Can You Hunt Elk With A 308?


Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter and Outdoorsman.

As an elk hunter, you must be using the right tools on your hunt. This is especially important when you are picking your ammunition. You’ll need to get something powerful enough to make a lethal shot. But will a .308 be enough to take out an elk?

A .308 offers deep penetration and can do a lot of damage. It will be more than enough power to take down an elk. Many hunters prefer to use the .308 because it offers low recoil and allows for a highly accurate shot.

The .308 is one of the most popular hunting bullets in the world. Looking at the results it can produce, it’s easy to see why. Keep reading to learn more about this bullet to decide whether it is the right choice for your next hunt.

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Pros and Cons of Using a .308 For Elk Hunting

No type of hunting cartridge will be perfect. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of the .308, so you can decide if it is the right choice for you.

Low Recoil

Unlike some of the bigger calibers, the .308 doesn’t pack a lot of punch. This makes it a good choice for those who are new to shooting. It can also benefit more experienced hunters. Less recoil will help you increase your accuracy.

Plenty of Damage

It will be a heavier bullet than the .270. Because of this, when it hits the target, it will do a lot of damage. This is why it has earned such a fanbase in the hunting community. If you want to increase the damage, even more, you can try some hunting bullets. Things like the Nosler AccuBond are a good choice.


Another huge benefit is the ability to use the .308 on a wide range of species. It can cope with domestic hunting species, like deer, elk, and moose. But some hunters also enjoy taking the .308 overseas to Africa, hunting down things like wildebeest. We’ll discuss some of the species you can target a little later. It’s also suited to a range of locations, from forests to open spaces.


The .308 is widely used in military applications. As a result, it will be easy for you to find. The wide adoption also creates an incentive for manufacturers to continue to innovate. As a result, you’ll be able to continue to get more powerful hunting bullets.


The shape of the bullet means that you will be able to control the wind resistance. As a result, it will have superior accuracy. This is why the military uses it.


While there is plenty to admire about the .308, there are a few downsides that you will need to consider. These are:

  • Might not shoot flat. When compared to other bullets, like the .270, it might not shoot as flat. This might impact your accuracy. This is linked to the type of grain you are using. It’s less of a problem if you keep the grain below 150.
  • Might be noisy. A loud bullet can cause some problems; you don’t want to spook the animals. However, this is a risk with all types of ammunition.

These are minor downsides. Generally, the .308 is an excellent choice for hunting.

Is a .308 Better Than a .270?

One of the most common debates in hunting is whether the .308 or .270 caliber bullets are the best choice. However, the differences between the two are fairly minor. Both are accurate and are capable of doing a lot of damage.

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If you like to hunt from a long distance, you find a slight edge with the .270. It has a lower bullet weight, allowing it to achieve a higher velocity. This gives it a longer effective range. On the other hand, the .308 will often be a little cheaper than the .270. Often, it will be a little easier to find a .308 cartridge than it will be to get a .270.

Because of this similar performance, the one you use on your hunts will often depend on your individual preferences. The best solution is to give both of them a go. See which one delivers the best results and stick with it.

What is the Range of a .308?

It’s best to stick to under 300 yards for the .308. This ensures that the heavy bullet has enough momentum to penetrate the target correctly.

When you are going hunting, it’s essential to know the effective range of your weapon. This will ensure that it penetrates deeply enough to damage and kill the animal. Usually, it’s a good idea to stick to a maximum range of 300 yards. The .308 is heavier than some other types of bullets. As a result, it will have a lower velocity.

This will suit most hunters. It’s most common to take a shot from 150 yards away. From this distance, the .308 will be a lethal force. The closer you get to your target, the more velocity you can get. This will allow you to do even more damage.

If you want to shoot from a further distance, you might need to consider getting a specialized bullet. Something like the Nosler AccuBond Long-Range has been designed for long-distance shooting. They have a lower minimum impact velocity. This will allow you to increase your range dramatically. Sometimes, it can be between 500 to 1,000 feet. However, if you are taking on big game, moving closer to the animal is still a good idea.

What Species can a .308 Hunt?

There is a wide selection of animals that you can hunt with a .308. You’ll be able to hunt almost everything in North America. It will provide enough power to take down an animal like an elk or black bear. It can be effective on big game hunts in Africa if you are looking for something more exotic.

There is a long list of species that the .308 will be effective against. These include:

  • Deer (whitetail deer, red deer, mule deer)
  • Caribou
  • Pronghorn
  • Feral Hogs
  • Moose
  • Elk
  • Black Bear

However, the list of target species doesn’t stop there. The popularity of the .308 has spread across the world. Some hunters who target the African species have seen success using the .308. Some of the species they have used it on include:

  • Eland
  • Monkeys
  • Springbok
  • Impala
  • Wildebeests, though you might need a few shots to kill it.

As a general rule, if the animal weighs less than 1,000 pounds, you’ll be able to land a good hit against it. But when it comes to big game hunting, you’ll need to make sure that you are using the right shot placement. Another element is how far away you are from the target. We’ll discuss both of these elements in more detail a little later.

Types of .308 Bullets

There is plenty of variety within the .308 caliber. Many manufacturers want to put their unique spin on this bullet. There are a few notable examples of this. These include:

  • Nosler AccuBond/ Nosler Partition. Both of these bullets are known for penetrating deeply into the prey. From there, they can cause a lot of damage. When done correctly, they will be able to kill almost any animal. They will be more than enough firepower to bring down an elk.
  • Hornady Precision Hunter. This is another powerful bullet, with more than enough power to down an elk. However, this type of bullet is known for its accuracy. You should be able to use them to achieve a tight grouping.
  • Hornady Custom Lite. These are designed for those who are new to the world of hunting. They offer a smaller amount of recoil. This makes the gun a lot easier for you to control. However, they can still pack a big punch, expanding nicely when they impact the target.
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There are plenty more options for you to explore. You must take the time to find the right one for your hunting. This will often require a bit of experimentation.

Best .308 Rifles

You’ll also need to make sure that you have a hunting rifle capable of firing a .308 cartridge. The good news is that there are plenty of these guns for you to choose from. Some of the standout performers include:

  • Ruger American Predator. If you are looking for a reliable gun on a budget, this is a good choice. You can usually pick one up for around $400. Despite the low price point, they are highly accurate. It’s also relatively compact, at just 18 inches long. This will make it easy for you to maneuver.
  • Mossberg MVP Scout. This is another established company with a reputation for providing excellent products at an affordable price. It comes with a metal sight, so you should be able to get great results straight out of the box. Additionally, it’s very light, weighing just 7 pounds.
  • Winchester XRP. As you’d expected from the company that helped popularize the .308, this gun offers a fantastic shooting experience. It is made from composite materials to keep it lightweight. It’s also highly accurate. You don’t need to worry about the accuracy if you jerk the gun when you are firing.

Finding the right rifle for you can be a difficult process. You will need to consider lots of factors, like accuracy, recoil, and price. You’ll also need to make sure that it is a good fit. This will ensure that you have plenty of control. Because of its importance, it’s essential to make sure that you are putting enough time into the search.

Tips For Hunting Elk With a .308

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Finding the right ammunition is only part of the solution. You’ll still need to have the skills to kill the elk. Here are some of the areas that you might want to focus on.

Shot Placement/Bullet Placement

The first thing that you need to master is shot placement. Even though the .308 is a powerful bullet, it will only be effective if you hit the animal in the right place. If you hit the wrong part, it can cause needless suffering. It also means that you will need to track a blood trail.

This is especially important when you are shooting big animals like elk. They have thick bones around their body. To get a kill shot, you’ll need to be focusing on their vital areas, like the heart and lungs. This is located just below the shoulder blades.

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It’s best to try and avoid the stomach. While this can be a fatal shot, the stomach acid will spread throughout the meat if you hit this area. This will taint it, making it inedible. Here are the best shots that you should be looking for:

  • Quartering away. This is the best shot to take. The vital areas will be wide open, giving you a big target area. Thankfully, this type of shot is fairly common.
  • Broadside. This is another shot that will leave the vital areas exposed. However, it is rarer to find elk in this position.
  • Frontal. This is a chance to hit the head or neck. These will be fatal and leave all the meat edible. But it is also a high risk. With antlers and thick bones, you’ll have a small target area. Because of this, this shot is best left to more experienced hunters.

Consider the Range

Before you take the shot, you’ll need to think about how far you are from your target. Remember, you want to be within 300 feet. Ideally, you should be around 150 feet out. If you are too far away, you might need to stalk the animal for a bit, getting close enough to make the shoot successfully. If you like long-range hunting, make sure that you have the right equipment.

Finding the Elk

Even with the best .308 bullets, you’ll only be successful if you can manage to find the elk. There are a few things that you should be looking for. First, it’s a good idea to look for signs that they have been rubbing on the trees. This signals that there is an active elk population in the area.

You can use a map to narrow down places where you should be looking. It can also be a good idea to talk to your fellow hunters. Once you have found an active population, you can turn your attention to stalking your prey. You need to get close enough to do some damage. As you are doing this, you’ll need to take a few precautions. In this case, you’ll need to make sure that you are masking your scent. You’ll need to move slowly to ensure that you aren’t spooking the animal as you get closer.


Like with any hunting activity, practice will make perfect. You’ll need to get used to the way that the bullet feels coming out of your gun. This will allow you to improve your accuracy.

Final Thoughts

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Buy Ammo from Palmetto State Armory

As you are hunting elk, you’ll need to ensure that you are using the right bullet. Without it, you have no chance of being able to take down such a big animal. The .308 cartridge is one of the most popular hunting bullets in the world. It can deal with many of the species in North America, and around the globe, with ease. So, try it on your next hunt to decide whether this is the right choice for you.

Steven Lines is a hunter and outdoorsman from Safford, Arizona, USA. Since he was a child, he has been hunting and fishing and has over 20 years of outdoor experience. Steven works as a hunting guide in Arizona during his spare time and runs a Youtube channel dedicated to sharing his outdoor adventures with others.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>