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How To Making Every Shot Count For Deer Hunting

Is there a best place to shoot a deer?

best place to shoot a deer

When you shoot at a deer, the aim is to mortally wound. Once you’ve locked your scope upon the downrange deer, is there a best place to aim? The question of where to shoot a deer while hunting comes up frequently. Are you potentially wasting ammunition, as well as risking the deer running off, by aiming for a small target like the head when the chest could be just as effective? Are deer constantly running off after a errant body shot?

As someone who cares very deeply about deer hunting as well as all the deer that call the forest home, I feel it is imperative to make hunting easier both for us as the hunters and the deer as the prey. A grazed deer that runs off into the woods to die a week later does nothing for you. With that in mind, here are some tips to making every shot count

Are there better places than others to shoot a deer?

Absolutely. A shot to the head is going to be much more effective at bringing down the deer than a shot to the leg. When looking at a deer lengthwise in front of you, the front half is nearly always a better option than the back half.

Is there a definitive “best” place?

When it comes to this question, the answer starts to get more complicated, eventually coming down to personal preference and ability. The two main answers to the question are the brain and just above the heart, known in some circles as the epicenter.

Why the brain?

The brain is the center of all life in a deer. A well-placed shot to the brain will immediately incapacitate the animal, resulting in death in less than a minute. If you’re unable to get a direct shot through front of the head, a side shot or shot from the rear at the top of the spinal column will yield similar results.

Why not the brain?

The biggest negative when it comes to aiming for the brain is the small target that it provides. An inch or two too high, left or right and the bullet could miss the deer completely. All you’ll have to show for your work is the sound of hooves disappearing into the thicket.

Why above the heart?

The area directly above the heart of a deer is the center of the circulatory system. The heart, lungs and several major blood vessels can be found in the vicinity of that area. A well-placed shot will have the deer down in a few moments. Contrary to shooting at the brain, there is room for several inches of when aiming above the heart. Hitting above the heart is also the most humane option for killing a deer.

Why not above the heart?

When faced head on with a deer, taking aim at the heart may not be your best option. The ribs, shoulders and sternum are quite thick, protecting the heart and the lungs. If your bullet fails to pierce this area, your prized deer will go scampering off.

You can find a plethora of evidence supporting either side. Two such articles are:

  1. http://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/big-buck-zone/2012/09/where-aim-kill-deer-one-shot
  2. http://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/hunting/2006/06/killing-zone

In the first, Brian Mccombie makes an argument for exclusively aiming for the head, more specifically the brain. His circumstances are generally more controlled than hunting in the wild, so that should be taken into consideration.

In the second, John Barsness makes some excellent points regarding why shooting for the heart is the superior choice. He references the flexibility of aim that comes with a heart shot, as well as the decidedly better venison that results from an animal that has bled out quickly. Excess blood in the muscle causes early spoilage.

When it comes to improving your shot regardless of whether you’ve chosen to focus on the brain or focus on the heart is target practice. Head to Amazon; You’ll find a wide array of potential target options.

There are full size dear targets with high detail and outlined vital organs: Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C Deer Target Kit

There are targets that focus more on the heart and that valuable area just above it: Life Size Deer Vitals – Gun & Bow Paper Hunting Shooting Targets 15×19 Inches

Or you could purchase a CO2 air rifle to practice your shot in your own backyard: Winchester Model M 14 Semi-Automatic CO2 Air Rifle

Depending on whether you prefer rifles, bows or throwing knives, you can find copious amounts of information on youtube. The majority of videos found on youtube are compilations of deer kills, providing a wide range of examples on what results from hitting different areas of a deer. These are useful for inspiration

This short video shows a deer lying on its side, while the instructor demonstrates the best places to aim on the body.

When looking across the deluge of information available on the subject, the two best options in the eyes of the experts are the brain and just above the heart. I would recommend aiming above the heart. Given the margin of error allowed by such a shot, as well as the longer lasting and better tasting venison that results from a quick bleed out, it is the superior choice.

I would recommend spending some time either at the range with your rifle of choice or in your backyard with an air rifle and purchase a one of the many targets available from Amazon like this one: Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C Deer Target Kit

I welcome any comments or questions that you may have after reading this. More fruitful hunting will result just follow these steps:
• Buy some targets
• Practice, practice, practice
• Aim for the heart
• Enjoy better tasting venison and less chasing down a runaway deer

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1 comment
john says November 12, 2015

A picture is worth a thousand words/please show the correct spot on the deer / animal where we should aim 4 . I’m new at the hunting scene .have eaten deer sausage/its out of this world. My tree stand will b 20 ft. High wit a swivel seat

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