Deer hunting is as much about the best shot placement as it is about locating and stalking the deer. Big game hunters agree that careful selection of shots is quite important to the success of the hunt. It’s pointless to stalk the game only to see it run off unharmed because of a mistimed or an ineffective shot.
You really can’t afford to waste bullets or cause your deer to run away when you miss a shot.
While it’s every hunter’s dream to kill the game animal with a single shot, that is not the reality in most situations.You’ll have to be a sharpshooter to execute some of the technical shots that some experienced hunters prefer. You better be prepared to use your skills and experience to select the best places to shoot a deer.
Here’s the bottom line: Shoot the deer in the best spot to bring and keep it down. So, what is the best shot placement for deer?
These best places really depend on the angle the deer is in relation to where the hunter is; the kind of gun the hunter is using; the mood of the deer – is it calm or agitated?
You may be familiar with places like the neck, head, and heart which appear to be the best areas to shoot to kill deer. Other areas are the high shoulder and the scapula. Of course, whether the deer is moving swiftly or standing still you’ll need to consider the situation in choosing your best shot.
Hunters still regard the traditional kill zone - the shoulder area, lungs, and heart as their best option. This gives hunters the best opportunity to strike vital organs and break the shoulder to stop the animal in its tracks.
In this article, we will take a closer look at five best places to shoot a deer that you may find quite effective.
5 Best Places To Shoot a Deer
The High Shoulder Shot
One of the best shot placement for deer is in the high shoulder area. This is the area on the deer just about a third or a quarter above the brisket, which is the breast and lower chest.
Hunters love this spot as it is a large target area that delivers the most effective stoppage for any moving deer. The moment the bullet penetrates the high shoulder area, the deer’s spine is broken, it falls paralyzed as its nervous system is disrupted, making coordinated movement impossible.
Since this is also the area where the rib cage protects the lungs and the blood supply system, a well placed shot through it, from a suitable distance will also break the ribs, making the deer unstable as well.
To successfully bring a deer down with this high shoulder shot, you’ll need the kind of bullets that are volatile and upsetting - to create damage. Light bullets won’t help you here.
The disadvantage, however, is that volatile and upsetting bullets will also cause major damage to the meat that can extend from the shoulder to the neck and even to the upper backstrap. Another thing to remember is that it’s too easy to miss your target when you aim high.
Although this high shoulder shot allows for errors – even if you get the deer for your trouble, it is the best shot placement for deer that will limit the animal’s ability to escape too far. You’ll need to aim carefully to avoid missing the target entirely and end up scaring it away.
The Heart-Lung Shot
Aiming for the heart may be a no-brainer for some, but for the experienced hunter, this is one of the best places to shoot a deer although its also a little technical. The area of the heart and lung presents a large enough target that if you miss your intended spot, the chances of hitting vital organs remains high.
The obvious result of a heart or lung shot is the heavy bleeding that occurs as the deer loses blood rapidly. If the animal runs off, you’ll be able to track it down by the blood trail it leaves in its wake.
If you happen to shoot only the tip of a lung, the deer may escape and recover. The deer may not go down immediately after being shot in the lung or heart. You’ll have to be prepared to track it down for some distance in order to recover it.
Here’s a tip from experienced hunters:
Don’t aim for the heart directly. Instead, aim for the area located right above the heart. That way, you’ll still be able to inflict sufficient stopping power as blood vessels are disrupted and the animal’s blood pressure drops. The massive hemorrhage that results from a well-executed heart-lung shot will actually bring the deer down within a few seconds.
This best shot placement for deer may also ensure that you don’t damage too much of the meat. This is achieved with a well placed shot through the rib cage on the deer’s broadside aimed for the lungs. Ensure that you are using the correct bullets for this job as light bullet won’t be as effective in killing a deer this way.
The Brain or Head Shot
Another of the best places to shoot a deer is in the head aiming for the brain. This kind of shot requires great skill as well as patience, and perhaps a little luck. A shot to the brain is ideal to kill the deer instantly and many hunters prefer this shot as it brings satisfaction with the instant results.
So, the advantage of a head shot is that the deer dies instantly, with little suffering. You also won’t lose meat as well.
The disadvantage, of course, is that it’s too easy to miss your target – it’s so small (the deer’s brain is approximately three inches.) You might also end up only injuring the deer if the shot falls too low – for example on the jaw. As a result, it will simply run off and, if not recovered, will die a slow and painful death owing to its inability to graze.
If you’re a skillful sharpshooter, you won’t have trouble executing a perfect headshot in the best of conditions. Otherwise, the best time to shoot a deer in the head is when it is sleeping, resting in some way, or is standing perfectly still. You may also need to be in close range of the deer to take a headshot – which is not always possible if it senses that you are nearby.
The Neck Shot
Shooting a deer in the neck is another option, which actually saves you much damage to the meat. The neck connects the head to the trunk of the deer so any shot to this area is sure to break the connection between the brain and the rest of the animal.
A clean shot to the neck is the best shot placement for deer guaranteed to bring it down – even drop it dead.
A neck shot on a moving deer is not an easy one to take. That’s because the neck area is such a small target that requires great skill to execute.
Once you have successfully shot the deer in that area, expect it to fall as the bullet penetrates and severs the supply of blood to the brain, the heart and lungs. The bullet may also break the vertebrae that will render the deer unstable and it will collapse.
Patience is required to take a clean neck shot on a deer. If it’s standing still, you’ll have a better chance of hitting it where you want it. Shooting it too low will only injure the deer and you’ll have the task of tracking it down until you recover it – or perhaps you’ll lose it altogether. Another risk is that the animal may move suddenly and you’ll only succeed in missing the mark and watching it run off, unhurt.
The Scapula Shot
A shot to the scapula, or shoulder blades, is certain to bring your target down and is actually one of the best places to shoot a deer.
Many hunters will, however, have trouble making the scapula an intentional shot. You’re more likely to hear stories of deer being shot accidentally on that spot. All in all, if you ever find yourself shooting a deer in the scapula, expect to use another shot to finish it off.
The good thing about a shot to the scapula is that it does not waste or damage the meat, so you’ll get much more value from your kill.
A carefully taken shot at the scapula is, however, quite possibly one of the best shot placement for deer. Just keep your eye on the area where the deer’s backbone drops in line with where the rib cage encloses the heart and lungs. When taken correctly, your shot will not only damage the shoulder blade and limit movement, it also breaks the deer’s back and brings it down. You’ll then be able to complete the kill without having to chase it anywhere.
Just be sure that the deer is not moving after being hit in the scapula. You should also ensure that the distance between you and the deer before you shoot is not too far away – say around less than five hundred meters.
Accidents usually happen and one such mishap is the unintended shot to the abdomen. When this happens, the bullet will puncture intestines and spill any waste contents, spoiling the meat. At all costs, don’t shoot a deer in the abdomen!
Which Shot would you take?
Now that you have seen five of the best places to shoot a deer, which one would you take? A shot to the shoulders will cause the deer to fall on the spot, its vital organs probably struck. You’ll still need to finish it off with another shot. A shot to the heart or lung will certainly cause the deer to run, but not very far. A carefully placed shot to the brain will definitely kill it instantly, but that’s not the easiest shot to take. A scapula shot is also not the easiest shot to take but is regarded as one of the best shot placement for deer to imobilize it.
Depending on your hunting skills, you may be able to execute any of these shots effectively and with experience, you’ll be able to master these and other shots to bring the deer down. For greater hunting success, select your shot carefully. Go for the shot that has a high probability of a successful strike.