The proper gear for Western elk—part III

How to equip yourself with the right bowhunting gear for big Western elk.
The proper gear for Western elk—part III

Previously: Elk Dimensions

Setup Considerations

Are you beginning to feel like David against Goliath? It’s not that bad. In fact, you probably are already equipped for elk; you just don’t know it yet. Al Kraus, a veteran bowhunter of more than two decades with six Pope and Young bulls to his credit, always evaluates his equipment for elk effectiveness. In fact, with the energy efficiency of most new bows, Kraus believes the average bowhunter is equipped to take elk with slight modifications. Kraus owns Black Hills Archery pro shop and helps bowhunters daily with elk hunting equipment questions. Most importantly, Kraus stresses being aware of the kinetic energy your bow is producing for the best evaluation.

“For elk, your bow should be producing somewhere in the 60s for foot-pounds of kinetic energy. Some experts believe the 50s are fine, but to be sure, try and have your bow producing at least 60 foot-pounds. Most modern bows should come close to that if you’re drawing at least 60 pounds,” claims Kraus.

What exactly is kinetic energy? Kinetic energy is a measurement based on an arrow’s speed and weight. This determines the arrow’s penetrating ability, which results in a more effective bow kill.

You measure kinetic energy through a mathematical formula. To discover your bow’s kinetic energy, take the velocity squared and multiply it by the weight of your hunting arrow in grains. Next, divide that result by 450,240 and you’ll have the kinetic energy of your bow. Your velocity is your arrow’s speed in feet per second, and can be determined by shooting your arrow through a chronograph. Your arrow’s weight can be measured on a grain scale—and remember to include the broadhead.

Most experts agree that deer-sized animals can be taken cleanly with a bow generating 45 to 50 foot-pounds of kinetic energy, but for elk, it’s better to hedge on the heavier side and try to get that number as close to 60 or above if possible.

For those of you sitting at home without the technical equipment to locate this number, don’t fret. Visit and click on the appropriate links to help you discover your arrow’s weight, speed, and the kinetic energy your arrow is delivering. You may need to do some research, but they provide you with links and contacts to track down the number. A pro shop can also help you locate your bow’s kinetic energy rating.

After helping hundreds of bowhunters in his shop prepare for elk hunting, Kraus believes you’ll do fine if you pull as much as you can with comfort. Most of his customers pull weights in the 60s and use an arrow weighing from 375 to 385 grains, creating a perfect setup for elk. Combine that setup with a cut-on-impact broadhead, and you’re in the elk game.

Next: It’s All About Kinetic Energy, Not Arrow Weight


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