Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter, and Outdoorsman.
Elk is a large animal, and if you are planning on taking one down, you’ll need to make sure that you are using the correct type of ammunition. So, does a .243 pack enough force to take down an elk?
The .243 can take down an elk. But you’ll need to make sure that the shot placement is good. You’ll also need to be within 300 yards. This caliber doesn’t leave a big blood trail, so it’s imperative that hunters down the animal on their first try. Because of this, many people prefer to use a larger caliber.
There are plenty of ammunition options you can choose from. So, will the .243 be a good option? Keep reading to learn more about the .243 and the circumstances in which you should use it.
- 1 Amount of Power Offered
- 2 How it Feels to Shoot the .243
- 3 Accuracy of the .243
- 4 What is the Range of the .243?
- 5 The Legalities of Using a .243
- 6 Picking the Right Bullet
- 7 Choosing Which Shots You Should Take
- 8 When to Shoot Elk With a .243
- 9 What the .243 is Best For
- 10 More Suitable Cartridges to Use When Elk Hunting
- 11 Final Thoughts
Amount of Power Offered
To decide whether the .243 is a good choice, there are a few things that we need to consider. The first thing is whether they offer enough power to kill an elk. Remember, these are big animals. They have thick skin and bones. As a result, your bullet will need to have enough power to penetrate. It’ll also need to have enough force to do some damage and take out the animal.
The amount of damage you will be able to do depends on the type of bullet you are using. If you are planning to hunt for elk, you’ll need to get 90 to 100-grain. If you do this, you should generate enough force to do a lot of damage to the elk.
There are many stories of hunters being able to take down an elk using a .243. Often, all it took was a single shot. However, as we’ll discuss later, its effectiveness will depend on shot placement and range. It can generate a higher bullet velocity than the famous .270 Winchester. This is true for up to 300 feet from the target.
How it Feels to Shoot the .243
The .243 has become a very popular cartridge in the hunting world. There are a few reasons for this. They include:
- Low recoil. This cartridge doesn’t have as much recoil as other popular hunting rifles, like the .270 Winchester. As a result, it will be better for younger, more inexperienced hunters. It also makes it easier to aim for a follow-up shot, if necessary.
- Better in the wind. If you are hunting in the wind, you might want to consider getting the .243 cartridge. It will be able to keep its trajectory, so you will still hit your target.
- Plenty of ammo. This is one of the most popular cartridges on the market. As a result, there are plenty of bullets for you to choose from. This is an excellent way of making sure that you are finding the right one for your hunt.
- Weight. The .243 tends to be a reasonably light weapon. This makes it a good choice for hunting, ensuring that you won’t weigh yourself down when stalking an animal.
Accuracy of the .243
One of the essential elements to consider when picking a cartridge is how accurate it will be. In this case, the .243 does an excellent job. It will shoot flat and doesn’t have much recoil. This ensures that you will be able to put the bullet where you want it.
To give yourself the best chance of hitting the elk on your hunt, you’ll need to do a few practice shots. This will provide you with an excellent opportunity to see how the rifle and bullets perform. The .243 should allow you to get a very tight grouping.
What is the Range of the .243?
It’s best to use the .243 within 300 yards of the target. Since you are targeting a big animal, it’s best to get closer. An accurate shot within 150 yards will be enough to kill an elk.
When elk hunting, it isn’t enough to get the bullet to hit the target. You also need to consider the amount of force it is delivering. It will need to be close enough to penetrate deeply and do a lot of damage. If you are unable to do this, you won’t be able to kill the elk.
This is where the .243 will struggle, especially on more powerful animals, like elk. In most cases, it will take around 1,000 pounds of force to kill an elk. But let’s use 1,500 pounds, just to make sure that we have a kill shot. In most cases, this means that you will need to be less than 150 yards away to make the shot with a .243.
The maximum distance you should be from the elk is 300 yards. Any further than this, and you won’t be able to get enough velocity to take down the elk.
Stalking an Elk With a .243
This isn’t impossible to achieve, but it will mean that you will need to focus on your stalking skills. This will allow you to get close enough to the elk to land a kill shot without being detected. Here are some tips that you can use to do this:
- Mask your scent. Elk have a keen sense of smell. You don’t want to risk them detecting the scent of a hunter and getting spooked. Because of this, you should use a spray to try and minimize your odor. It’s also a good idea to make sure that you are staying downwind.
- Don’t make too much noise. You’ll also need to be aware of your surroundings. You don’t want to risk stepping on sticks. The noise has the potential to alert the elk to your location. The good news is that elk are fairly loud animals. They will break sticks when they are moving through the undergrowth. This will make it easier for you to track them down.
- Use terrain to your advantage. You should constantly be thinking about where you are with the bull that you are targeting. If possible, try to use things like natural drains to your advantage. Not only will they keep you out of sight, but they will also be able to carry the scent away.
- Seek cover. If you are hunting for elk, you should try to stay in the trees. This cover will help mask your movements, allowing you to get closer to the elk without being spotted.
- Look ahead. Finally, it can help to try and outwit the elk. They tend to move from point A to point B. So, if you can figure out where they are going, you will intercept them.
The Legalities of Using a .243
Another element that we need to consider is whether it will be legal for you to use the .243 on your hunts. In some states, this is the lowest caliber that you will use on your hunt. However, the laws are frequently changing. So, it’s a good idea to check with the authorities in your state to make sure that you are legally allowed to use this weapon when hunting. Sometimes, you might be required to get a permit before you can start hunting.
Picking the Right Bullet
As we mentioned earlier, the .243 is a very popular cartridge size. This will give you a lot of bullet options for you to choose from. But there are a few options that stand out from the pack. These are:
- Nosler Partition. These have a reputation for doing a lot of damage. If you plan on hunting for elk, it can be a great idea to use something powerful like this.
- Remington Core-Lokt. This is one of the most popular expansion bullets on the market. It will be able to penetrate deeply into the target and do a lot of damage. As a result, Remington claims that it has generated more kills than any other hunting bullet.
- Hornady Super Shock Tips (SST). A third option to consider is the Hornady SST. This is designed with an explosive tip. This ensures that it will expand it penetrates the target. This should do enough damage to kill an elk. It’s also known for being very accurate.
It can be difficult to decide what type of ammunition you want to use. Because of this, it’s best to try out multiple options. This will allow you to see which one you prefer.
Choosing Which Shots You Should Take
If you are planning on using the .243 to hunt elk, you must be selective about the type of shots that you are taking. It won’t have enough force to bust through the bone, unlike some of the most powerful calibers. Plus, it won’t leave a big entry wound. As a result, there will be little to no blood trail for you to follow. This can make retrieving the animal a difficult task.
There are a few areas that you should be aiming to kill an elk with a .243. These are:
- Lungs. This is the best shot for most hunters. You’ll need to wait until the cow is broadside or quartering away. This should expose the lungs, allowing you to hit this vital area. If you can hit it, the elk should go down fairly quickly.
- Headshot. This works best when the elk is facing you. However, this should only be attempted by professional hunters. The target area is so small that the surrounding bone is so thick that it requires a very accurate shot. But, if you do manage to hit the brain, the elk will go down instantly.
- Neck. Third, you might want to consider shooting the neck. This is another problematic shot, only possible from a few angles. Because of this, it’s best left to experienced hunters. If you miss, you are only going to cause pain to the animal.
In all of these scenarios, you don’t have a lot of scope for an inaccurate shot. Remember, the .243 doesn’t have as much stopping power as some other hunting calibers. Because of this, some people have compared the experience of using it with hunting using a bow and arrow.
If you are unable to hit one of these areas, you shouldn’t take the shot. This ensures that you avoid any unnecessary suffering that the bull might experience. Being prepared to wait for the perfect opportunity is a key part of being an ethical hunter.
Get to Know Your Rifle
Because the .243 isn’t as powerful as other hunting guns, you’ll need to put in more time getting to know the gun and how it operates. You’ll have to be prepared to spend more time training with the weapon. This ensures that you will be able to make the shot when the time comes.
It’s also a good idea to get used to the recoil. When you fire, you’ll often end up flinching. This is a normal reaction. However, it can mean that you miss the opportunity to take a second shot if needed. As a result, you should do some training to get used to the sensation of firing the rifle.
When to Shoot Elk With a .243
If you are planning on hunting with a .243, you’ll need to become more disciplined. You’ll need to be more careful about the type of shots you are taking and when you are shooting. Here are a few rules that you should be following:
- Wait until the elk is in an open field. It’s best to wait until the elk is in the middle of the field. This will give you time to make a second shot if you don’t hit the target on the first shot.
- Take your time. Before you shoot with a .243, take the time to line up your shot. You should be confident that you’ll be able to hit the target area before you pull the trigger. Unlike with larger caliber rifles, you often won’t get a significant blood trail with a .243. As a general rule, treat the .243 like a bow and arrow. Wait for the high probability shot.
- Tracking the blood trail. This will be a challenge, as it won’t be as thick as other calibers produce. There are a few ways that you can get around this. You might want to wait until there has been a recent snowfall. Or you can use a hunting dog.
What the .243 is Best For
The .243 is best for shooting small to mid-size animals. This encompasses a wide range of animals. For example, you will be able to hunt coyotes and wild dogs. However, the .243 is most popular amongst deer hunters.
While you will hunt elk with the .243, this isn’t what it was initially designed for. This means that it is equipped to handle a wide range of animals. This includes:
- Wild dogs
When hunting for these animals, you’ll need to make sure that you make an accurate shot. But it will be able to deliver more than enough power to do a lot of damage. When done right, you should be able to kill these animals on your first shot.
More Suitable Cartridges to Use When Elk Hunting
If you like the feel of the .243, it will be powerful enough to take down an elk. But it might not be the best choice. Here are a few other options that you might want to explore:
- .300. This is a very powerful cartridge. It will be effective from around 400 yards around, packing a punch when it hits the target.
- .30-06. This has become very popular amongst big game hunters. It will quickly generate enough force to stop elk. It will also be powerful enough to take down animals like moose and bears.
- .270. This is a classic, first introduced during the 1920s. However, it is still used by modern hunters because of how effective it is. It will be more than capable of taking down an elk.
- .280. Finally, you might want to try the .280. This is another classic design, first introduced in the 1950s. However, it remains one of the most popular options when hunting for big game. As a result, you’ll have a wide range of ammunition to choose from.
If you are hunting for elk, the .243 might not be your first choice. However, if you need to do, you can use this weapon to kill an elk. But you will need to get close to the animal; you’ll also need to get the correct shot placement. If you can do this, you should be able to get a kill shot.
Steven Lines is a hunter and outdoorsman from Safford, Arizona, USA. Since a child, he has been hunting and fishing and has over 20 years of experience in the outdoors. 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.