Where To And Not To Shoot A Deer: A Weapon Agnostic Guide
Whitetail deer are the top most hunted big game animal in North America amongst all styles of hunters. Deer hunting can be done using many different weapons. Still, the proper shot placement is dependent on the weapon you are using and how you are hunting. Making an ethical shot to the vital organs of a deer is essential to avoid wounding the deer and following a solid blood trail.
This article will go into the many different shot opportunities you may be presented with as a hunter and assess them properly. Use the image of the deer’s vitals to help guide you through the different shot angles below.
Elevated Shot Placement
For both firearms and bows, taking a shot from an elevated position requires more forethought with the path the projectile will take. These types of shots typically occur in tree stands or elevated blinds.
Your aiming point may need to be a bit lower to ensure a good shot, proper pass-through, and cleanly hitting the kill zone. Every hunter should consider the shot opportunities below from different angles, and the total projectile path is always essential. Bowhunting is the most important here because arrow deflection by hitting bone is always possible, even with high-powered crossbows.
Front Shot Placement
This shot style is not ideal; whatever your weapon, you should try and avoid taking it. If you need to make this shot, the deer should have its head up and have its neck and chest exposed to you. For a bowhunter, you should avoid this shot altogether.
Front shots are not a good setup for hitting a deer in its vital area, and you should try and be patient to wait for the deer to turn. If you are a hunter using a firearm, you can aim low neck and between the shoulder blades in the chest cavity. However, it’s best to be patient if you can wait for a better shot.
All hunters should avoid headshots with all weapon styles. The head is simply too small of a target to hit well, and improper shot placement will leave you with a wounded deer. The goal here would be to aim for a brain shot on the deer.
However, this small target area and constantly moving target make this a challenge with any weapon at any distance. Don’t create a wounded, unrecoverable deer and wait for a better shot opportunity.
Shooting a deer in the neck, regardless of the shot angle is not an easy shot. Looking at the vitals above, you can see that the general target area to hit an artery or blood vessel is quite small. Bowhunters should look for a different shot opportunity here. Hunters using a firearm can get away with this shot, but accurate placement is critical.
The broadside shot is the creme de la creme of shot opportunities on a deer. Broadside shots are the best shot you can take on a deer, and good placement will only require one shot to complete. A broadside deer presents the largest vital area on a deer’s body to the hunter and is the most humane kill you can do.
A well-placed broadhead from a bow, slightly behind the deer’s shoulder, will hit the lung area and potentially the heart. A shot from a powerful firearm in this same area will have the energy to penetrate the shoulder and hit the vital area. Any of these shots will cause hemorrhaging and leave you with a good blood trail to follow.
Straight Down Shot Placement
The straight-down shot is one of the most deceiving shots a hunter will have in the field. In archery, any close shot can seem like a simple opportunity, but this is not one of those opportunities. Bowhunters and firearm hunters alike should be wary here because hitting a vital area is difficult. Avoid taking this shot, wait for a better one, and save the potentially damaged backstraps for a meal with friends.
Quartering To Shot Placement
The quartering to shot is reserved for those with firearms. Bowhunters should avoid the quartering forward shot because the front leg and front shoulder bones block the vital area. A gun should not have an issue penetrating bone and hitting the vitals here. Your shot should be near the front of the shoulder so you can penetrate bone and hit the vitals hidden behind.
Quartering Away Shot Placement
Quartering away shots are the next best shot opportunity for a deer next to the broadside. This shot provides an excellent lung shot and heart shot chance for both bowhunters and firearm hunters.
When shooting, you will want to aim further back than you would typically shoot a deer broadside. Whenever you take a shot on a deer, you should think about the path the projectile will take on entry until exit. Bowhunters and firearm hunters alike should take advantage of a shot opportunity on a deer quartering away.
Preparation is critical in any sport, and hunting is no exception. Sometimes, the first shot is the last shot you will get on a deer, so studying the different opportunities and be picky. Even with modern archery equipment, deer are notorious for jumping the string. They can dodge arrows in a matrix-like fashion before running off into the distance.
Whatever weapon you choose to take with you into the woods this year, use it effectively and learn the right moments to shoot. The season is always approaching quicker than we expect and stay informed to stay prepared. Best of luck out there this year!