Shot Placement On Whitetail Deer
Make A Wise Shooting Decision
First and foremost, making a quick clean kill should be the number one goal of every deer hunter. Keeping
the following items in mind before taking a shot will help you make that wise decision that leads to a quick, clean kill. Also, knowing
what represents the first good shot and when "not" to shoot will make you a more ethical, confident & successful deer hunter. Sometimes
the maturity of a deer hunter can be better judged by the kinds of shots he has passed up than the size of the bucks he
has taken over the years.
How Bullets Harvest Deer
Bullets harvest deer by massive shock and tissue damage. Bullets have much more energy than arrows and if fired from firearms
adequate for the game being hunted, can smash even heavy bone to enter the vital organs.
How Arrows Harvest Deer
Arrows tipped with razor sharp broadheads are designed to cut. Arrows kill by cutting arteries and veins resulting
in blood loss. In addition to severe bleeding, arrows shot through the lungs cause the lungs to collapse, causing rapid death
through suffocation if both lungs are hit. Thus, both razor sharp broadheads and careful shot placement are critical to
successfully kill and recover a deer.
Bow: Broadside, it doesn't get any better than this! A broadside deer represents the best bow shot because it requires the least
amount of penetration to reach the vitals . The broadside shot is also the best single angle for accomplishing a double lung shot.
Concentrate on a spot right behind the front shoulder about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom line of the deer. Aim for the heart knowing
that a high shot will still hit the lungs.
Gun: A broadside deer offers an excellent shot for a firearm hunter. The best target is the shoulder and chest area. A bullet
of the correct weight and fired from a firearm adequate for the game being hunted will break the shoulder and enter the lungs or
heart many times dropping the animal in their tracks. A well placed bullet that enters the heart or lungs will also provide a good
blood trail and a quick clean kill.
Head & Neck Shot
Bow: Avoid head and neck shots when bow hunting. The brain and spine are small targets protected by heavy bone. The only artery of any
size in the neck is the carotid artery (which in a deer is only the size of your bowstring). Wait for a better shot.
Gun: A head or neck shot will drop an animal instantly with little or no meat damage, but should only be used if you are very proficient
with your firearm and the deer is within your effective shooting range.
Quartering Away From You Shot
Bow: The quartering away angle is a fine shot for the bow hunter. Quartering away shots up to about a 45 degree angle are great. This
position produces the largest possible margin for error in the vital area. Beyond a 45 degree angle you have to be a lot
more precise because the gap between the rear hip and front shoulder becomes very small. Move your aiming point rearward to correspond
with the deer's body angle. What you see on the outside of a deer is never your target, it's what's inside that you are
aiming for and what counts. The bottom line is, the more the animal is quartering away from you, the farther back and the higher
you have to aim to get into the vitals.
Gun: The quartering away angle is a fine shot for the firearm hunter. Aim behind the front shoulder for an effective shot. The bullet
will pass through the lungs and possibly the heart, and then exit through the far shoulder.
Quartering Toward You Shot
Bow: This is one of the poorest bow shots and should be avoided. Picking a spot behind the shoulder will result in the
arrow barely missing the vital organs and angling back into the stomach and gut. Heavy shoulder bones shield the majority
of the vital organs from penetration by an arrow with a deer in this position. An error of only on inch or two will result in
a miss or a non-fatal hit in the shoulder. Another disadvantage of this angle is the possibility that the animal will see
the hunter drawing his bow. Bow hunters should wait for the deer to pass by and take a broadside or quartering away shot.
Gun: The quartering toward you angle is fine for a firearm. Aim at the head, neck, or front of the shoulder for an effective shot. A
shot high in the chest will usually break the base of the neck and travel through the lungs. A lower shot will hit the heart.
Straight Away Shot (rear end shot)
Bow: This is a shot all responsible bow hunters will pass on. The only major target in the rear quarters of the deer is the femoral
artery, which is smaller than your little finger and extremely well protected by heavy leg and hip bones. Also the hindquarters
have very heavy muscle tissue which, together with the heavy bone structure make it a long journey for an arrow to get up front
to the vital organs of even a small deer. Bow hunters don't take this shot!
Gun: This is also a poor shot with a firearm. A shot to the body at this angle will probably not bring the animal down quickly
and could ruin the best cuts of venison. A head or neck shot is possible if the animal has its head upright. Gun hunters, wait
for a better shot!
Straight On Shot (deer facing you)
Bow: This is a shot all responsible bow hunters will pass on. The vital area is the chest between the shoulders which is an extremely
small target. The animal must have its head up to expose this small target area and it will almost surely see the hunter draw his bow.
Bow hunters don't take this shot!
Gun: This is not a bad shot with a firearm. The head, neck, and center of the chest are vital areas that the hunter can
use as aiming points. If the deer is within your shooting range, go for it!
Under Certain Conditions.....
Shooting Through The "Thick Stuff"
Attempting to shoot a deer through brush, weeds, vines, or limbs is not what is considered a high percentage shot and
should be avoided if possible. But it can be effective for the gun hunter if the shot is close. And the thick
stuff must be close to the deer, not close to hunter! When the brush is close to the deer even a slight deflection of the bullet
can still produce a good solid hit. Also the hunter needs some kind of opening to to shoot through. The bottom line is the brush
must not be too thick and needs to be very close to the deer to reduce the amount of bullet deflection that can occur to make this
Sharp Downward Shot Angles
Sharp downward shot angles should be avoided by bow hunters. This angle produces a high likelihood for insufficient penetration and a
single lung hit at best. A straight down spine shot as the deer passes under your stand is good, but only if you can make it. This shot
carries a high degree of risk for the bow hunter because the target is small and full penetration is often difficult to achieve
if you miss this small target. A miss will create a single lung hit at best. Gun hunters on the other hand can ethically aim right
for the spine in a location that will produce an entry to the vitals. The shock of the impact will bring the deer down offering
the opportunity for a very quick follow up shot if necessary.
Walking or Running Deer
Bow hunters should avoid shots at moving deer and gun hunters should always try to stop a walking or running deer. Try grunting
or whistling, or even a slight tap on your deer stand with some object can bring a deer to a complete stop. But be ready to shoot
as soon as the deer stops because you will most likely have an alert deer to work with!
Hope you found this information interesting & useful!