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Where to Shoot a Deer?

Last Updated: 04.02.23


Where to place the shot for big game animals can be a controversial topic among plenty of hunters because there are many variables to take into consideration such as range and weapon like we discussed in our recent article. For every variable, there is a different outcome so the last decision comes to you, the hunter.

Let’s start

You can pick one of the various places in which you can shoot a deer which will kill it in a very quick and humane way. Naturally, some of these methods can be seen as being more on the risky side compared to the others you can try. We will talk here about shot placement and angles so you can have a general idea.


The broadside shot

The shot that most experts see as the ideal one is the broadside shot. When you watch a hunting show it’s very likely that this is the shot everybody’s waiting to happen. This is because deep in broadside offers you a target that is large enough to which you have full access to the vital points.

Regardless if you are using an arrow or a bullet, a shot that is well-placed right behind the shoulder, right at the shoulder or above the point that is created by the shoulder can do the needed damage in the lungs and heart.

If all goes right, the shot should enter somewhere between the ribs and exit on the other side also through the ribs. This will lead to the smallest amount of damage to the meat possible, lots of blood loss and a blood trail that you’ll spot easily.

Even if sometimes a shot with the arrow can be challenging as it may hit a bone, you won’t have problems if it hits the rib. The same rule applies to caliber rifles that are on the small side.

This type of shot is seen as being ethical as it also gives you a huge margin for error. Since lungs are clearly a very big target especially when we’re talking rifles, even if you miss, you are still highly likely to break the shoulders or at least one of them.

If you miss on the high side, you can break the back of the deer, while missing on the low side can either be a complete miss, but it can also hit in the gut. You can still use the meat if you shot the animals in the gut, but it’s not a recommended place to place your aim.


Quartering: access to vital organs

Even if the broadside shot is the one that offers the less amount of meat damage, some hunters prefer the slight quartering away shot. In case the deer is quartering away you can go for it even if you are further away from it and by hitting the shoulder, you will be able to punch the lungs and heart with the bullet.

You can use this technique for a variety of bows and rifles as they can break the shoulder with no problems. A downside of this decision is the fact that you have meat loss around the off-shoulder area. This can be avoided with an arrow or by using a rifle of small-caliber as there is less shock and bloodshot.

In case the deer is quartering toward you, you should avoid using a bow. The nearside front shoulder has a very high chance of blocking the vitals, while also an arrow is known for not causing the needed damage in such a case so the animal will not be put down.

If you are using a rifle, the deer can be quartering-to or broadside, as the bullet will go through the shoulder easily and will have the desired effect on the vital organs.

As mentioned, you are probably going to have meat loss in either one or both of the shoulders, but, very likely, you’ll be able to recover the animal after you killed it in the most humane way possible.

Face to face can be tricky

If the animal is facing you this means you’ll have a very nice path toward the heart which sounds very effective, doesn’t it? On the other hand, you need to know that this shot is more challenging than the first one mentioned.

If the bullet or arrow goes perpendicularly through the side of the chest cavity, the most likely scenario is that only one of the lungs will be hit. Hitting one lung will lead to the animal’s death at some point, but hitting both lungs is the really important part.

This type of shot works better when using a rifle. If you hit too high, you can break the back or the neck of the deer. If you move too much on the right or too much on the left, you will still have a chance of damaging one of the lungs and breaking one of the shoulders. A low hit can be vital or completely miss the animal.

Most people who hunt using a bow prefer to take another shot than this one as it’s too risky, but if you have enough experience, you can go for it.


The risky neck shot

As we go on the list, the shots are becoming riskier. Taking into consideration a rifle, for example, the neck shot can be what some may prefer, while some avoid it altogether. If done properly you’ll destroy a part of the spine, killing the deer in just a couple of seconds. If the rifle is high-powered, you don’t even have to hit the deer in the vertebrae.

Basically, the impact of the bullet is so big that it does the job as long as you hit solid muscle that is found a couple of inches around the spine. If you only hit the windpipe or the edge of the neck, the shot will not be fatal and the deer will be left without the ability to raise its head and still get away in that condition.

The tracking of the deer is also harder in this situation and there is a small chance they’ll recover if they do get away from you.

When it comes to archery, just like the facing shot, this one is liked by some and avoided by others. Those confident in this method will look to punch the spine or a major artery. Those who avoid it feel that the shot doesn’t have enough of a chance to be a winning one.


Headshot: for those with accuracy

You can try to shoot a deer between its eyes or aim for the brain from one of the sides – if you know you hit it, you know you are done with it. As lethal as it is, if done wrong, it’s simply brutal.

Some consider this to be the most humane version as it kills the animal instantly. But if you do miss, even if by only a little, you can hit the jaw, let the animal escape and die several weeks later of hunger in complete agony.

No need to mention that a headshot that is done correctly has no meat loss and doesn’t lead to any tracking to be done. Some people present this option as one in which you either win from one shot or lose and carry on, but as mentioned, that’s not really true. Size-wise you have just as big of a chance to hit the nose or the jaw as you do for hitting the brain.

Again, when it comes to archery, you’ll find many avoiding this shot. While you can kill a deer with an arrow straight to its head, the chances are also pretty low as the roundness of the skull can make the arrow deflect.

The base of the skull: best for killshot

This type of shot can be seen as part of the headshot category or the neck one as it’s found exactly where these two meet. The margin for error with this version is pretty low so you can try it after you gain some experience. We mentioned this one separately as it’s not seen as a great initial shot, but it is a very good kill shot.

This type of shot can kill the animal in a second and doesn’t do any meat damage while also not damaging the antlers or the skull in case you would like to keep them.

Basically, the decision of where you put the aim is up to you based on circumstances and experience.



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