Nothing bothers me more in hunting than failing to find an animal that I shot. 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. Too many people get caught up in the moment and lose focus, and thus lose their best opportunity to shoot.
While many people go with the “if it’s brown, it’s down” philosophy, others take a more mature attitude when hunting. This is evident in the size and age of deer they shoot. It is important that you evaluate every situation and be able to differentiate between a good shot and a bad shot. Making the right shot takes time and practice in the field and on the range.
If you are hunting with a gun, a head-on shot is an option. This should never be done with a bow. 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.
For a bow hunter, the best shot is when a deer or any other animal is standing broadside to you. With this shot, the archer has the ability to easily pass the arrow through both lungs and the heart. This will allow for the quickest and most ethical kill. Look for a spot one third to one half up the deer, and about a hand’s width behind the shoulder. That is your aiming point. You should avoid hitting the shoulder blade, as this will cause your arrow to deflect away from its intended target.
For archers, the quartering-away shot offers a chance for success in the field. Even if the arrow hits a bit too far back, it can angle the arrow 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.
When an animal is quartering towards the hunter, the shot should not be taken. It is possible for a properly placed arrow to hit the vitals and make for a clean kill. However, often times when bow hunters take this shot, they miss the lungs and hit the stomach and intestines. This will ruin most, if not all, of the meat on the deer. It is better to simply wait for a better shot to present itself.
Making a clean and quick kill should be the goal every hunter. Thinking each shot through will help you become a better and more ethical hunter. Remember the list of facts below to help you become a better hunter in the field.
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 hit 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. The better the hit, the quicker the loss. Deer blood carries high levels of vitamin K 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.
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.
Remember, above all else: if you have any doubts about the shot, do not shoot. Be patient and wait for the animal to give you the opportunity to take a quality shot.