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Old February 22, 2008, 11:57 AM   #1
Super-Dave
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Question for experienced hunters only. (No posers please)

At what point do you decide to take a head shot, neck shot or heart shot?

How do you determine this while hunting in the field? What is your thought process?

If you think you are only going to get 1 shot, how do you determine which shot to take?


I am new to the wonderful sport of hunting and have many questions that do not seem easy to find on the internet.
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Old February 22, 2008, 12:35 PM   #2
Dean C
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Dave,
Welcome to the "wonderful" world of hunting.
Simple answer for you is that you take the most efficient, humaine shot that is presented to you at the time. It is done in real time. If it is an "iffy" shot, don't take it. If you feel comfortable, take your best shot.
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Old February 22, 2008, 12:42 PM   #3
The Tourist
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+1 for Dean C
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Old February 22, 2008, 01:12 PM   #4
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+1 to Dean C

I took up rifle hunting long after I started bow hunting. Due to my background, I look for a heart/lung shot 100% of the time.

Neither right nor wrong - just what I am comfortable with.
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Old February 22, 2008, 01:22 PM   #5
hogdogs
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Both the vital zone and head/neck shot placement are rather small the vital zone allows you to "miss" point of aim by an inch or more and still do acceptable damage. A miss to head/neck either leaves a "flesh wound" or a full miss... If I am within a range that I can judge distance thus bullet rise or drop I prefer a head shot as I don't eat the head... Neck shots are tuff cuz the meat is very edible... So IMO YMMV If I got 50-70 yards on a deer with a .30-30 I will poke them in the head. Under that I make a quick decision based on odds of that POI thing... I despise tracking game...
Hogs? I would go for a head shot only for defense for the most part. A properly placed vital shot does not ruin much meat and the Brain Target is pretty small...
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Old February 22, 2008, 01:27 PM   #6
Gbro
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I have done all three, And the H/L is the best in most cases.
The neck is a good vital area and puts them down in there tracks(if hit properly), Not the best if you are thinking of a wall mount some say.(not me).
The head is a small target, and I have taken it because of brush that will deflect a bullet.

The only Deer I ever lost was a head shot(30 years ago). It dropped in its tracks only to bound away after i left the stand. No follow up shot in the brush. I saw that buck every time i closed my eyes for a long time. No blood, just some antler chips.
The thought process was from the deer from the previous year where i broke the back and spoiled the chops. I didn't want to do that and went for the John Wayne. (that loss cured me for many years).

H/L is a large target area, but i have been on long chases where the bullet was a little high, or low brisket. Usually there was some brush in the way and the shot didn't hit point of aim. Shooting lanes will help in these situations.
And I have taken a head shot(recent years) when Deer wasn't headed for a shooting lane.
Remember to "Look Beyond Your Target"
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Old February 22, 2008, 01:36 PM   #7
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I have bow hunting in my background and have used those skills on rifle and handgun hunting. By my measure, bow hunters make for better hunters. I no longer get Buck Fever before the shot but do get a bit worked up afterwards. I enjoy getting close and personal with the game. Whatever I hunt with, I practice to a point of trusting myself and equipment. To date, I have never planned for a head shot on large game and have never had to take one. I usually just wait for a lung, heart or liver shot. I have taken a few head on chest shots as presented. Both were heart shots. Have only had to take one rear end shot on a deer with a bow and he bled out fast. I have passed on shots rather than guess if I could make it. In all circumstances, have never taken a deliberate head shot. I once busted a rack on a running deer but not counting that as a head shot. After the kill, I give my thanks and dress it out. Be safe !!
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Old February 22, 2008, 01:38 PM   #8
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On deer,hogs, ect I usually aim right behind the front shoulder if a deer is facing me the white spot on the neck.

With a scoped high powered rifle I've often shot hogs and javelina in the eye.

Like Dean C said ultimately its up to the hunter to decide if the shot they are presented will result in a clean kill.

I've turned down alot of shots when I was not sure of the result. I do not like wounding animals and having them get away to die a long painful death.
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Old February 22, 2008, 03:17 PM   #9
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+1 to Dean, that is the most important thing to remember when hunting.

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Old February 22, 2008, 03:41 PM   #10
UniversalFrost
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no ncek or head shots for me.

too risky of just injuring the animal in my opinion. If the head and neck are all that is showing I wait for the body to be visible. Then and only then will I take the shot.

Your intention when hunting should be a clean, quick, and humane kill to limit the possibility of wounding the animal and forcing it to suffer a slow agonizing death.

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Old February 22, 2008, 03:43 PM   #11
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You didn't mention what game. Everything written so far has been about deer (which I agree deserve a heart/lung shot). Here in Fl, I also hunt hogs and squirrels. With hogs, I'll take a head shot every time if I can get within about 60 to 75 yds. Anything longer - or if he wasn't very still and I would probably try for the heart. The head target area on a hog is bigger than the head target area of a deer so the chance of dropping him instantly makes the target worthwhile.

On squirrels, I always try for a head shot if I can get one. Even if I wound him with a glancing blow, I generally don't have to worry about him running too far away to where I can't take a follow-up shot.
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Old February 22, 2008, 05:38 PM   #12
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Heart/lung is the only shot I take, just out of habit.

But what Dean says goes for me as well. Take the best shot that will do the job.
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Old February 22, 2008, 06:03 PM   #13
Kreyzhorse
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I go on my hunts and know before hand that the heart / lung shot is my preferred shot. A head or neck shot, if done correctly will drop an animal in its tracks, but in the heat of hunt, I've pulled shots and I'd prefer to have a larger target area to work with. I have taken two head on "chest" shots on antelope and dropped them both. Not my favorite shot, but I'm confident with it and will do it again if I have to.

The important thing to do is make a clean, humane shot. Wait for a good shot and pass up bad ones. You owe that to the animal and yourself. Also, I'll be the first to tell you that sooner or later, regardless of the shot and how good it was, you'll hit an animal and won't put it down immediately. As a hunter, you must quickly and humanely finish the animal. If you wound one, go get it. I'll relate a story here.

I was in Wyoming and ran across a gentleman who was out there on a dream mule deer hunt. He told me that late one day, he shot a nice mule deer but didn't drop it. His guide told him the best thing to do was leave it, let it die over night and come back and find it in the morning.

The next morning they went looking for the muley and found it. The muley gets up, runs like hell and as the gentleman told me "had his guts hanging out his side."

Any way, they track this muley and watch it run onto a neighboring ranch and watch as two other hunters shoot it and tag it.

This gentleman was distraught that two other hunters would dare shoot his mule deer out from under him especially since he had saved for years to get a trophy mule deer.

While I can't admit that I wouldn't be upset if someone shot my wounded animal and claimed it as their own, by the same token, this gentleman should have never left this wounded mule deer over night. I think he got what was coming to him, but sadly, the mule deer was the one got screwed in this whole thing. Killing a mule deer is one thing, leaving it to suffer is another.

That's a long post but my point is, take the best, most humane shot you can get. Pass up bad shots and if you wound one (sooner or later you will) finish the job. Don't wait for time to finish it for you.
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Old February 22, 2008, 06:32 PM   #14
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I am more apt to take a neckshot late in the day when I'm concerned about tracking in the dark. There is a rub though when you have to give it up due to low light and focus on a heart shot. I have only taken neckshots where I didn't have to worry about my rise at that distance. So that gives me straight away and facing me dead on. I have only taken dead on. I'd probably have more liberal rules with hogs, but that opportunity hasn't presented itself yet. I did have a hog go swimmin' once after eatin' a lead pill. He smelled awful.
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Old February 22, 2008, 06:53 PM   #15
ActivShootr
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I prefer the heart/lung shot. If the animal is not broadside or quartering to/away, I either wait for the shot or let it walk. I wounded a deer once with a neck shot and never found it. I chose not to take that shot anymore. Every deer I have shot in the "vital area" has went down either in its tracks or within sight. The farthest I have ever had a deer run with the h/l shot is 40 yards.
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Old February 22, 2008, 08:26 PM   #16
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Another vote for what Dean said......

I'll add this. We hunt in thick stuff without scopes, Red Dots ususally, and unless the shot is VERY close a well chosen one through the ribs does little meat damage.........and if he's close enough for a head shot then he's usually close enough to place a heart shot..............
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Old February 22, 2008, 09:20 PM   #17
winchester243
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IMO there is little room for error in a head/neck shot. If you're off a little bit off you could leave a severly wounded animal left alive to suffer. I've heard from a fish and game biologist that he had seen deer that have had their lower jaw shot off run away only to starve to death. I suppose if you were close enough and a head shot was the only one present you could take it if there was a very high percentage chance that you would have a follow up heart/lung shot if you wounded the animal.

But in the 80+/- deer I've taken over the years I've never felt the need nor desire to take a risky shot. If I don't have a clear shot at the boiler room I don't take it.
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Old February 22, 2008, 09:24 PM   #18
StuMan
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About ten of us bought Elk from a game farm that had to close about 10 years ago. We agreed on head shots only to save meat(close proximity-20 yards). WHAT A MISTAKE. You had better be pretty good with your gun if you are going to play that game, it is possible but not for everyone.
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Old February 22, 2008, 09:35 PM   #19
elkman06
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Like many others, I have take all three shots w/ success and failure. I find that I tend to take the neck/head shots when a/ there is little chance of failure, or b/ when the circumstance allows for the clean hit or clean miss only scenario. That being said I would say 90 percent of my shots have been heart/lung. I once shot a mulie buck in the 400yd range w/ an adams apple shot. I absolutely had a safe back drop...........It also was the only shot I could hope to have on this particular buck. I also had spent a massive amount of time on the range with my o3a3 at that particular time.
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Old February 22, 2008, 09:37 PM   #20
tplumeri
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Quote:
(No posers please

well, " you might be a poser if...."
I dont know if i have enough credibility to post here, as i havent hunted game in 10 years...
but ill post anyway
DEER 3" back and down from front shoulder,
HOGS head shots all the way (i used handguns for pigs way back when) or5" back and down from front shoulder. lower than most other game.
GROUNDHOGS head shots all day long
CYOTES behind the shoulder. usually a distance shot with short lived opportunity. ANY hit is better than none. track em down and end it.
POSSUMS (the youngens are tastey in stew) head shot, wastes too much meat otherwise.
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Old February 22, 2008, 09:37 PM   #21
rantingredneck
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Heart lung shots only for me with a rifle or slugs. I will do head/neck with buckshot as I've put more deer down quickly that way with a shotgun than by shoulder/heart/lung.
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Old February 22, 2008, 10:00 PM   #22
ZeroJunk
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If you are new to hunting I would advise you to use the heart/lung shot. Probably 95% plus of the deer harvested are killed that way. There is a reason.

Watch deer in the field for a while. Notice how they almost instantly bob their head up between bites of food, see how they move. If at some point you think there is a necessity for a head or neck shot and you feel confident, maybe. But, don't start out that way.
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Old February 22, 2008, 10:51 PM   #23
Fat White Boy
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Shot choice is an instinctive thing for me. It depends on the distance, wind, angle, etc. I prefer to use the shoulder as a target. It gives you a little wiggle room if something happens like the game jumps or moves just as you shoot. You are still going to put the round in a vital area...
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Old February 23, 2008, 12:10 AM   #24
MeekAndMild
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My 2 cents worth.

I never take a head shot on a deer. Deer will jump at the sight of a muzzle blast and jerk their heads up to see what's going on. I've been hunting with guys who've told me about head shots missing from as close as 75 yards; the deers get their jaws blown off and disappear in the woods to slowly starve.

I don't particularly like heart shots. I've never had a heart - shot deer to run away but I've had several which ran off into the woods before they died. Actually I've only made a few heart shots because I prefer to shoot higher. A good lung/shoulder shot will knock the deer down where a heart shot won't. Also, a deer heart is only the size of your fist but his lung is the size of a volleyball.

My favorite shots are lung and lung/shoulder shots from the side and shots into the part of the body which would be just higher than the collar bone if deer had collar bones (which they don't) from the front. I'm not sure what you call it on a deer but the sweet spot looking at him from face on is kind of a dimple between his neck and shoulder. Those shots will go into the big blood vessels at the roots of the lungs and drop the deer quickly. If you don't know the angle of the deer just find its front legs and aim between them halfway up it's body height.

I've taken a couple of neck shots and if you concentrate on the neck very close to the body they drop the deer immediately. I've never had a neck-shot deer do anything other than fall over, but I only shoot the part of the neck closest to the body. From the front that's at the bottom of the white spot and from the side its in front of the shoulder.

I also never bow hunt. I tried it a few years ago and had a really nice doe lined up. She saw the arrow and jumped out of the way of it so that it barely nicked her in passing. I have no idea how a deer could contort their body into the shape of a question mark so fast but she did it. Never again. Too much chance of missing, just like head shots with a rifle.

(BTW, stay away from shots too far aft. Deer stomachs contain 2 or 3 gallons of a really nasty fermented liquid which gets all over everything if you happen to hit them.)
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Old February 23, 2008, 12:55 AM   #25
Hawg
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I always prefer a H/L shot. The others are too iffy unless the range is short. I have had deer facing away from me and made them turn by rattling a sling swivel or a low whistle but if you do that you have to be already sighted where the H/L will be when they turn to look cuz they're not usually going to hang around afterward. I had one doe at 40 yds. facing away and I rattled my sling. She kept her head down and peeked past her legs then went back to browsing. I did it two more times before she turned enough to give me a shot but I got her. Most times they turn and look for a couple of seconds then they're gone.
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