45 PM
Wyoming State Law: minimum caliber size for elk is .243