The Perfect Elk Cartridge

The Perfect Elk Cartridge

Many elk hunters seek the perfect elk cartridge – the one that will lay the smack down and never fail them in any conditions they may face. This topic can raise a debate though, as most elk hunters are quite affectionate and opinionated about their favorite elk rifle. I won’t attempt to sell you on my favorite (anyone who knows me well, knows mine is the .338 Win Mag.) as mine may not suit the needs of everyone. I will, however, examine a few facts and details that you don’t need to be a ballistics guru to understand.


Every couple years, gun manufactures break out a new “souped-up” version of an old favorite. Not only do they do this to provide gun nuts with one more rifle to put on the “got to have list”, but to also infuse some innovative technology into these new super cartridges. For the extreme shooter, these cartridges provide an edge they may be looking for. For the average guys like me, however, the efficiency of these new options may not be realized. With the higher costs of the ammunition, the old standby’s are hard to give up.


To pick your perfect cartridge, you must define where you are going to put this gun to work. Do you hunt wide open country with deep canyons where a 400 yard shot is more common, or do you hunt the thick jungles of the Northwest where a 100 yard shot can seem like quite a poke? If you are headed to areas that may offer some long shots, you’ll want to go with a fast, flat-shooting cartridge. It will send a medium weight bullet downrange with lots of velocity and pack enough energy to take the biggest of bulls humanely. Calibers such as the .270 Winchester to the 7mm Rem Mag come to mind, along with some of the newer “short magnums.” If you’re like me and must face thick brush and forests to chase that bull of your dreams, a larger, slower moving bullet might be a better fit. From the old favorites like the .308 Win, 30-06 Spring., and .338 Win Mag., even up to the .45-70, brush country hunters will be well served to pick a big bullet to push through the dense vegetation.


For most elk hunters, you want the most downrange energy that your trusty rifle will deliver. Energy, however, doesn’t always translate to efficiency? Many hunters take to the field each fall packing more gun than they can handle. It does no good to be packing a .300 Rem Ultra Mag when you can’t hit the broad side of a barn because you flinch every time you pull the trigger. Pick a caliber you can shoot accurately and confidently. When shopping for a new elk rifle, it’s important to pick a caliber that suites your style of hunting best, as well as delivers a quick, efficient kill. Find one you are comfortable with, and you may just fall in love with it……