Best ammo for elk hunting

Elk hunting resembles hog hunting like a modern precision rifle resembles a musket from 1750. The former both involve hunting, the later both involve launching a projectile, but that’s about it. And while I absolutely love hog hunting, I’ve wanted to hunt the majestic Colorado elk for a long time. When I got my chance I decided to make Norma Ammunition part of it. Our Pro Staff hunts with Norma BONDSTRIKE demonstrated excellent performance, so with great expectations I headed out with Norma’s 180 grain Oryx in 300 WSM.

Caliber For Elk Hunting

This is SHWAT™, so you know when it comes hunting, weapons or tactics, if it’s not special we’re not interested. That said, maybe the “A” in SHWAT™ should stand for Ammo? Either way, this ammo business gets deadly serious when going after big game like Elk.

While we’ve tested Norma BONDSTRIKE on hogs, both in 300 WinMag and 308, ammo for elk or other big game hunts presents a different challenge. Some will only hunt elk with a 325 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM). Others happily elk hunt with a .270. I opted for something in between, the 300 WSM.

Ammo For Elk Hunting

When picking ammo for elk hunting, factory loaded rounds make the top of my list. I don’t reload, so factory big game ammo is my only choice. With Norma ammo already on our radar and agreeable to a test, we moved forward.

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Instead of BONDSTRIKE, I got Norma 180 gr Oryx. Originally designed to take down Swedish Moose, Oryx uses a bonded bullet. No, that has nothing to do with Swedish fish candy. Moose in Sweden are no joke! Seriously, according to Wild Sweden:

“Did you know that nearly 100,000 moose are shot each year during the hunting season? There are 400,000 moose in Sweden before the hunting season, 100,000 are hunted so that about 300,000 remain during winter, and some 100,000 are born each spring.”

A Swedish bull moose runs 800-1800 pounds! Colorado elk are smaller, weighing in from 660 to 780 pounds. So if the Oryx takes down bigger game, well, it should be excellent for Colorado elk hunting.

Rifle for Elk Hunt

With that logic I loaded my Christensen Arms Traverse, a rifle we’ll fully review later. It’s a sweet hunting rifle with a carbon fiber composite stock and carbon fiber wrapped barrel. Weighing in at 7.3 pounds, it proved a joy to carry up and down the slopes. Equipped with a Sig Sauer Sierra 3BDX 4.5-14X44 scope, I shot roughly 1 MOA groups with it while zeroing. That’s plenty accurate for the elk hunting I planned.

Christensen Arms Traverse for Elk

The Elk Hunt

All kitted up, I laced up some of my favorite boots from Lalo Tactical, pocketed my elk hunting license and headed out in the chilly darkness to meet up with John Falke. Pro Staffer Amy Rutzen introduced me to John some months ago. John has successfully hunted more Colorado elk than most people would dream. He’s also hunted from Alaska to Africa. A true hunter and outdoorsman, I was glad to have him calling on this, my first elk hunting experience.

John knows the land, it’s his. In the last seven years, John and his guests took dozens of elk counting bulls and cows. Fortunately for me, he loves introducing people to elk hunting and a solid number of those successful hunters were rookies like me.

My tag is for first rifle season, a brief five-day bull elk hunting window to get a trophy and/or pack the freezer with some tasty meat. With that anticipation, John and I head out daily. Elk sign is everywhere. Game trails are clear. The terrain is beautiful, classic Colorado. I love it!

Elk Sign

The weather is oddly warm, 28-30 degrees in the mornings. By afternoon I’ve ditched my jackets, layering again as the sun sets. Some of the terrain is open meadows, some thick woods. All of it makes me smile. In fact, the first couple of days I didn’t even care that we’d not spotted any elk. I just love being out there.

With day three marking the halfway point in the hunt, however, I started to wonder how this would end. It’s hunting, and we all know that sometimes no matter how well you stack the deck, the game outwits us. That’s why it’s called the “hunt” and not “the catch”! It’s always in the back of the mind, daily working its way towards the front as the season shortens.

On the evening of day four that unsettling feeling took the mental escalator up to the borderline anxiety level. Put yourself in my boots for a moment. I’m the Publisher here at SHWAT™. Part of my job includes successfully hunting with cool gear, walking away with insights that you find helpful for your own purchasing decisions. At this point, I can tell you my boots were incredibly comfortable, the rifle is wonderful to carry and point, and that aliens are real.

About that last point, the aliens. What does that have to do with this story? I simply don’t know what else can explain the vanishing elk that were obviously here, but vanished into thin air for my five-day season.

Is Norma Oryx Good for Elk?

Not one to take defeat easily, I asked John if he had another hunter chasing elk with him in second rifle season, one who would use 300 WSM. If they could get a bull, you and I and John – all of us – would know just how this Norma Oryx ammo performs when elk hunting. John talked with Robert who readily agreed to use the high-end European ammunition, for science and stories, of course.

The morning of Robert’s hunt everything fell into place. The temperature, the wind, and the elk. John set Robert on the edge of a clearing that’s all too familiar to me. From the edge of the timber, John called three times. Within three to four minutes a bull came running in.

Robert squeezed the trigger on the 300 WSM sending the 180 grain Oryx round downrange. The well-placed shot was through and through. The bull only made it 40 yards before dropping. John’s seen a lot of elk drop and says this bull fell as fast as he’s ever seen one go down. The animation in his voice tells me the Norma Oryx must have made quite the impression. John also raved about the excellent blood trail.

Norma Oryx Terminal Ballistics

Full disclosure here, I’m happy for John, thrilled for Robert, but slightly jealous. Don’t judge me too harshly.

best ammo for elk hunting

Now we know…

So, what have we learned here? Most importantly, we know that Norma Oryx ammo is in fact an excellent choice for elk hunting. We know that when it comes to hunting, you win some and you lose some. We know that I still need elk meat in my freezer, so look for another story after I purchase a cow tag and give this another try!


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