The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation hearts elk. Many, if not every single one of their members, like to shoot the animals. Is that so bad? Of course not. Their latest email blast/fund raiser raises the alarm over the alarming rise in population in the American West, without once using the words “illegal aliens.” Still, point taken: habitat destruction threatens the elk population. The RMEF has a five-point plan to protect Ann Elk (Monty Python fans need explain): land use planning (stop sprawl on lower elevations), land protection (buy land), habitat stewardship (maintain lands), manage predators (hint hint) and  . . .

Keep Hunting. With the anticipated population growth in the West, open space and opportunities for hunting could be reduced. Loss of hunters will translate to less wildlife management and less funding for conservation overall, which will compound all of the above problems. RMEF is prioritizing projects that enhance public hunting access and strengthening America’s understanding of the important conservation heritage of hunting.

Just curious: what rifle and caliber do our hunting hombres recommend for the job? Any elk hunting tips for the conservationists amongst us?


  1. .30-06/.308 in either 165gr or 180gr hunting bullet. You want proper expansion.

    Pretty much anything in a .30 caliber will work.

  2. I’d love to do my part in helping to curtail the overpopulation of Elk. 😉

    My Savage Model 10 .308 (all I have for hunting) should do the job nicely (under 300 yards, that is).

    The .308 Winchester has the bullet speed and weight that closely matches the .30-06 at shorter ranges. Many Elk hunters like the .308 for shots that will be at 200 yards or less. Beyond that, the bullet drop will begin to pose problems. In the .308 Winchester, a 180-grain bullet will retain over 1,200 ft/lbs of energy at 400 yards but will have dropped some 52 inches. Consider that you may have a target that is moving and you have a great amount to deal with when taking a shot. This is why it is important to find out about the type of terrain you will be hunting in.

    • For Nor Cal hunts there are two areas most used.
      1. Rolling flat lands with low lying scrub. think high desert type conditions.
      2. If you are more towards the Sanoma Coast, or farther north towards Shasta it is big mountain country. Trees everywhere, and difficult terrain.

      Both are beautiful and breath taking.. It is sad Sacramento is full of bozos who are going to drive us to Armageddon..

      • Noted, thanks….and I look forward to my first Elk hunt in CA. Been itching to go myself as well. Agreed, sadly.

      • It’s not too late. Join Oregon. We’ll be bankrupt a few years after CA, but at least it’ll be after. 😛

        • I think the .308 might do fine for mule deer out as far as you might be accurate. The problem with using it on elk is with a heavy enough bullet it can’t keep up with a 30-06 out past 200 yards or so. The ‘308 just isn’t hittin’ hard enough even though you might be with-in the range you can shoot it. So you hit an elk and he doesn’t go down. These fellers talking about the work beginning when you drop the hammer aren’t just whistlin’ Dixie. OK, that elk takes off uphill through timber and you’ve already walked in two miles, uphill. You end up trailing it, if you can, another mile or two and 4 or 5 hours later you got your elk. I’ll take the one that dropped where I shot him with my .300 Win Mag.

    • Was that a joke, MotoJB?

      “I’d love to do my part in helping to curtail the overpopulation of Elk. ;)”

      “about 284 yards” he said. What kind of “about” is that? Is there some device that reads the distance that accurately? It was a helluva shot, I do admit that. What I question though is why, why would men want to shoot beautiful animals like that? I think the joke MotoJB made is just that, culling the herd and fighting overpopulation would be at best a side benefit, but it’s not the reason.

      The reason is to feel like a big man by killing something. It’s an exhilarating feeling, I know, but recognize it for what it is. It’s similar to the reason many people choose to own and carry guns. You’re – not all of you but many – insecure and frightened people who feel empowered in this way. It’s sick. Admit it.

      I believe the US is a free country. I’m not suggesting any of these activities should be outlawed, but I object to your bogus justifications.

      • Since you admit that we don’t need justification, how can you object when someone gives one as a joke?

        As for your internet psychiatrist trick, please tell me where you went to Medical School or where you got your Master’s in Psychology to get the training needed to diagnose abnormal personalities (i.e. “sick”).

        Anyway, I thought you liked when people refrained from implying that your positions might stem from deep seated insecurities, issues related with trust, and an inability to cope with conflict. So we don’t imply those things. We talk about issues and the evidence that we can use to shed light on those issues.

        As to why men would want to shoot the animals, one reason could be because they’re delicious.

        Finally, if you don’t see a problem with what someone’s doing, why post?

      • You are right, it is a good feeling.
        There is something about hunting in the wide open west. The camaraderie with your son(s) and friends, the physical effort of the hunt, stalking a big game animal on his turf, making the perfect shot, add to that good feeling. I think man has been wired for this for thousands of years.
        It’s a good feeling right up until you pull the trigger. Then the animal takes two steps, collapses, and rolls down a hill even further from your pickup. After you pull the trigger the hunt quickly becomes work.
        Contributing to that good feeling is a freezer full of meat. I’ve taken a number of elk over the years, more cows than bulls. I don’t mind drawing a spike or a cow because I like the meat.
        Another good feeling comes from contributing to the conservation of a healthy elk population. With the introduction of wolves (we refer to them as 4 legged terrorists) the need for hunters to help maintain a healthy elk population has diminished somewhat. However, there is still a place for responsible hunting.
        I hope there will always be a place for it.

      • Ahh, yes it was a joke Dr. Phil. I was going along with the theme of the article. Also, ever hear of a range finder Corky? Did you listen to the audio? They said – “284, downhill”, not me. Nice try at your internet psychiatry but you know nothing about us or our motivations. Thank you, I’ve fully integrated “my shadow” and don’t kill animals to bolster my bleeding, insecure ego. Again, nice try. I object to your bogus judgment. It’s sick. Admit it. FLAME DELETED

  3. The elk hunters I know, all old-school, shoot the .30-06. Their grandfathers shot the .30-06, their fathers shot the .30-06 and their kids will, too. The .308 is a terrific round, but it won’t do anything that the .30-06 can’t do.

      • I’ll add however:

        It wasn’t that long ago that a .308 Win. would have been considered on the margins as an acceptable elk round, but with improvements to bullet design and cartridge technology, you have no need to worry. Premium bullets such as the Nosler AccuBond, Winchester XP3, Barnes TSX, and other bonded or monolithic designs deliver both the accuracy and penetration required for larger game. Use one of these loads and place your bullet in the right spot, and the bull will be yours.

    • I’ve taken Elk with both a tooth rattling 300 Win Mag and a softer shooting 7mm Rem Mag. Both of which will do the job nicely.
      More often than not, I’m carrying a 30-06.

  4. Well Ok I live in the good old west so I might as well chime in..
    First off I agree we need to protect our open spaces. We need to ensure a healthy wild life population so not only me but my kids and grand kids can enjoy them.
    To top this off I have no idea what tags cost in other states but here in CA, Elk tags are $350 +. Not including the application fee, and then of course it is a lottery system which I was reading to try and understand and dang, I think the tax code is easier.
    I know we need tags and controlled hunting, I don’t have an issue with that, but where does all this money go? Now if you are hunting for food, I don’t think the cost is to much. think about how much a pound of beef costs. Nuff said..

    As far as caliber I think anything in a 30 range should be fine. Get accurate at shooting. 30-06 is a all around good round. 308 I think would be fine as well. Elk are bigger than deer. You need little more velocity to penetrate, and the mass of the larger slug will ensure a humane kill.
    I am in Nor Cal where we have some great Elk hunting. Really itching to go…
    As far as the hinting to predators, outside of the Mountain Lion I don’t think there is much. To be honest Mountain Lions are rare. We had a news story where a young one actually came out of the mountains and was cornered in an office building. they tried to capture it but unfortunately were forced to shoot it. With urban sprawl it is unfortunate that we are chipping away at the habitats for these animals. Things like this begin to happen more often.
    I don’t know if there is an increasing level of poaching going on in the west, but if anyone has any data please do share..

  5. Sanchanim: Is that the out-of-state price? If not I guess it’s just California trying to make up their budget deficit by raising “user fees” where they can. For just about $150 more (circa $500 if memory serves) you can get a nonresident elk tag in Colorado. Those of us who are residents of the Centennial State can get an elk tag for around $50. I believe Wyoming also has similar prices and both states are lousy with elk, so come on out!

    As for caliber, I know a few people that insist on .300 Win Mag but everyone else I know uses .30-06. I guess the mag would come in handy if you have to take a really long shot but beyond that .30-06 seems perfectly adequate.

    • Hi Martin, no that is resident pricing. Plus the $39 dollar application fee.
      Out of state if I remember is more like $1,400 yikes!!!

      • Heck, I paid $500 (if my memory serves me correctly) for my non-resident Moose tag in AK. Heck, and I thought that price was steep. Good thing I bagged a Moose on my first try. It was good ‘eatin for a year!

  6. I have never hunted elk, but considering the size (weight) of the animal, I offer this tip that applies to moose hunting here in the east: Try to shoot your elk as close to your truck as you can.

    • You’re not kidding. Hauling a big Moose 12 miles out of the Denali National Forest with quads was a “come to Jesus” experience in and of itself.

      • I lived in Alaska for 37 years, and I never heard of the Denali National Forest. There are only 2 National Forests in Alaska the Chugach and Tongass. Those are the #2 and #1 largest National forests in America by the way. Congratulations on your Moose kill, Might have been off the Denali Highway where I shot a B&C Caribou scoring 410 inches. John….

    • And bring a bonesaw. A bull Roosevelt can tip the scales at up to 1100 lbs. Even dressed and with help, dragging that much cervid is a serious pain.

    • +1000 on this. As my brother-in-law says, “once the hammer falls, that’s when the real work begins.”

      First time we got an elk my brother shot it at 9am. By 11 we had it gutted and quartered and on the sleds. We made it back to the truck by 3pm and needless to say we were too exhausted to hunt any more that day.

      BTW we were less than a mile from the truck and in decent shape for 3 guys in our mid-40’s. 😉

      • Agreed. That’s what my buddy said right after I shot my bull. He did most of the gutting/quartering but I was left to huff my entire moose in bags (over my shoulder) up a 75 yard hill to our camp from the kill site (the bull literally gave himself to me while the others were napping, lol ;)). I thought I was going to die by the time I was done. Heavy darn animal. I wasn’t in as good of shape as I am now but I still couldn’t imagine trying to huff meat out very far without a quad.

        • I like that. You fellers coming to Colorado to hunt elk or muleys stay real close to the road. You don’t want to hump 400 or 500 lbs. for miles out of the mountains. In fact leave some corn in the bed of your truck and wait till one has got it’s hind feet up on the tailgate.

        • No idea why you posted that in reply to me. Try reading the entire thread before you post.

  7. Y0eah a lot of non-resident tags in the western states have gotten out of the reach of average Joe. Id LOVE to come out west for some hunting I can’t do here, but who has $1400 to spend just on a tag?

  8. 8 years ago, i took a 305 scoring bull with a .270. The shot was at 200 yards, and he went three steps before dropping dead. Obviously, shot placement is key.

    If I had it to do all over again, I probably would’ve opted for a .30 caliber round (30-06, .308, etc) or bigger.

  9. I love the remark about controlling predators! Exactly the reason I’m getting Wolf tags next week for Idaho!

    On a separate note, I would love to do a write up on the hunt for you guys!

  10. The Washington State resident Deer, Elk, Bear, Cougar plus discounted Small game license is $115. I’ve never been hunting, but I’m been mulling it, and I’ve tried my first elk burger recently. I can’t say I found anything too distinctive about it. I think it was probably farmed or something, since I got it at a restaurant.

  11. I’m of the opinion that the 7mm Rem Mag will take any game the .30-06 will. For the “one-rifle hunter” who is willing to reload, Remington’s big 7 gives you bullet choices from 100 gr. for coyotes all the way to 175 gr. for black bear, and possibly more depending on the hunter’s ability to aim and maintain intestinal fortitude. Just about every one of those bullets can be safely loaded to 3000+ ft-lbs of muzzle energy. Of course, the 30’s give you a wider selection of (more reasonably-priced) factory-loaded ammo, and for a lot of folks that’s a pretty big draw.

    • Moonshine, amen from another 7mm Rem Mag fan and shooter. (My 7mag went on my elk hunt with me last fall) Realize, of course, that the 3000 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle won’t last all that long, though at 500 yards you’re still looking at 1700 ft-lbs. It’s a flat shooting (+2.5″ at 100 yds makes for about -29″ at 500 yards), hard hitting round that gets the job done without ridiculous felt recoil. I love mine.

  12. An old boss of mine has been hunting elk every year in Montana for at least the last 25 years with his trusty .270. His scope is much more valuable than the rifle. One year he slipped and fell down a scree, but still managed a standing shot at 250 yards that bagged his bull. And only once did he fail to bring home the meat–and that was because of the yahoos he was hunting with that year. A lot of guys think that bigger is better, but with the penetration you get with modern bullets, that truism no longer holds.

  13. .30-06 with larger premium bullets, or
    .338-06 or .338 WM with 210 to 250gr bullets, or
    .35 Whelen (at 250 yards and under), or
    9.3×62 (again, at 250 yards and under)

    Don’t use silly high-velocity, needle-like cartridges under 7mm. Just don’t. Use big, heavy premium bullets and try to line up shots that will break out a front shoulder. The small, super-high-velocity “flat” rounds tend to destroy a lot of meat with hydraulic shock and wound too many animals for my taste.

    Hunting: Get in shape. Make sure you have a strong pack frame, bone saw and plastic bags for getting the meat out. Bull elk can work themselves into absurdly tight timber – more than once, I’ve been tracking a bull wondering “How the (*&*&^ did he get back here with that rack on his head?!” Seriously, the places elk can go in high country will amaze you. You’re not going to be driving your pickup or stupid ATV up to the kill site too many times.

        • Yo VirtualJohnson, there’s no need to call me dumb. I didn’t say that one should expect to ride up on a bull, Einstein. I won’t bother explaining the rest. Ever been on a hunt fairly deep in AK? Bet not. Go where we went and ATV’s or Argo’s are necessary tools of the trade.

      • Because in my experience, there are too many hunters who are just buzzing around on their stupid ATV’s, hoping to see something. Of course, they don’t… and if you’re within about a mile of their noise-making, neither do you.

        A standard pickup truck engine disturbs less game than any ATV in my experience.

        • ATVs work great for those of us too broke to walk much anymore. I am amazed that some people tend to take a total generalization out of something cause they got butt hurt out there. If it wasn’t for side x sides and atvs my blown up ass would have never been able to experience an Elk hunt and not to mention I had a service dog with me. They are tools of the trade and become necessary in different circumstances. IE way out in the middle of AK or using a bush plane to get in somewhere.

  14. Want us to shoot more elk? Stop gouging us for nonresident elk tags, you f—ing morons!

    Joe Grine and I can’t go hunting together for big game unless one of us shells out nearly a grand to hunt in the other’s state. Even if we split it, it’s an extra $400 each. Screw that shit.

  15. My dad uses a 8 mm Mauser cause he has since grandad made him the gun. My sister I’d a 30-06 fan and I go with a 308. None of us have ever had anything less then a humane clean kill

  16. Grew up in South West Wyoming, I call it the corner that Utah didn’t want. The year I was born my father was the President of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and file a lawsuit against a rancher responsible for the death of hundred of Antelope due to a fence. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and triumphed thankfully. I’m proud of that heritage.

    Needless to say as a family we we’re bless to live in a beautiful place with wife open spaces and an abundance of beautiful wild game to harvest and feed our family. I’m not going to lie and say we don’t few mounts on the wall and chandeliers made from the Antlers but to be that is another way not to waste. As a youth I ate considerable more wild game than store bought and I’m happy to say that. There is no better way to learn the importance of proper conservation than to live off the land yourself. What a blessing it was. Liberals just don’t get that. You don’t have to eat tofu & hug a tree to be a conservationist. I’m glad to see an article on this topic.

    To harvest Elk we used a variety of rifles. Primarily the 7 mm Rem Mag, 300 Win Mag, 270 Win and 30-06. I took a beautiful 5 x 6 bull with a Browning BAR 7mm Rem Mag at 300 yard in 2006 or 07. Typically shooting 180 gr bullets, nothing fancy but it certainly did the job. Any of these calibers will do the job very well.

  17. I live in Colorado and have hunted elk and mule deer for 39 years, hunted Texas white-tail for the 8 years before that. For years I used an 06. It is probably the best all-around caliber for hunting in the U.S.
    I hunt 2nd Rifle Combined for both muleys and elk a lot anymore. I went to carrying a .300 Win Mag most of the time during 2nd Rifle because loaded with a 180 gr. or 200 gr. Nosler Parition it works dang good on deer and elk. I went to the .3oo Win Mag mainly for range. I don’t take shots as long as that one in the video, but with a .3oo Win Mag I’m real comfortable out to 400 yds. or so. With a 30.06 I’m really only comfortable out to 250 or so.
    If I know I’m going to be in black timber I carry an 1895G in .45-70 Gov’t., inside of a hundred yards, she’s lights out with 300 gr. to 400 gr. That new Hornady 325 gr. with the little red tips I’m using now is probably good for another 50 or 100 yds. I used to use just open sights on it. Some sights built by Dr. Skinner up in Montana. He and his wife are real nice folks and he machines a heck of a good Ghost ring or a peephole rear sight. This year I’m putting a old Lyman All-American fixed 4x on that Marlin. My eyes aren’t what they were. Sometimes I’m just not sure if that’s an elk ear or not in timber. Them big bulls will lay low and let you walk on by sometimes, if you don’t see ’em.
    We hunt 4th Rifle a lot just for elk and I like a .338 Win Mag when we’re just going for elk. I believe heavy bullets are the right medicine for elk. I’ve hunted with fellers that hit a bull in the shoulder with a 7mm Mag and they never do find ’em. The same thing when they hit ’em maybe a bit high for a two-lunger and the elk just takes off like you didn’t even phase him. To my mind a 30.06 with 180 gr. bullet is the minimum for elk. If the kick of a magnum doesn’t make you flinch, I’d suggest a .300 or.338 mag.

    • In the video, they crept up on the bull and took it at less than 300 yards. “284, shooting downhill” if I remember what they said correctly.

      • Hit submit too fast…you’re saying that you’d not be comfortable using a 30-06 under those circumstances?

        • JB, This thing won’t let me reply to the first two posts so here’s for all three. First one: this thing would not let me reply to Joe. When I tried to, it put my post at the end. Unruffle your feathers, if you can’t tell that post about corn in the pickup is joshin’ people about thinking there going to road hunt elk, well all I can tell you is I’m sure sorry you are such a serious guy. As to ATV’s. you asked why Gunsmith called them stupid. I answered you. That at least is why I call them stupid. I have not been blessed to hunt in Alaska so I don’t know what it’s like there. I have watched fellers bring ATV’s up a trail I’ve just walked 2 miles in on and they are a pain in the rear to horseback and hike-in hunters in Colorado. Folks run them up and down the county roads dangerously and illegally and take them up trails that are closed to them, illegally. As to that video I missed the range they said they got to. From the look of it where I thought they were shooting I made to be 800 to 1000 yards. To answer your question as to would I be comfortable shooting an 06 at 284 yards downhill I’d say maybe. Shooting from a rest with plenty of time to be sure of my shoot, sure enough. I would still be more comfortable with the .300 Win Mag. It’s carrying around 2500 ft.lbs. of energy and the 30-06 has got around 2000 ft.lbs. at 284 yards. depending of course on loads.Granted that’s more than enough on elk, anything with 1500 up is alright. Nevertheless, 500 ft.lbs. more is considerable and the 06 will have dropped maybe an inch more from say the .300 Win Mag at 5″ and the 06 at 6″. I am of the school that bullets traveling fast hit harder than he same bullet moving slower. I also prefer to hunt something I really want to plant where it is with a bigger bullet rather than a smaller bullet.

  18. Might be going in montana this fall, luckily my dads friend is a helicopter pilot. And with that predator issue i might get an MN wolf tag this year.

    • The wolves are said to be pretty thick in northern MN this year. Heck, with the mild “winter” we had, EVERYTHING is gonna be thick. Gonna be a good fall, and plenty of wild delicious meat in the freezer for winter.

  19. Oh yes, one more point mentioned by others above in passing:

    You guys from back east and flatlands: Get in REAL good shape before deciding on any mulie/elk/sheep/goat/moose hunt here in the west. You should find a hill and do wind sprints uphill. When you get here, plan on several days acclimatizing. You should also plan on drinking lots of water when you get out here, because you’re likely from places where it is humid as hell and while you’re used to perspiring, you’re not used to transpiring water in a low-humidity, high desert or high plains environment. There’s no shortage of dummies who come out west and become severely dehydrated with water on their back.

    You guys who don’t live at 4K to 7K ASL elevation every day, all day, *will* be in a world of pain if you think you’re going to just fly into some Rocky Mountain state, drive up to 5+K ASL elevation and then slap on your pack & rifle and start tra-la-la-la hunting uphill into timber or above treelines. If you think you’re going to do this and you’re not active duty military in some spec-ops group, you’re likely full of crap and you’re going to be hurting like you’ve never hurt before. I live at altitude and do a fair bit of hiking and iron pumping before hunting season. One of the reasons why I hate ATV’s with a flaming passion is that they carry fat, out of shape morons into hunting areas where, if these morons got a successful shot, they’d either be in real physical trouble (read: heart attack) or they’re going to be leaving most of the animal behind because they don’t have the conditioning to get it out.

    The hardest hunts for elevation are mountain goat and bighorn sheep. I took a goat in Nevada at about 9,500′ ASL. Here in central WY in the Big Horn Mountains, most elk hunting is done from 6,000′ ASL and up. Sheep and goats are a 9,000+ ASL proposition. Moose are 6,000′ ASL and up. NB that if you want to carry out a large elk rack with the skull and cape still attached, you could be looking at upwards of 150+ lbs for that single load.

    • Goat and sheep hunting! There’s where you find out if you really got it. Once you’ve done it you’ll smile every time you remember.

    • “One of the reasons why I hate ATV’s with a flaming passion is that they carry fat, out of shape morons into hunting areas where, if these morons got a successful shot, they’d either be in real physical trouble (read: heart attack) or they’re going to be leaving most of the animal behind because they don’t have the conditioning to get it out.”

      Sure, there are guy’s like this…but what about taking the old man out on a hunt at 73 years old way back in the AK forest; something he wouldn’t be able to do without the quad? My buddy’s Dad was old, not fat and out of shape. If it weren’t for the quads, we wouldn’t of had the gear we needed for the 10 days out there (12 miles from our truck) – nor would we have had the honor/privilege of getting that last moose with Pops before he passed away.

      The moral here? Don’t judge everyone that uses quads the same.

  20. To be honest, I prefer antelope hunting because (a) antelope are small and (b) they live in the flatlands. Carrying a rucksack and a rifle up and down the mountains was fun when I was in the Army but now it’s too much like work to be fun.

    As for those who are tired of the ATVs buzzing around (and I agree that they’re annoying), best way to avoid that in CO is to hunt on private land via Ranching for Wildlife (a program where private landowners allow hunters to hunt on their land.) I can’t remember if there’s an additional fee to hunt on RFW land but I don’t think there is. If you’re a meat hunter (i.e. not looking for a trophy, just want to fill your freezer) you can get a cow elk tag pretty easy and most of the hunting areas are pretty well organized. My brother and brother-in-law go to an RFW area up near Craig in the NW part of the state and they get a cow elk every year.

  21. The last time I ate Elk,it was shot with a 180 grain .300 Weatherby. The reason it was shot ( beautiful animal) was because beautiful animals taste very good; in fact they taste just as good as those we shot with .308’s & 06’s. That was back in the day when Weatherby .300 mag shells cost $6.95 a box of 20 rounds. That was about $33.00 dollars ago & 45 years. My elk permit was for Wyoming (don’t remember the area designation) The permit cost $75.00 for out of state.


  23. We don’t need anymore hunters out west. They are packed in like sardines every season. The only ones that want more are the few that make money off of them; like the RMEF.

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