Hunting Masterclass: The Best Approach to Shooting Elk

shooting elk

Table of Contents

Spread the love:  

Elk hunting – a definitive example of patience, knowledge, and skill – is a challenging but a very rewarding activity. Our piece takes you through the best practices for shooting elk, while making sure of an ethical and a successful hunt.

Understanding Elk Anatomy and Vital Zones

Knowing exactly where to aim is the first step of a clean and humane kill. The heart and lungs, a.k.a the vital organs of an elk, are present just behind the front shoulder. Primarily the kill zone, this area is around 25 inches in diameter when facing the elk front-on. A nice gunshot targeting this zone results in a quick kill.

Best Shot Placement

Broadside Shot

Hunters’ preferred angle, aiming a little behind the front shoulder and halfway up maximizes the possibility of a successful kill. This is because it targets the heart and lungs of the elk – the most sensitive points.

“Hunters prefer the broadside shot the most, which has up to a 75% success rate for achieving a clean kill.”Perfect Shot Placement for the Elk Anatomy

Quartering-Away Shot

A large part of the vital organs of elk are exposed in this angle. If you aim at the front shoulder or just behind it, the arrow or the bullet will penetrate both the lungs.

Quartering-Towards and Frontal Shots

Hunters do not really fancy these shots as there are more chances of hitting the bone and missing vital organs i.e. the heart and lungs. You should instead take aim at the vitals behind the front shoulder, whichever side closest to you.

Equipment and Gear

Rifles and Calibers

When choosing a rifle for elk hunting, prioritize your comfort with using the gun and ensure its proficiency. Some of the elk hunting calibers preferred by the hunters include the 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Winchester, and .30-06 Springfield.


A 3x to 10x magnification scope usually does the job. Make sure it offers good light transmission and also avoids strain with proper eye relief.

Shooting Elk – Techniques

Stance and Posture

You should have a stable shooting stance which is maintained throughout the shot in order to improve accuracy and minimize the recoil.

Breathing Control

Be in control of your breathing to steady your aim. Don’t forget to take a deep breath before squeezing the trigger.

Trigger Control

Regularly go through your shooting drills to master the trigger pulls. That will certainly help you to avoid jerking the gun and throwing off your aim.


Stay focussed and do not stop aiming even after you have pulled the trigger. The follow-through technique avoids flinching, making sure the path of the bullet stays straight and on target.

Post-Shot Actions

After you have taken the right shot, there’s still work to do. Keep tracking the animal to make sure of a clean and humane kill. Blood trails and unusual elk behavior are the signs of a successful hit. Once you’ve located your hunt, carefully perform field dressing – the process of removing the internal organs of hunted game – to preserve the meat, and then get things ready for transportation.

Ethical Considerations

Ethical hunting is imperative, and sometimes not stressed enough. Do not make the animals suffer for longer periods when you’re hunting them; aim for a clean and humane kill every time. Also, do not aim for areas like the animal’s face, hindquarters, or neck, as it is not only unethical but can lead to extended suffering for the animal and consequently, an unsuccessful hunt for you.

Unique Tips and Additional Information

Elk Behavior and Calling

Learn how to use calls with intensity and emotion as that attracts elk. Hunters who actually understand the behavior of elk and master elk calling experience higher rates of successful hunts.

Physical Preparation

Elk hunting is an exhausting activity and sometimes physically demanding too. Handling the terrain is no joke if you’re not thoroughly prepared. Also, a lot of physical effort is required in packing out the meat.

Planning Your Elk Hunt

Choosing the Right Location

Researching and picking out hunting locations with large elk populations is the first thing to do when planning to hunt elk. Elk hunting is very popular in states such as Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado as massive public lands are available there.

“Colorado has over 250,000 elk, making it the largest elk population in the United States.”
Elk Hunting by State 2024

Hunting Season

Seasons for elk hunting vary by method (rifle, muzzleloader, archery) and state. Know the specific dates and the regulations of whichever area you have chosen to hunt in.

Tags and Permits

Acquire the relevant permits and hunting tags beforehand. Lottery system is also active in some areas, hence getting the latest updates about that will help you go about your hunt accordingly.

Essential Gear for a Successful Elk Hunt


Stay equipped with quality weather gear and always dress in layers if you want to adapt to changing weather conditions. Select breathable fabrics for your hunting trip that help you stay comfortable and dry.


Waterproof boots that come with good ankle support can be a high-quality investment for hunting. When elk hunting in hilly areas, hunters sometimes have to hike to get through difficult terrains, so proper footwear benefits a lot in those situations.


Ensure you’re carrying a durable backpack that has the capacity to carry water, the required amount of food, and your hunting gear. Modern backpacks that include multiple sections distribute the weight evenly.

Mastering the Art of Elk Calling

Hunters possessing good elk calling skills will experience more chances for successful hunts. Two types of calls, bugles and cow calls, are described below – although there are other different strategies for elk calling too:

Bugle Calls

A bugle call mimics the sound of a bull elk, challenging other bulls or attracting cows. These are mightily effective when it is the rutting season (also called the mating season for mammals).

Cow Calls

A cow call imitates the sound of a cow elk, luring in the bulls. Natural elk sounds are ideal in this scenario and they can be mimicked using cadences and varying tones.

Tracking and Field Dressing

After successfully shooting elk, these next steps become important:


When tracking down the elk, be subtle in your movement and look for broken branches. Follow the blood trail but be very quiet so you don’t scare away the elk if it’s partly injured and not out.

Field Dressing

When tracking down the elk, be subtle in your movement and look for broken branches. Follow the blood trail but be very quiet so you don’t scare away the elk if it’s partly injured and not out.

These are some of the guidelines an elk hunter should follow and regularly practice in order to become a pro at his/her trade, and subsequently enjoy an increased rate of successful hunts.

Final Thoughts

Shooting elk is a time-taking hunting activity that can be mastered by having basic knowledge, skill, and taking into account the ethical considerations. Always target the vital zones of the elk, use the right gear, and practice the shooting techniques regularly. Remember, the goal is to not go in all guns blazing but doing so in a respectful manner, both for the animal as well as the environment. By following the things described here, you’ll quickly become a great elk hunter and will start to enjoy your hunts more. Happy hunting!

Don’t forget to follow Gunners’ Review for latest hunting tips and techniques.

Table of Contents