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Shot Placement & Selection For Deer Hunters

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Knowing well ahead of time what represents a good first shot will make you a more aggressive and successful deer hunter. Knowing when not to shoot will make you a more ethical deer hunter. Many of us focus on the horns and not the shot placement for a humane harvest.

The maturity of a deer hunter can better be judged by the kinds of shots he passes up than the size of the bucks he has taken. These tips are designed to help you evaluate every situation and knowing a good shot from a marginal one. Making the right moves and taking the best shot at the right times requires pre-planned actions. 

HEAD-ON SHOT (for guns only)
This shot presents gun hunters with three vital targets. A shot in the chest will hit the heart or lungs. A bullet in the neck will usually break the neck or cause enough shock to drop the animal instantly. It could also destroy the esophagus and/or carotid artery or jugular vein. 

The head-on shot is not good for bowhunters. Unless the arrow hits the chest dead-center, which presents a very small target, it can easily deflect off the bone. 

BROADSIDE SHOT (bow and gun)
Gun hunters can drop deer instantly with a broadside shot by putting a bullet through the shoulder blade. A well- constructed bullet will pass through the blade and the spine.

The broadside shot is also good for bowhunters, but it doesn’t leave much room for error as the quartering-away shot does. Arrows that pass through the vital organs produce quick, clean kills. Aim for the heart, knowing that a high shot will still hit the lungs. Archers must avoid the shoulder blade. 

For archers, the quartering-away shot offers the best chances for success. Even if the arrow hits a bit too far back, it can angle forward into the chest cavity for a quick kill. When taking this shot, the point of aim should be through the deer to the opposite shoulder. 

This is also a great shot for gun-hunters. As with the bow, the gun-hunter’s point of aim should be through the deer to the opposite shoulder. 

As with the head-on shot, the quartering-toward shot is good for gun hunters. 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. 

While this shot should be avoided by bowhunters, a properly placed arrow can hit the lungs or heart, making for a clean kill. However the target again is very small. If possible, avoid this shot and wait for a better opportunity.


Making quick, certain kills should be the main goal of every gun and bowhunter. Keeping the following facts in mind before taking a shot will help you make wise decisions.

  • When shooting at deer with bow and arrow, aim for the heart regions. If the deer “jumps the string” by dropping sharply before bounding away, the arrow will still the lungs.
  • The average whitetail deer, weighing about 150 pounds, carries about eight pounds of blood in its circulatory system. Massive hemorrhage is necessary to bring the deer down quickly.
  • A deer must lose at least 35 percent of its blood, or 2.75 pints in a 150 pound deer before falling. The better the hit, the quicker the loss.
  • Deer blood carries high levels of vitamin K1 and K2 in early autumn. Vitamin K is an anti-hemorrhage agent, which greatly aids blood clotting.
  • Frightened whitetails produce high levels of B-endorphin, which supports rapid wound healing. Endorphins consist of morphine-like chemicals from the pituitary gland, allowing the animal to control pain.
  • Deer, particularly in northern areas, have thick layers of tallow along the back and below the brisket. This can plug wounds, preventing a good blood trail.
  • A string tracking device attached to a bow and arrow is sometimes useful in recovering game. However, the string does affect the arrow flight on long shots

Some good old fashioned common sense, patience and looking beyond the horns will often times produce the right conditions for your to harvest your next trophy buck.

Read more at OL’MAN Outdoors

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