You are a very wise man my friend.
No matter what you are hunting, whether it be Elk, or Deer, or Rabbit or Squirrel, as a hunter you have a responsibility of making a good shot on the animal and killing and recovering it as quickly and efficiently as possible.
You don't want the animal to suffer, and you surely don't want to shoot a game animal only wounding it and allowing it to escape and die later without being recovered.
Quality shot placement is the key to making quality an efficient kill and recovery, but the firearm you are using is also very important. You need to use the right caliber and grain of bullet.
This is really important when Elk Hunting. Elk are large animals. They are big and tough. You're looking at around 800 pounds for a decent sized bull Elk. There's a lot more to penetrate in an 800 pound bull elk than there is a 200 pound whitetail.
You also have to consider the territory you are hunting. With Elk, that territory can vary greatly from open plains to mountains of dense forest. If you don't have the right equipment, you're doing yourself and the game you are hunting a disservice.
Hunting Elk with muzzeloaders is pretty popular for several reasons, but the importance of shot placement is magnified because unlike hunting elk with a semi automatic rifle, you will likely only get one shot off. If you're hunting a muzzle loader, you definitely want to limit your shots to inside 100 yards, but I'd recommend even closer range, inside 80 yards.
A hunter's best look is the broadside of an Elk. The best shot placement is the shoulder and chest region of the Elk. If you're shooting an adequate sized bullet from the proper firearm, a shot to this area of an Elk will break the shoulder and enter the lungs and heart. This is what you're looking for.
A neck shot can drop an Elk with no meat damage but you have to be pretty sharp shooter to effectively make this shot and it should only be taken if you won't have a broadside shot at the animal.
I know a lot of people will take them if it's all they have but a head shot on an Elk should be avoided. It's generally ineffective and likely to result in a suffering animal that's never found. You're better off waiting for a better shot or passing on the Elk altogether.
Be responsible when Elk hunting and don't just take the first open shot you get. Be patient, and wait for the best shot. You don't want to spend two days tracking an Elk in Mountain country just because you were too impatient to wait for the good shot. You'll never find him, he'll die later, and you'll go home empty handed and ticked off, wonder what would have happened if you'd have waited another 20 seconds.
Shoot that 6 x 6 Elk in the Shoulder and chest area and worry about where your wife will let you put him in your house instead of where you'll find him if you do...
Hunting and Fishing...what else is there?
You are a very wise man my friend.
Take care of our Forests. The animals I like to kill live there.
Good info here, but could you be more specific on caliber and weight in grains of the bullet. What would you suggest as the minimum size round? I know a lot of people who think hunting whitetail with a 223 is irresponsible, but I dropped one just fine.
There is no worse feeling in the world than wounding an animal and not finding it. You are absolutely right. If you don't feel very confident in your rifle and your ability, then don't take the shot. Being responsible for an animal's suffering is a hellish feeling. I learned that lesson early on in my hunting career and its not a lesson I care to repeat. Good post!