Q: I was hoping to get Ron’s advice on the minimum viable cartridge for the larger deer and antelope species. I was injured on the job years ago and am finally getting to a point where I can consider going hunting. However, I need to be very mindful of recoil due to ongoing neck/back issues. For this question, I am mostly concerned with moose and elk hunting across Canada, but am also considering eland and kudu. If you could please recommend a couple of cartridges that have minimal recoil, but are still ethical for these larger species I would very much appreciate it.
A: Lee, after your hard luck injury, you’re in luck with low recoiling moose cartridges. Neither moose nor elk are difficult to dispatch so long as you divorce yourself from this idea that a hunter has to hit one with a knockout punch. What we really do is break down their plumbing. As any Doctor who treated a stroke victim or serious bleed can tell you, leaks matter. Most game is terminated via hemorrhaging. A surprisingly small bullet can cause massive bleeding. So think of a small bullet in the heart/lungs. Skip the hammer blow to the shoulder. Go for the surgical strike behind the shoulder. I knew one guy who’d taken 13 bull elk with 13 shots from his 243 Win. Many north country moose hunters use 223 Rem! Learn where the heart is!
All a larger, heavier bullet gives you is more potential penetration should you hit major muscle. And a tiny bit more surface area to rip and tear vital tissues. But I once parked a 120-grain .264 bullet in a moose’s heart. The minimal dimensions of that bullet did not allow the bull to escape. He went about 20 yards. The same thing happened when my “wholly inadequate” 130-grain 270 Win. deer bullet met a 6×6 bull elk and when my 70-grain .243 varmint bullet took a whitetail buck in the chest. The heart and lung shot game just doesn’t do well regardless of bullet size.
So get online and research ballistic recoil calculators. Then enter bullet weight, powder weight, and MV to get recoil levels in foot-pounds and fps of recoil velocity to compare various options. I should think good options would include 6.5 Creedmoor, 260 Rem., 6.5×55 Swede, 243 Win., 6mm Creedmoor, 257 Roberts., maybe 25-06 Rem. and maybe even 7mm-08 Rem. Trust me, you’ll find something that’ll work.
Good luck my friend, and congrats on getting back in the game.
Dear Ron, what’s the minimum viable cartridge for larger deer and antelope species? — Ron Spomer Outdoors is written by Ron Spomer for www.ronspomeroutdoors.com