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Top cartridges & bullets for caribou

What Canadian outfitters use to hunt caribou


Twenty-one of the outfitters hunt caribou, with the .30-06 the number one cartridge choice, with 29 per cent of the recommendations. The .300 Win. Mag. was second at 24 per cent, though the votes here came predominantly from B.C. guides.

Again, we must keep in mind the mountain caribou of B.C. and the Yukon are far bigger and tougher than their cousins across much of the rest of Canada.

Other calibres mentioned include the .270 Win. and .270 WSM with two votes each, along with the .338 Win. Mag., the .300 RUM and the .300 WSM with one each. I found the preponderance of magnum and .30-calibre selections surprising, given that most caribou are relatively easy to put down if hit in the vitals.

I’ve taken three animals with my .25-06 over the years, so I expected more outfitters to select lighter cartridges than they did.


Premium bullets designed for maximum penetration aren’t necessary for caribou, since they aren’t particularly big or thick-skinned animals. Not surprisingly, then, a lot of the guides chose bullets designed instead for rapid expansion.


If there was one main piece of advice from the outfitters, it was to not be in a hurry to shoot the first caribou you see. By big-game standards, most caribou have large racks, making them difficult to field judge.

Indeed, to the uninitiated, all caribou appear huge. So take your time, look over as many animals as possible and learn what antler configurations truly represent a trophy.

From our 2009 survey of guides across the country, asking them to share their insights on the best cartridges, bullets, optics and more for hunting Canada’s big-game animals.

Ken Bailey

Ken Bailey

An all-around hunter, Ken Bailey enjoys pursuing waterfowl the most. Based in Edmonton, Outdoor Canada's longtime hunting editor Ken Bailey has hunted every major Canadian game animal, in every corner of the country. For many years, he’s shared his deep knowledge of game behaviour, and wide expertise with all manner of firearms with OC's readers. His work has been recognized numerous times by both the Outdoor Writers of Canada and the National Magazine Awards. Ken is a committed conservationist, dedicated to habitat preservation, sustainable harvests, and passing along our hunting heritage to the next generation. He's also an avid fly fisherman, and a pretty darn good game chef.

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