What is the best elk hunting rifle??? As the owner of Top End Adventures, I place a ton of guys on guided elk hunts throughout the west as I have access on about 16.5 million acres. One of the very common questions I get is what is the “best” rifle to take along. I will break down my recommendation based on literally hundreds of elk kills, I’ve both witnessed or heard in detail about, from my elk outfitters or my clients directly. I’ve been in the hunting industry over 30 years and so I have a perspective from both past and present and there is a lot to learn from the past.
Comparing Elk Hunting Rifles
First of all, more elk have been killed by the 30.06 than almost any rifle in history. So this belief that you need a shoulder cannon is just simply false. I tell my clients that anything north of this caliber is plenty of gun. The most important thing is accuracy and knowledge of your ballistics and killing power as the yardage increases. The range of the best elk rifle calibers run from the 30.06 to the 338. Anything larger and it’s overkill with a rifle that is no fun to shoot or often is just too expensive. Anything less is a bit risky with so many awesome calibers available. Before I move on, I’d like to mention how much I have heard in feedback from the community I run in about the amount of wounded elk that are shot correctly but from too far by the 6.5 Creedmore. This has become the “rifle of the day” and guys are trying to elk hunt with it but it’s just not enough gun at the longer ranges.
Know Your Elk Hunting Rifle
I mentioned above the most important thing is accuracy and knowing your effective kill range. No matter what rifle, this is still the most critical component. I see guys show up in camp with their $8,000 rifles and $2,000 in rangefinders and optics; however, they get paralyzed when a bull steps out at 200 yards and they want to know exact distance. Long range rifles and their owners are becoming the bane of the outfitting community. It’s the first “uh oh” when you pull it out and tell them with a nod and wink that you are “good out to 1000.” LOTS say that and FEW are. Shooting a rifle at 1000 yards at your home range and a bull at 700 yards in field, conditions isn’t even comparable in difficulty. Please be realistic about what you are capable of on your first shot in any conditions. If you can hit a gong first shot on your home range at 1000 and never practice elsewhere, that means you are maybe good, in field conditions, out to 600…. (maybe).
My Pick of The Best Elk Hunting Rifle
So lastly, what is my ultimate pick of the best elk rifle out there? Well if you are going to make me pick it’s the 300 win mag. Good rounds are easily available and “affordable,” in lots of factory options. It has great downrange ballistics and it’s a “tweener” on recoil so it’s still fun to shoot. Lastly, it has all the bullet weight and speed to kill an elk “out there” if you must. We have some great elk hunts you may be interested in. I hope you found this article helpful and if you need help finding a great spot to hunt elk, I’m your guy…cheers.