Proper Shot Placement for Quick Deer Takedown

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When deer hunting it is important to consider proper shot placement to guarantee a successful hunt and prevent the animal from suffering. Hitting one of four target areas on the deer will guarantee a quick takedown.  Before we get into that, it’s important to point out the obvious: make absolutely sure you have a good visual on target.  Don’t take the shot if you cannot see the target clearly.  We’ve all heard the horror stories of accidental “friendly-fire” shootings when someone misidentifies a fellow hunter as a deer.  It goes without saying that you can’t hit the the right spot on the deer if you can’t see it with crystal clarity.


Deer bed down at night. Go out and watch the area where you want to hunt at to get an idea of when the deer come through. Like many creatures, deer are creatures of habit and usually follow predictable patterns. Learning their movement habits will help you to set up in the right place at the right time to get a good shot. Once you are familiar with the area you are going to hunt pick out the spot where you want to wait.  Consider visibility, terrain, obstructions — think about where the animal will approach and leave.  Place yourself into a position where you will be able to attack one of the major kill zones on the deer most readily.  For example, will your stand enable you to shoot the deer from the side for a lung shot, or will you have make a much more difficult shot from the top or front?  Your ambush or stand site is important because it can either make your shot easier or harder. Once you get all this decided then you will have to make sure you get in position before the deer get there. Give yourself at least an hour to get in place and ready to shoot.

Best Target Areas on a Deer to Guarantee a Quick Kill

Where you aim will depend on how well you can consistently shoot.  An expert hunter can hit a smaller area to make a kill shot. If you are a decent shot but are not as confident, you will want to choose a larger target area to make your kill shot.  It’s always better to ensure you hit your target instead of a missing it and only injuring the animal.  Here are the best places to shoot a deer for a quick takedown:

  1. The Head:

    The head shot will kill the deer instantly. You will be able to see where he goes down so there is no need to go looking for him. The places to aim on the head are the eye, or the ear this will place the bullet into the brain which will kill the deer. Even if he moves he is not going to get too far away before hitting the ground. This is not an easy shot to make you will need to be a skilled shooter to be able to hit this area of the deer.  If you want a trophy as well as the meat, you may want to consider the risk of damaging the deer’s head to the point where a taxidermist can’t fix it.  Worse still, inaccurate shot placement to a non-lethal area could easily cost you the hunt by wounding but not killing the deer (if you hit it at all).

  1. The Neck:

    To shoot a deer in the neck you will need to place the shot about 1 to 2 inches below the top line of the neck. This means when looking at his neck look at how tall the deer is on his back and place the shot in the center of the neck area close to where the back and the neck connect. This shot will break his neck and he will usually fall where he is shot. You will not have to track him to find him you can just walk over and pick him up.  As you can imagine, this is a shot that requires expert marksmanship.

  1. The Lungs:

    This is probably the easiest place to shoot the deer. He needs to be standing broadside to you, meaning that you are looking at one side or the other of the deer. (Consider this when setting up your stand).  You will need to aim right behind the front legs at the shoulder area. This gives you a larger area to shoot at and it will still bring the deer down quickly. He may go a short distance but still easily found if you are careful with the placement of your shot.  If the deer gets out of sight you should be able to track the blood trail in many cases.  Don’t get it to far back from the shoulder area or you will make a gut shot. If you hit him in the stomach, he will be injured and will eventually die but will run for a long while and will be difficult or even impossible to find. You need to be careful not to hit the shoulder as well because not only will this ruin the meat it may also just injure the deer.

  1. The Heart:

    A heart shot is also a target to consider since you can hit the heart from two angles. First, if the deer is coming toward you it is possible to shoot the center of the chest and penetrate the heart. This will bring the deer down but he may run for a bit first.  If you don’t strike the heart directly, the deer may have the strength to go on for a little bit until blood loss brings it down.  Caution: this shot will likely penetrate the entrails of the deer if you are using a high powered rifle. For the best heart shot you will need to be at its side aiming behind the front legs at an angle toward the front of the deer. This will ensure you hit the heart and quickly kill the deer.

Taking the Shot

When you are hunting be sure of your shot before pulling the trigger. Where you shoot the deer is very important for one reason: you want to kill the deer not just injure it. Take careful aim and squeeze the trigger smoothly — don’t jerk the trigger it or you will pull your gun off-target and miss the shot. When you have your deer lined up in the cross-hairs, take a deep breath and slowly take the shot.  Again, if you are unsure of the shot don’t make it. Wait for a good clear shot and make it count. Keep in mind that if you shoot and miss, you are done hunting for that day.  Other deer will hear the shot and will avoid the area for a while.

Practicing Proper Shot Placement is Key

There is no replacement for time spent in dedicated practice!  The one of the most important factors in a successful hunt is making sure the animal goes down quickly by ensuring you hit a lethal target zone on the deer the first time.  Consider purchasing a realistic practice target and work with it often leading up to your hunt so you can avoid errors which will occur at the worst possible moment for the unprepared.  I’d recommend getting started with targets with vital organs outlines so you can start to visualize your shot placement.  Then you may consider a life-sized deer target, especially if you’re a bow hunter or if you’d just like to destroy it with a rifle just for the sake of fun (and practice).  Deer targets like the ones below are a great way to lock-in your shot placement skills for your next hunt.

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