Learning where to shoot a deer is, of course, the most important lesson a new hunter can learn. It's important to be able to visualize your shot placement and where you're hoping to hit vitals. We've built out the ultimate guide for just that so you can not only see exactly where you need to aim, but also the path your bullet or arrow will take through the deer's vitals.
Eye Level Shot Placements
It’s exciting to be eye to eye with deer in a ground blind or when you’re on a spot-and-stalk hunt. Every move you make is seen, your scent is more noticeable and your aiming point can be different. Even the best deer rifle can’t help you overcome bad shot placement. Let’s look at different strategies for hunting on the ground.
Eye-Level Quartering-Toward Shot
The quartering-to shot is a tough shot for a bowhunter. Often, it is best to wait for the deer to give you a better angle. If you are a veteran bowhunter and confident you can make the quartering-to shot, your aiming point should be right behind the elbow of the lead leg. At 15 yards or less, wait for the deer to move the lead leg forward and take your shot. The goal is to hit the lung and liver.
The quartering-to shot is not a horrible angle for rifle hunters, but not ideal either. If the deer is not going to give you a better angle, then aim right behind the elbow of the lead leg. Other choices are between the lead leg and breastplate or high shoulder. Hunters should avoid the shoulder socket; this is not a great choice for any weapon.
Eye-Level Quartering-Away Shot
The quartering-away shot is the bowhunter’s dream. The deer is less likely to see you draw your bow, and important vitals are exposed. It’s best to aim for the opposite shoulder and worry less about the point of entry. When you hit the opposite shoulder, you have sent an arrow through the vitals and the tracking job is usually short and sweet.
The quartering-away shot for rifle hunters is extremely lethal.
Ideally, the opposite shoulder is taken out, and the deer does not travel far. It is best to aim for the opposite shoulder, knowing you will take out most vitals along the way. Let a young hunter sit in a stand that will likely have a quartering away shot. The success rate is high, and they will never forget the hunt.
The Eye-Level Broadside Shot
The broadside shot is one bowhunters should not hesitate to take. Find a tuft of hair or spot of mud just behind the lower shoulder. You are trying to aim at something small in hopes of missing small. A tuft of hair is often easier to aim at than the entire side of a deer. The goal is a clean pass-thru for a quick kill and an easier tracking job.
The broadside shot for the large caliber hunters is more challenging than one might think. A high shoulder shot here is ideal. The animal will go down right away, and a follow-up shot is seldom needed. Don’t take this shot for granted; stay focused, and you will soon load this deer in the truck.
Elevated Shot Placements
Hunters in tree stands or elevated blinds have a distinct advantage. Their scent is harder to detect, their movement is often not noticed and they have a greater field of view. The disadvantage can be that shot placement is different from an elevated position than on the ground. Let’s look at other strategies from an elevated stand or blind.
The Elevated Quartering-Toward Shot
The quartering-to shot for bowhunters is not ideal. If the deer is not going to give you a better angle, then the point of aim is just above and behind the elbow of the lead leg. Your best chance to hit the lungs and liver is when the deer moves its front foot forward. Remember, with an elevated shot, the exit point is as important as the entry point.
The quartering-to shot for rifle hunters is not the ideal shot to take, but it’s not the worst. Much like the bowhunter, you want to aim right behind and slightly above the elbow of the lead leg. Hopefully, you can wait until the lead leg is forward. You can also use the area between the lead leg and breastplate for a lethal shot.
The Elevated Quartering-Away Shot
The elevated quartering-away shot will give any bowhunter buck fever. Bowhunters know this angle will expose important vitals, and the likelihood of jumping the string is low. Make sure your shooting lanes are clear and aim for the opposite shoulder. Your entry point may seem high, but you will have a clean kill as your arrow travels through vitals.
A rifle hunter making an elevated quartering-away shot should also aim at the opposite shoulder. With an accurate shot, this deer is going down. Not everyone thinks about a quartering away shot when setting up a tree stand. Make sure you have a clean window to shoot through as the deer walks by.
The Elevated Broadside Shot
The elevated broadside shot is what every bowhunter plans for. Shooting lanes are trimmed and corn is left in the perfect spot to stop the deer broadside. Your aim should be right behind the elbow of the front leg. Not too high since broadside deer are notorious for dropping on the shot. Visualize the shot before and during your sit. Relax and don’t overthink the shot; this is what you have waited on.
The elevated broadside shot for a rifle hunter is the stuff dreams are made of. The high shoulder is a great aiming point — this spot often drops the deer quickly. If you’re filming your hunt with a scope-mounted camera, make sure you stay on the deer after the recoil. Often, this shot results in the deer going down on camera.
Have a Strategy
Many hunters don’t think about shot strategy until the deer is in front of them. This lack of planning only adds to the effects of buck fever. There are other angles to consider, but they generally end with the walk of shame. We discussed how the quartering-to, quartering-away and broadside shot strategies will help you make an ethical and lethal shot.