Elk are large creatures and to support their heavy frames, the animals have strong bones - the scapula, which is the shoulder blade, can be up to three inches thick. Then, add in the dense hide and wide muscles, and that’s a lot of animal for an arrow to penetrate. Not only does this require a capable broadhead, you also need to be aware of elk shot placement to ensure an ethical kill.
A broadside shot on an elk is ideal, as it provides the best access to the vital organs. Use your sight pin to follow up the back of the front leg to about the midpoint of the chest cavity. This will result in a double lung shot, and can also clip the top of the heart. Since elk are so large, a high shot can still hit both lungs, while a low one can penetrate the heart. Too far toward the head, however, and you’ll hit the thick shoulder blade, which could result in only injuring the animal.
Proper elk shot placement can ensure an ethical kill. And broadside shots offer the best access to vital organs.
This shot angle also provides easy access to the vitals when the animal is slightly quartered away. You want to shoot between the leg and rib cage in the lower third of the body cavity. Although it depends on the exact angle, it’s possible to penetrate both lungs though one or the heart is more likely. If the elk is quartered too far away, you may only pierce the intestines or hit the hip bone, which could result in a non-recovering injury. Don’t take these shots. Elk have larger intestinal tracts than a whitetail that can inhibit arrow penetration. To limit any mishaps, keep most shots under 30 yards.
Never take a shot at an elk that is facing you. Period. Wait for the animal to turn either broadside or until it quarters away.
This is a shot you don’t want to take either, no matter the circumstances. There’s just too much that can go wrong. The arrow would most likely hit the shoulder blade or the intestines. If the animal is slightly quartered, there’s a chance to hit the vitals, but missing your mark by even an inch could wound the animal. For those reasons, it’s best to hold off until a better shot presents itself.
While you’re preparing physically for your time in elk country, also practice various shot angles from several distances. This will work to prepare you for most situations you’ll encounter. Then, when the moment comes, the shot will be routine.