Both gun and bowhunters have an ethical responsibility to take the best possible shot for a quick, humane kill. This requires that you know where the vital area is and the shooting angle that will put your projectile there.
A powerful rifle with a stout bullet can blast its way through a lot of non-vital meat and bone and still reach a vital area. Arrows, even from the strongest bows, need to be placed where all their penetration counts toward a clean kill.
A bull elk may be four, or more, times the size of even a big whitetail buck, but its heart/lung area, the archer’s best-shot vital zone, isn’t four times as large. It also lies lower in the chest than many hunters realize. Extending back from the shoulder, about 10 inches, to the sixth rib, it comes down about 8 inches from the center of the chest to a few inches from the bottom of the chest.
If you take sure shots, you will get sure kills.
Estimating Range And Wind
Besides aim, estimating how far away the elk is located is important. Most Easterners hunting Western elk overestimate range and underestimate wind. Western hunting conditions are often deceiving to Eastern eyes.
Most Western plants don’t grow as big as eastern ones. An Eastern hunter, used to 60-foot tall oaks, will guess an elk beside a 40-foot tall aspen thicket at 300 yards is closer to 250. Given arrow trajectories, being wrong by only five yards or so at 35 yards is a major miscalculation.
The answer for both is the new rangefinders that are rapidly becoming more accurate and more affordable. Knowing the exact range is a great advantage to both archers and riflemen.
Easterners seldom have to shoot in the windy conditions common to western hunting. Wind drifts both arrows and bullets to a substantial degree. Riflemen, who shoot at much longer ranges, suffer more from wind drift. Unfortunately, there is no handy gadget that will read the wind for you. Study the wind drift charts of ballistic tables and make your best guess.
Watch “Realtree Outdoors” on TNN. Brad Harris is the originator of the deer grunt call, and is widely recognized as one of the top game callers in the country. In addition, Brad serves as public relations director for Lohman Corporation, makers of game calls and other hunting accessories.