As responsible hunters, it is our goal to harvest deer quickly and with a single shot that will drop them soon after impact. This eliminates suffering on the deer's part as well as extensive tracking and difficulty locating the deer on the part of the hunter. While we all have an idea in mind as to where a well-placed shot should land, are you actually aiming where you should be?
Photo: Hunting Net
It has historically been touted that a well-placed, effective shot should be in the boiler room area of the deer as it stands broadside. This area is comprised of the heart and lungs and is often ideal for a quick dispatch due to the internal hemorrhaging it causes. Sometimes it is not quick enough and deer are still able to flee, but they tend to leave an ample blood trail in the process. Even so, it makes good sense to go for this bodily area as if you miss, there are still other vital organs in the vicinity, but if you miss those as well or merely wing a rib, the deer can go on to recover.
If meat retention is your goal and you have no intention of mounting the head, then a brain shot is extremely effective but only if you have impeccable aim as being an inch or two off means missing the kill zone or missing the animal entirely. Imagine a centrally located spot a few inches above the tear ducts. A bullet in that region will immediately incapacitate the deer, causing them to drop and die. Some bodily spasms may occur, but overall the kill will be quick and clean. If you are unable to get a shot in this particular location, taking aim right below the back of the skull does much the same job, causing lung and heart stoppage when the spinal column is cut off from the brain. Death follows in a matter of seconds.
Double shoulder shots are also heralded as effective in dropping a deer quickly. When the bullet makes impact, the force of it combined with the deer's reaction causes the body to move in such a manner that the spine cannot handle the pressure and snaps, rendering the deer immobile as it's bodily functions cease. To achieve this, the bullet needs to pass fully through one shoulder blade and the body of the deer, colliding with the other shoulder blade. The downside of this shot placement, however, is the meat loss associated with it, although it is a good shot for those with less than stellar aim as it allows for a larger target area.
Vertebral shots include the high shoulder and the neck, both of which will snap the spine if the shot hits its mark. The high shoulder shot is quick and effective, but a lot of meat can be lost, especially the much desired backstrap and ribs tend to get broken as well. If you aim here, it is also possible that you could miss entirely with the bullet soaring right over the deer. Neck shots do not damage much meat, but the neck is small target that can be easily missed. If you hit the neck and the deer falls, it could be temporary; this shot placement sometimes only paralyzes or stuns deer so additional work may be needed to finish the job.
Photo: My Outdoor Buddy
What you ultimately need to remember when deciding where to shoot is that you do not save meat based on your shot choice if you can't find the deer. Because of this, it is often best to plan your shots on a case by case scenario rather than having a solid ritual. When you engage in target practice, don't have only a broadside boiler room shot in mind. Instead, think on a much smaller scale because it could be that you have the choice of going after a brain shot or having nothing at all. On the flipside, however, if you are not confident in regards to hitting such a small shot, the deer in your sights may not be the one for you.
What are your preferred kill zones? Have you had great success or terrible failure with any one in particular? Let us know in the comments.