Where to shoot a deer? Most hunters have learned that the best place to shoot a deer is to aim for the heart or lungs. However, there are many other options to consider such as the brain, neck, and shoulder.
One thing is sure, there are many different opinions when it comes to the best shot placement for killing deer. Why? Simply because many hunters have successfully shot and killed deer by placing a shot on a different part of its body than the heart or lungs, the “boiler room.”
The fact is, shooting a deer in the “perfect” spot, about one-third up its body and right behind the shoulder seems like the ideal spot to aim for. In reality, however, the scenario changes in an instant when a deer approaches you at an unexpected angle and you have to react to the unique situation you are faced with.
It is important to realize that each spot has its own advantages and disadvantages. And just to add more variety to killing deer, you have to consider that it also depends on other variables such as your skill set, the specific circumstances, the specific target, its distance, your weapon of choice and even meat retention.
For example, an avid deer bow hunter explains that it is extremely important to remember that the ideal kill zone is a flat rather than a 2-dimensional target. This means that the mere position of the buck directly influences and determines the spot you should aim for. We should also take note that the ideal spot is not merely a place or spot on its skin, but in fact, indicates a location inside its body.
Of course, any hunter’s goal is always to place the shot so that you have an instant kill. That of course, it the most humane way to do it. And as you’ll see during our discussion here, there are more than shot placement that can achieve this.
Shooting distance – there is no pre-defined ideal distance for perfect shot placement. In fact, effective shots also depend on your skills, abilities, confidence, and experience.
Of course there are a few guidelines to consider, for example, if a deer is just a few yards away, it could be a good option to aim for the high shoulder or brain if it is in a resting position. On the other hand, when the deer is far away, you might opt for the chest area and not the neck.
Weather conditions – be sure to take the weather conditions into consideration as it could influence your shot placement. For example, if you are hunting under a severely overcast sky, it might be easier to aim for larger areas of the body than the brain.
Brain shots are most probably the best-discussed topic of all shot placements. This is because it can either be an extremely successful shot to this vital organ, disrupting the buck’s essential functions instantly or going completely wrong by hitting the jaw which will inevitably lead to great suffering.
One the one hand, a well-placed brain shot is the most humane way to kill a deer, but it could also be one of a hunter’s biggest challenges since it is a small organ.
- A precise and well-placed headshot will kill the animal instantly.
- You can shoot from any angle, being it from the front, rear or side.
- If it is a well-placed shot, it is the most humane way to kill a deer because it will experience no pain, feel numb immediately and lose consciousness instantaneously.
- A brain shot guarantees minimal meat loss.
- Definitely not a spot to aim for if you are an amateur bow hunter.
- It is a small target; a deer head is approximately 3 inches which makes placing a precision shot extremely challenging and easy to miss.
- In addition to being a small target, a deer can move its head quickly, making a perfect aim extremely difficult. It is, therefore, best to shoot the deer when immobile or resting. Otherwise, you should consider using a tripod to maintain a steady aim.
- The brain is protected by a thick skull that requires a powerful shot in order to penetrate. A weak bullet shot will merely bounce off the skull causing little damage.
- However, try not to use too heavy bullets as this makes it hard to achieve accurate shots.
The risk is high to miss the brain and hit the deer’s jaw. This will not only allow it to escape but will cause problems eating, lead to starvation and inevitably cause a slow and painful death.
A well-placed shot to the neck will not only cut-off the blood flow to the brain and spine, but will also break the spinal cord. The deer will drop instantly since it loses its balance and there is no longer support for its head.
Most hunters do not agree on the ethical aspects of a neck shot, making it an individual or circumstance-driven decision, which only you yourself can make.
Below are the advantages and disadvantages of shooting a deer in the neck, which will hopefully make your decision a little easier.
- If you successfully hit the spinal cord the deer will drop immediately. It loses consciousness and dies very quickly and so a well-aimed shot at the neck area can drop a deer within a few seconds.
- A neck shot cuts off the blood supply and disrupts its body functions making the deer immobile and unable to escape.
- Try shooting from above and behind the neck and place the shot just below the base of the skull for an instant kill.
- The best weapon to use for a neck shot is a rifle.
- A perfect neck shot will cause the deer to go into shock and die immediately thus limiting the animal’s suffering.
- A neck shot is ideal when it comes to meat retention since there is almost no meat loss when placing a shot here.
- To hit the right spot on the neck requires extensive practice since the neck’s vital area is a relatively small spot.
- A neck shot is not an ideal shot placement for bow hunters. If you are bow hunting and have to take a neck shot, then be prepared with the proper broadhead arrows and a bow with enough draw weight.
- Even shooting with a rifle, a neck shot requires advanced skills and practice.
- Missing the neck’s vital area by placing the shot too low will wound the animal massively with only a slight chance of recovering from it. Missing the spot may also paralyze the animal resulting in you to take a second shot or slit its throat – not a very humane way to kill a deer.
- The neck almost always moves which makes a perfect aim and shot placement extremely difficult.
There is no doubt that a shot to the lung is one of the most popular areas for bow hunters to aim at. For any bow hunter, the heart and lung area is ideal.
- It is a relatively large area making it an easy to target especially when bowhunting.
- It is a sure kill for a bow hunter since the bow gets lodged in the lung, causing difficulty to breathe and making it almost impossible for the deer to escape.
- Just the same as hitting the heart, hitting the center of the lungs will also cause instant death but without the blood loss and meat damage.
- Since the deer will experience difficulty to breathe, it will prevent it from running too far.
- Although a shot to the lung may be highly effective using a bow, it could be less successful when using a rifle. The reason being that the bullet might exit the deer, wounding it but not killing it instantly.
- Furthermore, using a rifle will require heavier bullets to penetrate the lungs. Using bullets that are too light will merely hit the rib cage without causing life-threatening damage.
- Hitting one lung only could result in recovery and the deer will consequently run away.
Hitting the lungs instead of the heart might not result in immediate death and you might therefore still have to follow a blood trail.
Many hunters agree that one of the best shot placements to kill a deer is the higher shoulder area, especially if the deer is broadside to the hunter. What makes this shot so ideal?
Simply the fact that a precisely placed bullet through the shoulder blade will travel through the chest cavity to the other shoulder blade. This will inevitably cause extensive damage to the deer’s nervous system, paralyze it, break its spine and disable its front legs. This will make him completely immobile without any chance of escaping.
When choosing your weapon, the best to use for a shoulder shot is a powerful air rifle or hunting gun as opposed to a bow since the meat here is heavily muscled and you will, therefore, need a heavy bullet to do the trick.
Something also needs to be said for the distance. When attempting a single shoulder shot, the most successful shot will be if the distance from your shooting point is within a 550-yard radius.
- To place a successful shot on the shoulder of a deer requires a high level of skills.
- The greatest success will be achieved with a rifle.
- The shock and damage to the nervous system will paralyze the animal making escape near to impossible.
- The shoulder shot may easily kill a deer almost instantly.
- It disables the front legs first which prevents the animal from running away.
- A well-placed shoulder shot breaks the spine and the ribs, which either kills the deer instantly or drops it on the spot, which then makes it easier to take the finishing shot.
- Aiming for the high shoulders requires a high level of skill, making it a high risk for missing.
- We have already established that heavy bullets should be used, and heavy bullets result in severe damage and loss of meat.
- It is not an ideal spot for shooting with a bow.
Is the shot placement different when hunting with a bow? Yes, shot placement when hunting deer differs slightly when using a rifle as opposed to using a bow. The reason being that guns and bows are created differently when it comes to shot placement.
We have already mentioned that bow hunters should avoid any heavy bone areas such as the shoulder blade and leg bones, simply because these bones will make it impossible for most arrows to penetrate.
Both hunters with rifles and hunters with bows should avoid placing a shot when a deer is facing toward or directly away from you.
According to the QDMA, the heart and lungs areas are by far the quickest and most humane way to shoot deer, but the exact shot placement differs slightly when shooting with a bow instead of a rifle. Click here to check out an excellent video on the QDMA website.
When aiming for the heart using a bow you need to pull back a little bit towards the back of the deer in order to make the arrow hit the heart on target.
However, when it comes to a shoulder shot, the bow is not a good option. In contradiction to this, you will only avoid the shoulder area when shooting with a rifle if preserving the meat is important to you.
We should also take a look at some similarities when it comes to shot placement using a bow and rifle. Any hunter knows that the ideal shot opportunity is when a deer is standing broadside or slightly quartering away from you. This is true for hunting with both a bow and a rifle.
Additionally, your aim when hunting deer is always to kill the animal in the quickest and most humane way possible and this applies to the bow hunter as well as the rifle hunter.
Can a deer live after being shot? Yes, deer can live through non-fatal shots and even recover from it if only partly. Ons such example is when he has merely incurred a flesh wound.
Let’s look at a few more examples:
- When you aim for the brain and miss, the chances are good that you might hit the jaw. The deer will survive for a while, suffer severely and die a slow and painful death as a result of starvation.
- When a shot is placed too forward when aiming for the heart, the deer will survive and escape with a non-fatal injury.
- When a shot to the lungs results in hitting only one lung, the deer might survive, recover and run away.
How far can deer run after being shot? The farthest a wounded deer would run is approximately 100 yards, keeping in mind, of course, the severity of the wound.
The reason being that a wounded deer wants to bed down and will even die in bed if possible.
Do deer jump when you shoot them? When you hit a deer in the vitals, you will most often see a high jump and kick followed by a high-speed run.
Opposed to this, a deer shot low in the stomach or guts will most likely run off and stand somewhat hunched up.