Published January 07, 2011, 08:17 AM

The right way to take an elk

(Last of two parts) Many years ago I knew a fellow named Marshall Anderson, a Wisconsin native who moved to western Montana and then to Idaho where he worked as an elk hunting guide. Marshall owned a bare bones Remington Model 700 ADL in 7mm Rem. Magnum, a rifle he affectionately called his “Big Seven.”

By: Bernie Kuntz, Outdoors, The Jamestown Sun

(Last of two parts)

Many years ago I knew a fellow named Marshall Anderson, a Wisconsin native who moved to western Montana and then to Idaho where he worked as an elk hunting guide. Marshall owned a bare bones Remington Model 700 ADL in 7mm Rem. Magnum, a rifle he affectionately called his “Big Seven.”

Yet he often carried a battered .257 Roberts built on an FN Mauser action, and it was with that and a 120-grain Sierra bullet that he killed most elk. Of course, he spent six weeks in the field every year so he could wait for the perfect shot.

Still, a Midwestern hunter venturing West on his first elk hunt doesn’t need to buy a cannon in order to dispatch an elk. I know a fellow in Wyoming who has shot upwards of 40 elk, and for the last decade he has used a 7mm-08 with a 130-grain Speer Hot Core bullet. Before that, he used a .30/06. But he always placed his shots carefully. Frankly, with all the wonderful bullets available today in factory ammunition as well as for handloaders, I think most elk hunters would be wise to stick to a cartridge in the .270, .280, .30/06 range. Buying a rifle chambered for an outsize cartridge is a bad idea unless you have done a great deal of shooting, and can honestly handle the recoil.

My favorite elk rifle is my old 7mm Weatherby Magnum that I have owned for 45 years. It is on its second barrel, and I have taken about a dozen elk with this rifle using the 140, 160, and 175-grain Nosler Partition bullets — a wonderfully effective design in any caliber. I also have used the excellent 154-grain Hornady Spire Point, nowadays called the “Interlock.”

My other pet elk rifle is a .338 Win. Magnum built on a Finnish Sako action. Again, a great many fine bullets are available for the .338 today, but for elk hunting I used 200-grain and 225-grain Hornady Spire Points without complaint.

My father hunted elk from the time he was in his early 40s until his mid-80s, and he used the old .300 H & H Magnum and a .338 Win. Magnum, but his favorite rifle was a custom-stocked Mark V .300 Weatherby Magnum. Interestingly, the only bullet he ever used in the .300 was the 180-grain Hornady Spire Point, and that bullet never failed him.

Today, if you believe everything you see on The Sportsman’s Channel, you might think it impossible to shoot an elk unless you have one of the new “dial-in” scopes and an enormous cartridge. There are at least three outfits offering 1000-yard shooting courses, and a number of rifle builders and scope manufacturers promoting ultra-long range shooting.

I don’t want to get “preachy,” but such trends leave me cold, and are totally unethical. During the last three months I watched two bull elk killed at 900-plus yards on The Sportsman’s Channel, and a trio of young hunters patting one another on the back like they just scored a touchdown. That’s elk shooting — not elk hunting. Unfortunately, never in any of these episodes is it discussed what would happen if a gust of wind moved the bullet off target a foot, resulting in an elk with a broken leg 900 hundred yards distant and no tracking snow! If I had any propensity to become an anti-hunter, that sort of behavior could make me one!

This big cartridge/long range craziness started a long time ago, but has increased dramatically during the last decade. The late Jack O’Connor, the guru of gun and hunting writers and a big game hunter and rifleman of wide experience, used a number of cartridges for elk hunting, but his favorite elk load was a 150-grain Nosler Partition in .270 Win. In one of his writings he told of being approached by a young man who handed him a cartridge “half the length of a maiden’s arm,” and said, “This is my idea of an elk cartridge.”

“What are the ballistics?” O’Connor asked as he examined the cartridge.

“Three hundred grain bullet at 3,000 feet-per-second.”

“I think you could kill an elk with that,” O’Connor replied. “If you hit him right.”

Tags: