Best Elk Hunting Ammo – What You Need to Know in 2024

Finding the best elk hunting ammo has been difficult over the last few years. Your choice can significantly impact your hunting experience, affecting accuracy, terminal performance, and overall effectiveness in bringing down these majestic creatures.

bull elk hunter

The 5 Best Elk Hunting Ammo Recommendations

  1. Nosler Partition: This bonded core bullet is designed for deep penetration and weight retention, making it a great choice for elk hunting. It performs well at various ranges and is effective on broadside and quartering away shots.
    Image of Nosler Partition elk hunting ammo
  2. Winchester Power Max Bond: This bonded core bullet is another good option for elk hunting. It performs similarly to the Nosler Partition, but may be slightly more affordable.
    Image of Winchester Power Max Bond elk hunting ammo
  3. Hornady InterBond: This bonded core bullet is a good choice for hunters looking for a bullet that will perform well at long range. It is designed to retain weight and penetrate deeply, even at extended distances.
    Image of Hornady InterBond elk hunting ammo
  4. Barnes TTSX: This copper bullet is a good choice for hunters who want a bullet that will expand rapidly and create a large wound cavity. It is also a good choice for hunters who are concerned about bullet deflection.
    Image of Barnes TTSX elk hunting ammo
  5. Federal Premium Terminal Ascent: This bonded core bullet is a good choice for hunters who want a bullet that will perform well at a variety of ranges. It is designed to retain weight and penetrate deeply, even at extended distances.
    Image of Federal Premium Terminal Ascent elk hunting ammo

Choosing the right elk hunting ammo depends on many factors, including the size of the elk you are hunting, the terrain you will be hunting in, and the distance you will likely shoot. It is important to do your research and choose a bullet appropriate for your needs.

Here are some additional tips for choosing elk hunting ammo:

  • Consider the shot placement. Even the best bullet will not be effective if you do not place your shot correctly.
  • Sight in your rifle carefully. Ensure your rifle is sighted in for your ammo.
  • Practice shooting at long range. If you plan on shooting elk at long range, practicing shooting at those distances is important.

Equipment for A Successful Hunt

Cartridge Type

Selecting the appropriate cartridge type is fundamental for a successful elk hunt. Elk are large and robust animals, requiring cartridges with sufficient power to take them down effectively. Common choices for elk hunting include:

These cartridges provide the necessary energy and trajectory for hunting elk. Your choice should align with your firearm and hunting conditions.

Bullet Construction

Bullet construction plays a crucial role in determining the performance of your ammunition. Elk hunting demands bullets designed for controlled expansion, ensuring deep penetration while transferring maximum energy to the target. Common bullet types suitable for elk hunting include:

  • Bonded Bullets: These bullets retain their weight and offer deep penetration.

  • Monolithic Solids: Known for their excellent penetration capabilities.

  • Premium Jacketed Soft Points (JSPs): Offer controlled expansion and deep penetration.

Controlled expansion bullets are highly recommended for elk hunting as they provide optimal energy transfer upon impact. These bullets are designed to expand gradually, creating a larger wound channel and increasing the chances of a clean, ethical kill. 

Look for bullets with bonded cores or heavy jackets, which help retain weight and penetrate deeply even after encountering dense muscle and bone structures. 

Another important feature is the bullet’s ballistic coefficient (BC). A higher BC signifies better aerodynamic efficiency and a greater ability to maintain velocity over longer distances. 

This can be particularly advantageous when taking longer shots in open terrain or mountainous regions where wind drift becomes a significant factor. 

Selecting elk hunting ammunition with high BC bullets will help ensure consistent trajectory and improved long-range accuracy.

Additionally, specialized coatings on bullets can offer advantages in certain hunting conditions. 

For example, some manufacturers apply low-friction coatings like molybdenum disulfide or polymer-based compounds to reduce barrel fouling and enhance trajectory consistency. These coatings also minimize friction during penetration, resulting in improved bullet performance on impact.

elk vs moose

Terminal Performance

Terminal performance refers to how the bullet performs upon impact. It encompasses factors like expansion rate, weight retention, and penetration depth. Reliable terminal performance is essential for ensuring a quick and ethical kill. Look for ammunition known for delivering consistent terminal performance.

Soft-point Bullet

One common bullet type used in elk hunting is the soft-point bullet. These bullets have a lead core exposed at the tip while being jacketed with a harder metal around the base. 

The soft point allows for controlled expansion upon impact, creating a larger wound channel and ensuring effective energy transfer to remove an elk quickly. Soft point bullets are known for their excellent accuracy and reliability at intermediate distances.

Bonded Bullet

Another popular choice among hunters is the bonded bullet. These bullets feature a chemically bonded core and jacket, which prevents separation upon impact. 

Bonded bullets maintain their weight well after passing through tough hide and bone, resulting in deep penetration without sacrificing expansion. This makes them ideal for hunting larger game like elk where maximum tissue damage is desired.

Boat-tail Bullets

For long-range precision, boat-tail bullets are worth considering when selecting elk-hunting ammunition. These bullets have a tapered base that improves ballistic efficiency by reducing drag as they travel through the air. 

This results in flatter trajectories over longer distances, allowing hunters to make accurate shots at extended ranges commonly encountered during elk hunts in open terrain.

Understanding the ballistics of each bullet type also plays a significant role in making an informed choice when selecting elk-hunting ammunition. 

Factors such as muzzle velocity and the speed at which a bullet leaves the firearm’s barrel should be considered; higher velocities generally result in flatter trajectories and more energy on impact.

Ballistic coefficient (BC) measures how well a bullet resists air resistance or drag. Bullets with higher BC values tend to retain velocity better and maintain stability over longer distances, making them more resistant to wind drift. Understanding how bullet drop affects shot placement is crucial for ethical hunting. 

Drop refers to a bullet’s trajectory decreasing as it travels downrange due to gravity. By studying ballistics tables specific to your chosen ammunition and firearm combination, you can determine how much the bullet will drop at different distances and adjust your aim accordingly.

Ballistic coefficient (BC) measures how well a bullet resists air resistance or drag. Bullets with higher BC values tend to retain velocity better and maintain stability over longer distances, making them more resistant to wind drift. Understanding how bullet drop affects shot placement is crucial for ethical hunting. 

Drop refers to a bullet’s trajectory decreasing as it travels downrange due to gravity. By studying ballistics tables specific to your chosen ammunition and firearm combination, you can determine how much the bullet will drop at different distances and adjust your aim accordingly.

Caliber Selection

One of the most critical decisions when selecting elk hunting ammunition is choosing the right caliber and bullet weight for your specific needs.

The caliber refers to the diameter of the bullet, while the bullet weight refers to how heavy it is. Both these factors play a significant role in determining the performance and effectiveness of your shots.

Selecting Elk Hunting Ammunition with an appropriate caliber is crucial for ensuring sufficient power and penetration. Generally, calibers such as .270 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .300 Winchester Magnum, and .338 Lapua Magnum are popular choices among elk hunters due to their balanced performance, ample power for taking down large game, and availability of suitable bullet weights.

hunting bull elk on private land give a slight edge or upper end to jack o'connor

Bullet Weight

Bullet weight affects penetration and energy transfer. For elk hunting, weights between 150 grains and 180 grains are commonly used with popular calibers.

However, some prefer heavier bullets in the 200-grain range for larger calibers to enhance stopping power. Your choice should align with your goals and firearm capabilities.

Heavier bullets typically provide better penetration and energy transfer upon impact. For elk hunting purposes, weights ranging from 150 to 180 grains are commonly used with popular calibers like .270 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield. 

However, those who hunt elk prefer heavier bullets in the 200-grain range for larger calibers like .300 Winchester Magnum or .338 Lapua Magnum for enhanced stopping power.

Special Features

Some ammunition has special features like polymer tips, bonded cores, or low-friction coatings. These features can enhance accuracy, penetration, and overall performance. Consider whether these features are for your elk hunt.

Brand Reputation

Reputable brands known for producing quality ammunition are a good starting point. Brands like Federal Premium, Hornady, Winchester, Nosler, and Remington have a history of providing reliable ammunition for hunters. Researching and selecting from well-established brands can instill confidence in your ammunition choice.

When selecting hunting ammunition, a few brands have consistently demonstrated excellence in their performance. Experienced people have trusted these brands for years and have earned a reputation for delivering reliable and effective results in the field. Let’s explore some top brands known to shoot accurately.

Federal Premium

Federal Premium is a brand renowned for its high-quality ammunition in various calibers. With an extensive range of offerings specifically designed for large game like deer or elk, Federal Premium has become a go-to choice for many. 

Their Vital-Shok line, featuring bullets with controlled expansion and deep penetration capabilities, ensures lethal hits and increased chances of success during an elk hunt. Additionally, Federal Premium’s Trophy Bonded Tip ammunition combines excellent accuracy with exceptional terminal performance, making it an ideal option for those seeking superior bullet retention.


Known for their precision bullets and cartridges, Nosler offers several specialized options perfect for pursuing these majestic creatures. The Nosler Partition bullet design provides controlled expansion while retaining weight, resulting in deep penetration and consistent terminal performance on impact. 

Moreover, their AccuBond series guarantees remarkable accuracy coupled with optimized levels of energy transfer upon hitting the target—an essential factor when dealing with large games like elk.


Winchester is also worth mentioning as it continues to deliver top-notch ammunition options tailored specifically to meet the demands of elk enthusiasts. Their Expedition Big Game line stands out due to its bonded-core bullets that provide controlled expansion and deep penetration—the key characteristics required when targeting big games such as elk.

With reliable accuracy and consistent performance on impact, Winchester ammunition inspires confidence in hunters who prioritize precision during their pursuit.


While quality should be a priority, it’s essential to consider your budget when selecting ammunition. Premium ammunition can be expensive, so balance quality and affordability. Remember that consistent accuracy and reliable terminal performance are more critical than price alone.

Ballistic Coefficient

If you plan on taking long-distance shots, pay attention to the ammunition’s ballistic coefficient (BC). Higher BC bullets offer better aerodynamic performance, reducing wind drift and trajectory drop at longer distances. Consider ammunition with a high BC for enhanced range accuracy.

Wind Drift

Choose ammunition with high BC and wind-resistant design to maintain accuracy in areas with strong winds. Reducing the impact of wind drift is essential for hitting your target under challenging conditions.

Personal Preference

Your personal preferences and shooting skills also play a significant role in choosing the right ammunition. Some hunters have a preferred brand or load with which they’ve succeeded, while others may prefer specific bullet designs or features. Ultimately, your choice should align with your hunt style and experience.

Elk Hunting During Archery Seasons

An elk hunt during archery season is an exciting and challenging endeavor that requires skill, patience, and knowledge of the terrain and elk behavior. Here’s an overview of what it entails:

  1. Season and Regulations: Archery season for elk typically occurs in the early fall, varying by location and state regulations. It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the specific season dates, regulations, and requirements in the area where you plan to hunt, including obtaining the necessary licenses and permits.

  2. Preparation: Successful hunting starts long before the season begins. It involves physical conditioning to endure long hikes and challenging terrain. Additionally, scouting the area beforehand to locate elk herds, bedding areas, feeding grounds, and travel routes is essential. Understanding the area’s topography, vegetation, and elk behavior can greatly increase your chances of success.

  3. Gear: Archery hunting requires specialized gear, including a high-quality compound or recurve bow, arrows, broadheads, camouflage clothing, scent control products, binoculars, rangefinders, and other essential equipment. You must practice shooting regularly to maintain accuracy and proficiency with your bow.

  4. Techniques: Unlike rifle , archery for elk typically involves getting closer to the animals due to the shorter effective range of bows compared to firearms. Hunters often use a combination of spot-and-stalk and calling techniques to locate and approach elk. Calling can be particularly effective during the rut (mating season) when bulls are vocal and responsive to cows calling.

  5. Stealth and Concealment: Elk have keen senses of smell, hearing, and sight, making stealth and concealment critical for success. Hunters must move quietly and remain downwind of elk to avoid detection. Camouflage clothing and scent control products can help minimize the hunter’s presence in the elk’s environment.

  6. Placement: Making an ethical shot is paramount in archery hunting. Hunters must practice shooting from various positions and angles to ensure they can place their shots accurately and ethically. The goal is to hit vital organs for a quick and humane kill. Common shot placements include the heart-lung area or the vital zone just behind the shoulder.

  7. Field Dressing and Packing Out: Once a successful shot is made, hunters must dress the elk quickly and efficiently to preserve the meat and ensure its quality. Depending on the location and terrain, packing out an elk can be physically demanding, requiring the hunter to quarter the animal and carry the meat and other parts back to camp or a vehicle.

  8. Safety: Safety should always be a top priority while hunting. This includes being aware of other hunters in the area, wearing blaze orange for visibility, carrying essential survival gear, and informing others of your plans and location.

Overall, hunting elk during archery season is a challenging yet rewarding experience that allows hunters to immerse themselves in nature while pursuing one of North America’s most majestic big game species.

Ethical Hunting Practices

Ethical practices should always be a top priority regardless of the ammunition you choose. Proper shot placement and adherence to ethical guidelines are essential for humane and responsible. Taking the time to practice and ensure accurate placement is critical for minimizing animal suffering.

Best Elk Hunting Ammo
Glen Del Half-Scale Elk 3D Target (Click to shop Amazon)

Testing and Expert Advice

Before your trip, it’s advisable to test your chosen ammunition at the range to ensure it performs well with your rifle and provides consistent accuracy. Seek advice and insights from experienced hunters or local experts who can offer valuable guidance based on the specific conditions in your area.


In conclusion, selecting the right ammunition for elk requires thoughtful consideration of various factors, including cartridge type, bullet construction, caliber, bullet weight, and personal preferences.

By aligning your ammunition choice with your specific needs and practicing ethical practices, you can embark on a memorable elk experience while respecting the animals and the traditions of this ancient pursuit.

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