SHOT PLACEMENT ON WHITETAIL DEER
The vital area on whitetail deer is the size of a 12” by 12” square! If you can hit that with your 1st shot your good to go your second shot does not count because you usually don’t get a second shot. A 5” x 5” circle behind the shoulders will be a better shot. If you go any further back, you are going to gut shoot him. The deer will run for a while and then die, making it difficult to find.
The following are shot placement diagrams according to the position of the animal.
Where to Aim – Broadside:
The broadside position offers several excellent shots for a firearm hunter. The best target is the shoulder and chest area. A bullet of the correct weight and fired from a firearm adequate for the game being hunted will break the shoulder and enter the lungs or heart. A head or neck shot will drop an animal instantly with no meat damage, but should only be used if you are proficient enough with your firearm.
Where to Aim – Quartering Toward – Ground Shot:
The quartering-toward angle is fine for a firearm. Aim at the head, neck or front of the shoulder for an effective hit. A light bullet may deflect off the shoulder bones of large big game such as elk, moose or large bears. Be certain you use a firearm and ammunition adequate for the game you hunt and type of shot you select.
Where to Aim – Quartering Away (steep angle):
About 55 percent of the heart-lung area is exposed. Aim along an imaginary line exiting low on the far shoulder. In this position the deer is not likely to see your movement.
Where to Aim – Quartering Away (ground shot):
About 60 percent of the heart-lung area is exposed from this position. Aim along an imaginary line through the deer’s far shoulder.
Where to Aim – Head-On Shots:
This is a good shot with an adequate firearm. The head, neck and center of the chest are vital areas that the hunter can use as aiming points.
Where to Aim – Walking Away (Steep Angle):
About 45 percent of the heart-lung area is exposed. The tendency is to shoot too far forward: aim along an imaginary line exiting between the deer’s front legs
Where to Aim – Rear-end Shots: The rear-end shot is a poor shot with a firearm. A shot to the body at this angle will probably not bring the animal down quickly and could ruin the best cuts of meat. A head or neck shot is possible if the animal has its head up. Wait for a better shot opportunity.
Where to Aim – Elevated Stands: Elevated stands, particularly tree stands, are commonly used by both firearms hunters and bow hunters. The change in the shot angle makes little difference to a hunter using firearms, but results in a smaller portion of the vital area being exposed to a bow hunter. Position of bones in relation to the vital organs changes more and more as you climb higher. The back bone and shoulder blade shield more and more of the chest cavity as the angle gets steeper. This causes the vital area to become narrower. To avoid the shoulder blade on a broadside animal when shooting from an elevated stand, aim farther behind the shoulder than you would from the ground. Many experienced bow hunters suggest that you wait for the animal to travel a few more feet and take a quartering-away shot. Complete penetration will result in a good blood trail, so avoid bones that could prevent the arrow from exiting low in the animal. Elevated stands also make it more difficult to make a double-lung hit. Consider the angle of the shot when deciding how high your stand should be. Bow hunters should be sure to practice from elevated stands before hunting. Shooting down at narrower targets is very different than shooting horizontally at targets on the ground. Always wear a safety belt when practicing and hunting from elevated stands so that you can concentrate on making a good shot without fear of falling.
So where is that spot? Well, “the right spot” is a flexible concept. It depends on the angle of the deer as viewed by the hunter, how far the deer is from the hunter, whether or not the deer is calm, how solid a gun rest the hunter has available, and many other variables.
The traditional kill zone is still the hunter’s best bet. This zone includes the shoulder area, and behind it the heart and lungs. Viewed broadside, it is roughly centered on the rear of the shoulder. This gives the hunter the best chance at hitting vital organs and/or the shoulder. Depending on the size of the critter, you’re shooting at a zone that’s approximately the size of a supper plate.
It’s important to remember that the kill zone is not two-dimensional, like a flat paper target. If a deer is broadside, a shoulder or right-behind-the-shoulder shot is great. But if it’s quartering towards or away from you very much, you should adjust your aim. Picture your bullet’s destination in the center of the animal, and aim for that. Doing so may require the bullet to impact far back in the ribcage or in the neck/brisket area in order to penetrate to the heart/lung zone and effectively kill the deer.
Hit the lungs, and the deer will run a ways and die. Hit the heart and you will likely also hit the lungs, and the deer usually won’t go far. Hit the shoulder bones, and you break the deer down as well as probably hitting vitals – it usually falls on the spot and if it keeps kicking it’s just where you want it, and you can easily deliver a finishing shot.