Where To Shoot a Deer

There is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart and that is the ethics of hunting.  I am a firm believer that it is our responsibility not only to other hunters and others outside the sport to hunt ethically, but also our responsibility to the animal itself.  These beautiful animals share our world, give us a passion to wake up early and sit freezing in trees just to get a glimpse…and yes, that perfect shot.  It is the deer that provide us with not only an adrenaline rush and a sport to love, but also meat that will fill our freezers and mounts to adorn our walls.  For all these reasons and more, it makes me cringe to hear or witness our fellow hunters taking unethical shots or acting inappropriately.  Many of us may face scrutiny outside of the hunting community from family, friends, or coworkers for participating in a sport that culminates in the end of a life.  The best way to combat these negative opinions is to respect the animal and each other through ethical hunting.  (And yes, for the most part our deer have a much better life that we can witness through our trail cams and food plots than beef or swine raised for slaughter)

Some of you may be asking what prompted this ethical rant of mine…what’s the point of the article.  The answer to that is the knowledge of the perfect shot, the almost perfect shot, and the shots NEVER to take.  After all, even the best marksman has a margin of error and it is important to know where are the best areas on a deer for a clean and ethical kill.

One of our readers left a comment today about an event that he witnessed last night (Check out the entire original comment at Opening Day Let Down Comments).  While sitting in his tree, he witnessed a doe and a fawn run and stop underneath of him.  Upon inspection, he noticed that the doe had been shot through the front with a shot that merely wounded her and was not a shot that pierced any of her vitals.  As the doe and fawn ran off, he noticed two fellow hunters hot on the trail with blatant disregard for the horrible shot that they placed on the doe, obviously from a quartering towards or facing position.  This brought me to the question…were these guys so excited to see a deer in range that they used poor judgment or did they really not know the proper position in which to target a deer?  We have all had that trophy of the lifetime or at least of the year near us and had to pass up a shot because it was not even close to a good shot, this is one of the ethical decisions that we all must make every time that we enter the woods.

That brings us full circle back to respecting the animal.  Whether it was carelessness or naiveté, either way there is now a wounded doe traveling with a little one all because someone did not know or care about the proper position to shoot the doe.

Sooo, here’s the rundown on the best shots for a clean kill that will hopefully drop your trophy where they stand.

Know the Anatomy of a Deer                



Know Your Weapon

For those of you who don’t know or would like a refresher, here is the basic way that an arrow is able to kill a deer. Arrows are composed of a shaft, vanes, and a broadhead.  The vanes allow the arrow to fly according to where you have aimed and the shaft is the method of transportation usually made out of carbon or aluminum.  The broadheads are the penetrating tip that are basically razor blades that are either “fixed” and already open or mechanical and will open on contact.  For more specifics on mechanical and fixed blade broadheads, check out the article Mechanical VS Fixed Blade Broadheads. Most of the time, the broadheads will cut through arteries and veins or vitals that will result in enough blood loss to kill the animal.  Other shots that collapse the lungs can cause a quick death through suffocation, but arrows will not cut through heavy bones such as the shoulder, hips, head, and neck.  This is why a quartering towards shot should never be taken.  Even at a perfect broadside shot, a deer can jump or duck causing the arrow to bounce off the shoulder.  Therefore, careful shot placement is very important.


The broadside shot is the most preferred shot by all hunters using any weapon.  This means that the animal is leaving you a perfect shot at its side, thereby exposing all of the vitals including the potential for a double lung shot or a heart shot.  The best way to imagine hitting the perfect spot is to imagine in your mind removing the head, neck and tail..concentrate only on the body of the animal.  In your mind, divide the animal in half both horizontally and vertically and aim about 6 inches forward of where the imaginary lines intersect.

For those of you like me who would prefer a visual…here is a good image.


Quartering Away 





The quartering away shot is the second best shot to take following the opportunity to take a broadside shot. The quatering away shot also puts you in line to take out most of the vitals including the lungs and heart.  However, this shot is tricky and requires some thought when deciding to take a shot.  If a deer is barely quartering away, you have a close to broadside shot and the deer is facing away so he won’t see you.  However, the more  the deer quarters away the tighter the shot gets because the rear hips and front shoulders will be at an angle that they would meet if the deer is quartering more that 45 degrees away.  So use your judgement wisely when analyzing a quartering away shot.


Quartering Towards




The quartering towards shot I am going to lump in with a facing or head on shot and a rear end shot as the 3 shots that should not ever be placed by responsible hunters.  When a deer is facing you to quartering towards you, there is a very good chance that you will hit the shoulder and render a non-fatal hit.  I am sure that none of us would go to sleep well at night knowing that we carelessly wounded a deer because we could not be patient enough for a broadside or quartering away shot.  A non-fatal wound will either heal over time, or get infected which will result in the animal suffering until death long after the shot is placed.  Either way you look at it, it is not ethical and you will not be harvesting the deer so why take the shot in the first place.  For those of you that know your deer anatomy and noticed that I placed the rear end shot into this category of shots not to take…yes, there is the possibility to shoot the femoral artery from this angle.  However, we all have to be realistic, the femoral artery is smaller than your little finger and protected by heavy leg muscle and hip bone, so the likelihood of making the shot is slim and the likelihood of injuring the animal with a non lethal shot is high.  Therefore, both Andy and I recommend not taking quartering towards, facing, or rear end shots.

We hope you learned a little, remembered a little, and thought a lot.  We are all human, but I just wanted to remind everyone through the excitement of past week not to lose site of our responsibility to be ethical hunters.

Happy hunting everyone!

4 Responses

  1. Bob McFarlane
    I appreciate you being an "ethical" hunter.. Just because we "can" shoot a deer does not mean that we should.. Some hunters shoot to count the numbers; these are the hunters I cannot abide.. Thank You...
  2. Bryce
    Thanks for the article mate. Just got my first compound bow 70lber and wanted to be educated if I decide to go hunting sometime.
  3. Phillip
    Couldnt help but to agree. I wish you would have addressed shooting from a tree stand verses ground blind. There is a difference, I.e. a spine shot attempt from elevation. I believe should never be considered. PJ
    • admin
      PJ, I don't believe in spine shots either. However, that is a person choice that we both make. Many people will take, and to even some point like a spin shot out of a treestand. There is also the breast bone shot, when a deer is walking towards you. Another shot I would not take, but some people will take it every time they get it. Sometimes it just depends on your own choice and the circumstances, other times it's just making your choice before you head into the woods. Thank you for the comment, and I will either update or write a new post for treestand shots. Thanks

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