View Full Version : Neck shot?

February 26, 2002, 10:51 PM
I hear people talking about taking the neck shot on a deer.
When is this appropriate? What is the goal? What exactly are you aiming for, and it is easy to screw up?

My guess: Seems like you would go for the spine, and even if you miss you hit an artery.
Please tell me more about this, I have never heard of people aiming for the neck. I want to take my game as humanely as possible.

February 26, 2002, 11:42 PM
I know some people really frown on the neck shot but I take them quite often. If a deer is undisturbed and within 50 to 75 yds a neck shot is a cinch with a scoped rifle. I like the neck shot because it is instantly fatal and you don't lose any meat. I usually aim about 2/3 of the way up at the base of the neck. Some people like to shoot at the base of skull, but in my opinion that part of a deer tends to move often and quickly. When a deer is further out I usually go with good ol' behind the shoulder shot. Good shooting, Weagle

Art Eatman
February 26, 2002, 11:56 PM
And if they're facing you, that white spot is an excellent aiming point.

To me, a neck shot is sort of a kill or miss situation. A wound which does not put the deer down is rather unlikely, compared to the problems of hitting a few inches behind the heart if you goof.

Regardless, it's not the easiest shot in the world, particularly offhand. Whether or not to take the shot is a function of your confidence in your skill, and whether or not you have a rest, etc.

:), Art

February 27, 2002, 12:14 AM
I agree with Weagle and Art Eatman, it is one of the hardest shots because of the absolute accuracy needed to hit either the Jugular or the Spinal Column. I made two neck shots on deer at the Yo this Fall, one of an Axis that was standing behind another smaller one. All I could see was about 5 inches of the neck over the back of the one in front of it. I was using a Freedom Arms 44 revolver and felt very comfortable with the approx. 80 yard shot. He went down instantly and the 240 gr. bullet ended up just touching the skin on the far side of the neck.

The second was on a Sika Doe that was facing directly at me. It was the one I wanted because of the color and markings on it's hide. The neck wasn't very wide but it was only about 60 yards away and it went down iven faster than the Axis, but this bullet exited the back of the neck. Two good shots, I've shot that gun probably more than any gun I've ever owned. I usually shoot at 2" and slightly larger targets at the 240 yard line at our range so I'm very comfortable with about any shot that might present itself.

I'd never recommend it for someone that is not able to place their shot exactly where they would need it under most hunting conditions. Chances are pretty good that you'll end up wounding it and having to trail it a long ways and hoping it does lie down so you can find it. A neck shot is not usually the norm for most hunts, it was the exception that I ran into two of them in the same week. I'm having both hides tanned and got very lucky that neither one of them will have any holes in them.

Good luck in your hunting but I think you'd be better off going for the heart of shoulder area, there is a lot of other internal organs that you can hit that will put it down.

If you wish to see the Axis I shot in the neck and a bit of the description I believe that Freedom Arms still has my pic and short story on the main page of their website.....

February 27, 2002, 08:30 AM
Precise placement.
Good hunting, stalking, stand sitting etc skills.
Picky about whether to take the shot.

If one is picky and patient and makes a good neck shot, they drop in their tracks.

Sam.....pot hunter.

Art Eatman
February 27, 2002, 10:56 AM
The main advantage of the neck shot is that you never have to walk far, or do any chasing. They just fold up their little legs and quit. DRT.

Probably more important, however, is that it's a much cleaner job of field-dressing. You don't have those buckets of blood sloshing about when you cut the diaphragm, if you did a heart/lung shot.

I'm a fastidious sort, you see...

:D, Art

February 27, 2002, 11:09 AM
I passed up an elk last year because the only shot I had was the neck but I wasn't sure if this was a good idea. I know I could have hit it, just wasn't sure if I should. Since then (and with the help of folks on this board) I've learned that the neck is a very viable target.

But I'm still not clear on whether it's absolutely critical that the spine or jugular be hit, or do people find that the impact and shock alone are enough to drop them even if you just come close to the spine? If you've GOT to connect with the spine, that's a pretty narrow (3in?) target.

What has your experience been? Topstrap, Art, Weagle, others - on your neck shots, was the neck broken every time?

February 27, 2002, 04:03 PM
Stalkers in the UK are quite polarised on this one.

My pet theory is that the advocates tend to -

1. Be frequent shooters - eg Forest Rangers
2. Use a 270 with 130 grn slugs or something with similar explosive capacity.

Depending upon species, there is potentially an awful lot of 'other stuff' in the neck - particularly the risk of slicing the oesophegas ( my spelling is poor this evening - forgive the phonetics ).

With a fairly rapidly expanding slug, there is some margin for error - but it is slight. It cannot be realistically viewed as a hit or clean miss prospect.

Side on is risky, direct front or rear less so.

The results can be spectacular and appear to produce what we all want - near instant, painless and dignified end to our respected quarry. However, some experience over here suggests that a shot lower than 2/3 up the neck can produce instant collapse, but leave the animal brain active for some time and apparently aware much beyond the stage encountered with a solid shot to the boiler room.

Of much less consequence than ensuring swift death, it is possible that the meat quality suffers slightly from the lack of bleeding - compared to a heart shot etc.

Detailed knowledge of quarry anatomy and absolute ( and justified ) confidence in the shot seem the essentials.

I practise the shot to keep my options open. Given the choice, my placement is always behind the shoulder. If only a neck shot is offerred, it must be fully justified or I will let the chance go.

I do intend to be seen to critisize the proponents of the shot - each to their own.

Art Eatman
February 27, 2002, 04:25 PM
Jason, SFAIK, a neck-hit that is not just a graze pretty well disrupts everything. Just the shock seems to cause total paralysis. All my kills, this way, were with a .243 (85-grain HPBT) or an '06 (150-grain). At around 3,000 ft/sec at the muzzle, they're still like little hand grenades at 50 to 100 yards.

Over decades, of course, there are stories. The "whistling buck" who was shot in the windpipe yet survived and his breathing was audible. Or the "floppy buck" whose upper neck muscles were cut and his head thereafter hung down...But that's two stories out of thirty years and beaucoup hunters.

Having eaten about 30 neck-shot deer, I gayrondamtee you (that's Cajun-talk) there's no problem with the taste!

I can see Oakleaf's point about frequent shooters, of course. (Which would let me slide into my sermon about practicing offhand on beer cans at 100 yards. But I won't.)

Esophagus. :)

Y'all be good,


February 28, 2002, 12:48 AM

The Axis I shot went down instantly but it did not die instantly, it still was looking around but didn't try to get back up to run, I may have nicked the spine but the Guide said it felt intact when he followed the path of the bullet. It died shortly after we walked up to it. The Guide dug the bullet out for me and when we took the time to trace the path it did NOT hit the spine. There did not appear to be a lot of blood so it probably hit the wind pipe.

The Sika Deer also went down instantly but it nearly removed the head, The head just kinda flopped loosely when we rolled it over. It centered the neck in the front and tore out a nice hole in the back, that bullet did hit the spine and whatever was in line with it. It was not breathing or looking around when we walked up to it. As far as what the meat tasted like, I didn't take a cooler with me on that trip but gave both deer to my Guide, he and his family live on it thru the year. He seemed to be pretty excited about getting them shot in the neck, and it cleaned really easily, no mess or blood in the cavity.

February 28, 2002, 03:38 AM
THAT WAS DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT INTEND TO CRITISE!!!:eek: Sorry guys - what a plonker!



PS I haven't read the subsequent post yet - but am braced for 'a kicking'.

February 28, 2002, 03:42 AM
Read the posts - thanks for being so polite.

Arts calibre / bullet choices seem to bear out the notes that those with good success in this area seem to employ fairly explosive projectiles - in terms of delivering maximum shock and disruption to the neck area.

I remain concerned that a clip hit could still leave room for a deer to escape with damage to the ... pipe food goes down :D etc.

Equally, aiming at the boiler room does not guarantee that a stray round will unzip the belly etc.

February 28, 2002, 08:22 AM
This topic caused quite a stir on the Marlin Board last week. One guy even go to calling others unethical because they took neck shots. I have seen many, many deer and antelope killed with neck shots and have personally killed three elk and one moose with neck shots. As Art said, the main advantage to a neck shot is the field-dressing is so much cleaner. That aside, on game facing you a neck shot is very viable. If you are above the game and shooting down the neck shot is very viable. It is only when the animal is broadside that you need to be more careful. I tell my hunters to shoot up near where the neck joins the head. If you miss you will miss cleanly. If you hit you will probably kill instantly. But, realize that the concussion of the bullet hitting in the neck really disrupts the central nervous system and may knock an animal down even though the bullet has gone cleanly through muscle. Always be ready for a follow-up shot. I have seen big, rut-swollen mule deer drop like a load of bricks from neck shots only to jump right up and run off. Because of that I tell hunters do not shoot big, neck-swollen deer through the neck. Another fact in taking a neck shot is caliber. If you are close and a good shot, even a .22 Magnum will kill a deer but if you are beyond 150 yards neck shots should probably be avoided unless you have a larger caliber, hard-hitting bullet and you know how to place it. I don't seem too many neck shots on antelope simply because their neck is so thin. You would need to be real close to shoot them through the neck and while I have done it, on antelope you seldom have anything obscuring your target so you are better off putting one behind the shoulder. Years of observation has also shown me that the so called "boiler-room" shot can be highly overrated, especially on big, tough mule deer bucks. I have seen a number of mule deer and even a few antelope run a long way with a shot through the lungs. For some reason, the .243 and .270 have accounted for the vast majority of these. True, the bullet type was probably wrong but that's a whole new story.

Art Eatman
February 28, 2002, 11:13 AM
Oakleaf, the last thing I'll tolerate in this forum is A jumpin' on B because of B's concern about clean kills and the ethics thereof. :) Honest disagreement is a whole 'nother story, of course.

Anyhow: I had an "easy hard-way" discovery of what Ezra's talking about. The last mule deer I killed was an '06 neck shot at 30 yards. Heck, maybe 25. I'm sort of a quiet walker, and he was snoozing in the sun in some tall grass. He raised his old head, and that neck looked like it belonged on a Hereford! The bullet blew up and never exited, although it totally paralyzed him. He dressed out at 150 pounds. A 150-pound deer with a 200-pound neck! :D

Some of my rather cavalier attitude, I guess, comes from having started out with a BB gun around 1940, and having over 30 years with the same '06. I doubt I'm particularly a better shot than others, but I'm maybe more aware of "confident, not-confident" when I plan a shot.