Where to Shoot a Deer
Being a responsible hunter means knowing the best points of entry for shot placement on your deer. Let’s take a look at where to shoot a deer and some common shots, precision shots, and last resort shot placement options.
Heart & Lung Shot
The standard heart-and-lung shot is a popular choice for multiple reasons. It allows room for a little wobble in your aim, and it’s virtually fail-proof.
A bullet needs to penetrate deeply just behind the shoulder. This approximately five inches from the deer’s underside and is almost sure to be a kill shot. This area houses the heart and lungs – two essentials the deer can’t survive without.
When weighing options of where to shoot a deer, a shoulder shot is an excellent choice for making a harvest. With your deer standing broadside to you, aim for the middle of the shoulder.
Placing your shot through his shoulder will hinder his ability to run. This will cause fatal damage in the deer’s chest cavity. The downside of this shot is the destruction of shoulder meat. The upside is a short-chase, kill shot that’s almost guaranteed to result in a speedy harvest.
A deer’s shoulder generally has very little meat on it. While many hunters like to use shoulder meat, many also find it very difficult to remove the sparse meat from the shoulder bone. Whether you’re a fan of shoulder meat or not, check local regulations to see if discarding this meat is considered wanton waste.
Precision shooters get to show off their marksmanship with head shots. The target area for a head-on shot is approximately two-and-a-half inches up from the deer’s tear ducts, and it’s centered.
Good penetration will lodge your round in. This causes it to pass through the deer’s brain likely dropping him in his tracks. This is an efficient option for where to shoot a deer when you want to make an instant harvest.
The key is to have a steady hand and confidence in your shot placement. If you’re a little off target, it could result in a wound that will cause a long death rather than one that’s quick and clean.
Shot to Side of Head
Aiming into the base of the ear almost always results in a harvest, often with the deer dropping right in its tracks. Sometimes it’s the bullet itself that makes this kill, and sometimes it’s the reverberation that occurs in the skull.
If you’re a skilled shooter, and you have clear access to the side of the deer’s head, this shot is a winner.
What if your preferred shot is a broadside placement, but the deer isn’t offering a solid broadside shot?
Quartering Toward You
You can see the broadside of your deer, but he’s angled slightly toward you. Where should you place your shot to make a harvest that’s quick and clean? There are two practical choices for this scenario.
One is to take the head shot if it’s available.
Or, in lieu of a head shot, you can go for his heart and lungs. Place your shot just in front of the shoulder and about five inches up from his underside.
Your goal is to puncture his heart and penetrate one or both lungs. Quartering toward shots can be tricky because there’s shoulder bone involved. It’s a good idea to carefully study the anatomy of a deer before hitting the woods.
You want a mortal wound that results in nothing more than a short trailing effort. You don’t want to make an improper shot and cause a wound that won’t result in a harvest.
Quartering Away from You
This shot tends to be a little easier to make than the quartering toward shot because there’s more soft tissue exposed to you.
The objective, again, is to target the heart and lungs. Place your shot a few inches behind where you would aim for the classic broadside shot.
It may not look like the right place to aim, but your goal is to take out those vital organs, so keep in mind exactly where they’re housed.
Where To Shoot a Deer That’s Approaching You
Head-on Brisket Shot
The brisket shot is an efficient choice when deciding where to shoot a deer.
When the deer is directly facing you with head held high, he gives you an opportunity to target the meaty area between his front legs. This brisket area offers access to a heart and lung shot.
If you’re shooting from ground level, your aim needs to be centered at the base of the neck. If you’re hunting from a tree stand, you’ll need to adjust the angle so that your round penetrates the same internal area as it would if you were shooting from the ground.
This shot placement often drops the deer right in its tracks, and if the deer does manage to run, he won’t go far.
Less Common Shots
When the most popular methods of where to shoot a deer aren’t an option for making a harvest, there are a couple of alternatives that can be very effective.
Targeting a deer’s spine requires precision. The spine lies just below the hairline of the deer’s back.
A shot to the spine not only breaks the bones at the point of impact, but the reverberation of the shot can also cause destruction along the entire length of the spine.
Of all the possible shot placement options available, this one requires the most precision. Shoot too high and all you’ll get is hair. Shoot too low and you could end up hitting the deer’s upper gut.
When choosing a spine shot, it’s imperative that you place your round as close to the front section of the deer’s body as possible. Shooting too far back could cause the deer to lose his ability to use his back legs, while leaving his front legs mobile.
It’s very possible for a deer to run long distances using only his front legs. Shooting close to the front of the deer’s body will disengage a larger area of his body, causing him to drop more quickly. Often, a well-placed spine shot will dispatch a deer immediately, making for an easy harvest.
Texas Heart Shot
While the origin of the name is questionable, the general consensus is that the Texas Heart Shot is about putting all your chips on the table when you’ve run out of other options.
This shot requires placing your round into the deer’s anal sphincter. You’re literally shooting the deer into his rump.
Not the meaty sections or the bone, but right into his colon by accessing the area directly beneath his fluffy tail. This shot is most often affected when the deer has winded you or otherwise gotten spooked and is high-tailing it away from you.
When he raises his flag in alarm he reveals his…there’s no delicate way to put this, butt hole and that’s exactly where you want your shot to go.
This shot placement often causes spinal damage which drops the deer. It’s not the ideal shot, but it’s an effective one when there are no other options.
The One Shot You Don’t Want to Make
When your round penetrates the stomach and surrounding body cavity of a deer, it’s called a gut shot. Gut shots often result in mortally wounded deer who can run for miles without leaving a sign of blood to follow.
If you’re lucky enough to harvest a gut-shot deer, the cleaning process is likely to be terribly unpleasant. A mixture of stomach juices, munched up acorns, and fecal matter creates a stench that’s hard to endure as you’re dressing a deer.
Never make a gut shot placement intentionally. It’s not something responsible hunters do.
While not a complete inventory of placement options on where to shoot a deer, this list covers some of the most effective choices.
Broadside shots offer an easy target for steady shots, as well as those who get the jitters when a big buck walks out. Precision shots often result in an immediate kill while showcasing the hunter’s marksmanship.
Quartering shots offer efficient harvest opportunities when easier choices of where to shoot a deer aren’t available. Also, when the deer is directly approaching you with his nose in the wind, the brisket shot is an excellent choice for making a harvest.
If you spend much time hunting, you’ll have opportunities to utilize each of these methods. The key to being a responsible, respected hunter is knowing where to shoot a deer for a quick, clean harvest.