Where to Aim On a Deer, Guide for Hunters

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Each one deer hunter wants immediate, neat, and humane kills. Aiming for the deer vitals is the assured way to do that.

Even if you hunt whitetail deer or muleys, as a virtuous hunter, achieving a fast kill is the eventual goal when it comes time to lose an arrow or pull the trigger. All one has to do is aim for the deer’s vitals. Understandable, right?

Well, yes and no. Simply yes, in that placing your shot in the boiler room is the confirmed way to bring an animal down quickly. Simply no, in that there’s plenty to consider both before and after you release that arrow or pull that trigger.

This may be deer hunting 101 for a lot of you, but it never hurts to review, and there are new deer hunters joining the ranks every year. Here are the essentials of conclusive where to aim.

What are a deer’s vitals?

The vital space is a spot where the lungs and heart are placed. The lungs and heart are fundamental organs, hence the term. If the lung and/or heart are injured unquestionably blood loss or suffocation will occur, and death comes quickly.

Flawlessly, you want your shot placement to hit lungs as well as the heart. This is why a sidelong shot is the most perfect way. It shows the surest scenario for your bullet or arrow to strike both organs, generally putting the deer down quickly.

Where to Shoot a Deer for One-Shot Kills

deer's vitals spot

To kill a deer with a single shot is the lifelong dream of every liable hunter. Many of us were learned to put a bullet in the “boiler room,” the heart and lungs. But should we be targeting? We asked a number of deer cullers, those sharpshooters whose job requires them to kill deer quickly, in their opinion on bullet placement. Their suggestions, detailed below, is: “It depends.” On distance, bullet type, shooting ability, and even meat retention.

An Old shooter’s advice is, “you can’t afford misses or wounded deer running around”. Two together cost you money and time, specifically- a wounded, bleeding deer, escaping for its life and terrifying other deer.

How anyone ensures a drop-it-where-it-stands shot? According to a famous hunter named James Hook, it’s all about the brain.

First of all, draw a line from tear duct to tear duct, then go 2.5 to 2.75 inches above that line, centered, says Hook. That’s where you want to place your bullet-first and best option.

A bullet in the brain immediately immobilize the animal; death follows in seconds. Obviously, Hook and his team have an advantage over hunters: They shoot at night with infrared optics, from raised, mobile platforms, over bait, at known distances (usually 50 to 60 yards), and (where legal) with suppressed rifles.

Hook uses .223-caliber rifles, firing 50- to 55-grain frangible varmint projectiles that expend all their energy into the brainpan. In the urban and suburban environments in which he works, Hook can’t manage to have around exited an animal.

Second option: A brain shot from the side.

Third: A shot just below the back of the skull in the first four cervical vertebrae of the spine.

“The deer drop immediately,” Hook says of the vertebrae shot. Heart and lung functions will cease. They lose consciousness and die in eight to 12 seconds.

If one’s only got a shot lower down on the neck, he should wait for a better option. Body shots are way too risky.

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