View Full Version : Neck shots vs. head shots

January 21, 2005, 06:09 PM
This is more of a theoretical question more than anything. But suppose you're hunting a rather large game, say from whitetail to elk, but you're in a survival situation where you don't have the optimum caliber gun. Let's say that all you have is a .223rem, and don't have confidence that the round will penetrate to the vitals. OR, similar situation, you're surviving on the land, and you have a bigger gun, but the only target that presents itself from your game is the head and neck. Which do you aim for, and why - the head or neck? Seems like the neck is better because you don't have to penetrate a skull. But if your answer is head, then where exactly on the head do you aim for if given a choice? If your answer is neck, then where exactly on the neck do you aim for, if you have a choice? If your answer depends on which angle the game is facing, relative to you, then what are each of your answers with each possible angle? Thanks.

January 21, 2005, 06:39 PM
Like you said unless I was forced to take one of those two shots I wouldn't, but if I only had a small caliber it would be in the head. I would aim just below the ear. Although the neck itself is a bigger target the area in the neck you would have to hit for an immediate kill is smaller in my opinion.

January 21, 2005, 07:20 PM
I'm sure you could shoot an animal in the neck without the bullet even hitting anything vital. Unless you hit the spine or a major artery that animal is going to live another day.

January 21, 2005, 07:53 PM
You need precise knowledge of the anatomy of that animal and be able to precisely place the shot .Many animals and people have survived a head shot because the bullet glanced off the hard curved skull.For a neck shot do you know exactly where the spine is in the neck ? A pig's spine connects to the center of the head , the deer's to the top of the head. A deer's spine starts out at the rear top of the head ,drops down to the midpoint of the neck then back to the top of the neck where it connects to the body....You must know these things because in a survival situation a miss or lost animal and you may starve to death.

January 21, 2005, 07:54 PM
I'm sure you could shoot an animal in the neck without the bullet even hitting anything vital. And that's the truth. In that situation, go for the head. If it's a deer or elk, aim just below the ears.

January 21, 2005, 07:57 PM
I've done a lot of both, but not with smaller calibers. With say, a .223 with varmint bullets, I think the neck shot would be safer since there is more area. But....with a bullet that doesn't rupture violently, I'd take the head. A bad shot in the neck can miss vitals as mentioned above. When taking head shots I aim slightly behind the eye from the side. You need to picture the skull case and not the whole head as your target. I wasn't the cause, but I have seen a few deer with jaws that were shot clean off and would run for days.

January 21, 2005, 10:11 PM
If you don't think you can make a good shot! Take out both lungs with a broadside shot. The deer will run but not to far. It will run out of air and lay over and die. This will work with a 22lr if you were out in the wild and needed some food.

If you think you make a good shot! With a 223 and varmint ammo a head and neck is good. Just try to hit the skull with a head shot. It will blow most of the head off the deer. A high neck shot works well to. don't worry about the spine! The HP bullet will put it down if you are close to the spine. I say this because this is the only way I hunt deer. Did it for years with a 222 and 50gr nosler BallisticTips. Now I use a 270 with 135gr sierra match kings. People tell me I can't hunt with match bullets! Till they see the deer I shot with its head blowed off. No destroyed meat and a easy deer to clean. To this date I have never had a deer take one step after being shot. One shot drop kills! Well!! the first deer I shot was through the lungs and it run 60 yards! Forgot about the first deer :rolleyes: .

Pigs are a good nongame food source. Same thing with pigs! High neck shots. You want to put a pig down fast! They may run at you after being shot but not likely. Most of the time they will run for cover. Places you can't go. Dense and thick cover. So it's best to put pigs down on the first shot. The first pig I ever shot was through the lungs and the pig charged me. Then ran off in thick cover and I never found it. I'm sure the coyotes did later! Now I use a mini 30 and a marlin in 444 with 240gr speer Gold Dot pistol bullets. The 444 will almost blow a pigs head clean off. When I say high neck I mean at the top of the neck and base of the skull.

January 23, 2005, 07:48 PM
id shoot for the head ive seen too many deer run too far after a neck shot and im only 17 i heard once that you should draw an imaginary line from the eye to the ear and shoot halfway up it

January 23, 2005, 07:53 PM
If I was stranded and starving either or......... that is likely not going to be the issue if I have done my homework and or have any good luck.....

The other 99.9% time I refuse to take either of these shots.... just me....not saying it's bad but for me not what I look at when I go hunting....
I like the boiler room or the ventilation system.... Again that's just me.... :D

January 23, 2005, 08:03 PM
The windpipe and the major arteries are there as well. A solid neck shot (not a crease) is lethal.

January 23, 2005, 08:54 PM
I'll have to side with Impact on this one. My uncle who taught me to hunt was very, very effective with an open sighted, 30-30 Winchester, even on running deer. His favorite shot was the neck, high and up close to the head, just where it bulges good.

His justification was simple, . . . you either get the deer or you don't. A little high and the deer has at worst a minor flesh wound, . . . low gets the same. Either is a deer that won't become buzzard bait.

Hit your target right, . . . venison on the table. The only time I have ever seen it fail, was with me. Just as I was touching off my 12 ga, the deer jumped and turned at the same time. As it was, the slug broke its back just in front of the hips, and I was able to finish it with a neck shot. No lost meat, good clean kill, even if it took 2 shots.

To me, . . . it also seems to be an easier shot (the neck shot), . . . but again I was taught that way.

May God bless,

John Y Cannuck
January 23, 2005, 10:02 PM
I'd still go with a lung shot myself. It doesn't take much to wreck both lungs, and the bullet doesn't need to exit to do the job. Your going to have to be close for either of the other two, so it's not likely that a rib is going to turn away a 223.

January 24, 2005, 02:06 PM
I have 2 experiences with this topic and know of a third:

I shot a big whitetail in the neck with a 20g & sent him tumbling. I hit him high on the back of his neck about half-way between his head and his shoulders. He was not dead; however completely immobilized. A second shot standing over him finished him off. He was pretty far off & at a full sprint, so I tried to lead him & give some room for the slug to drop; apparently he wasn’t as far away as I thought… Maybe a little buck fever, but I was like 15 years old at the time.

I also shot a doe in the neck with an arrow. She too dropped in her tracks; however she was killed immediately. I hit her just behind the jaw. I drew back expecting her to step out from the bush, but she heard my arrow draw against the bow & froze. I finally got tired of holding the bow back, so I took the only shot I had; It turned out to be a good one.

A friend of mine – and this is an absolutely true story – shot a mule deer in the head with a .22. To make a long story short, he grew up near Colorado Springs. His father purchased a piece of land about 1,000 feet above the city, built a house, and hunted in the area. The neighborhood grew, and eventually got to the point where it became very exclusive (gated, guarded, etc). Needless to say, that put the breaks on hunting in the area. His dad, however, is a hunter through and through. My buddy had a doe license & the season was coming to a close, so they went up the hill to shoot a deer. They brought a .22 because they wanted to avoid drawing any significant attention to themselves (7mm Mag wouldn’t have been a good choice in the case). My buddy cracked the doe in the head at about 75 yards & she dropped. They quickly loaded her in the back of the Suburban & headed back to the house for dressing & cleaning. The thing is that the deer wasn’t dead; it woke up in the back of the truck. Now picture this: these two are driving through this very exclusive neighborhood, they drive by a couple walking their dog, and the deer gets up inside the truck. My buddy jumps into the back of the truck & is trying to finish her off by banging her head against the wheel well – his dad casually says “hello” to the passing neighbors & continues down the road at an idols speed. Thank god for privacy glass.

I’m not sure what my point is, but the topic made me think of these three stories…

January 24, 2005, 03:42 PM
As a fellow bowhunter I got to ask you why you would take a neck shot? If you were desperate and needed meat I could understand. I have been busted before too....... It was my thought once she busted me and all I have is a neck or not to make a shot.........I picked to pass on trying to put the deer down at all. I guess it's just the way I was taught...... I am glad it worked out and you got the deer :D

January 24, 2005, 05:25 PM
Any ethical bowhunter should know that it should be a double lung / heart shot or nothing. Saying that, I've shot and missed my target and hit a doe in the gut but it certainly wasn't intentional.

January 24, 2005, 05:41 PM
Same happened to me. :o I felt so bad about it. Haven't hunted with a bow since. :(

January 24, 2005, 07:12 PM
I had one bowhunt that ended up with me putting an arrow to far back.... I think it was liver area but at the time I thought good shot and reaction seemed like other deer I have got. Well, I made the bad mistake of starting to track to soon......and forced her up and moving.... after I tracked her awhile I called it off for the night.... I was not liking myself at all and didnt sleep a wink........well, when first light showed I stuck my head out the cabin door to hear coyotes singing me the blues. I knew what they were so happy about....and once I got up to what was left of her (1/3) I was ready to throw my bow as far as I could. I replay that hunt and what I should have done different.... and I wish I could have that shot back...... This was my only lost deer.....even temporary is all it took...... :( It also reminded me to wait out the tracking.... I like to wait an hour now.......and I never stop for darkness anymore.........just me

I limit my shots to 20 or less yards....... And I practice more as I age...

January 24, 2005, 07:38 PM
The one recurring theme I keep hearing over and over when game is lost, is people tracking too soon. You've got to wait it out folks - hard to do when the adrenaline is pumping, but if they're not DRT, then let them lie down and bleed out close by so you can find them, regardless of how good you think you hit them - bare minimum half hour, I would think. More like an hour if you think it's a so-so hit, and 2 hours if you think it's a poor hit. Easier said than done I know. Not picking on you, because many have done it, and I appreciate you sharing so that we can further learn the lesson too, as you have. I place an artificial range limit on myself for bow shots of 30 yards under ideal conditions for deer, and 25 yards or less under adverse conditions - bad lighting, very cold, rainy, snowy, funky shooting position, etc. Oh yeah, blood is easier to see at night with a flashlight then during the day, so I agree, if there's predators around, keep on looking at night, until you find it or are so exhausted or cold that you literally can't go on (or the trail ends).

January 24, 2005, 08:47 PM
I've taken headshots that didn't seem to kill the deer right off though it did drop them 100% of the time. Perhaps the movement was "nerves" but they always seem to have some reflex kicking after shot in the head - same for pigs. Neck shots will be next year's experiment. Every neck shot I've heard of (right behind the jaw) seems to drop them dead instantly.

Art Eatman
January 24, 2005, 11:23 PM
Most of my deer hunting has been done with an '06 and a .243; about 20+ each. With the .243, the great majority were neck shots. I just followed my father's idea that you either kill or miss. So far, I've not missed. I'd guess that none were inside of 75 yards; none outside maybe 125.

With a .223, I'd be real picky about the distance and whether the deer was not particularly alerted. I'd go for the center of the neck. Frontal, the center of the white spot is my preference.


January 25, 2005, 12:02 AM
Art, in the middle up-down wise, or left-right wise, or both? And given that you don't always have a choice of a head on front shot, where exactly are you aiming for? The back/upper part where the spine is, or what? Would it be wise to shoot for the very base of the skull, where it meets the very upper end of the neck? Or lower down on the neck?

January 25, 2005, 06:58 PM
Rojoe67 & NSO w/ SIG:
Great point about avoiding a risky shot with a bow; looking back I probably should have whistled or something to get her to move. I will say, however, that it was a ridiculously close shot: I was 8’ – 10’ up in a tree & she was 10’ – 12’ from the base of the tree standing just inside some thick brush, so it was a top-pin shot at a very close target. I was shooting at almost a 45-degree angle down, but the way it worked out, only her head and neck were clear targets. I have a pretty cool picture of the wound; if I can figure out a way to scan it, I’ll post it.

Another cool thing about that shot was that she was in a group of 4 or 5 doe, and she went down so quickly and quietly that the other deer didn’t move. She was standing next to a fairly steep embankment, so she didn’t have far to fall. The other deer realized something had happened, but none of them ran. The whole thing was pretty amazing – not to mention that the remaining deer walked right over to the guy I was hunting with. We went 2 for 2 that evening.

I probably got lucky – and she did too. It could have gone very wrong, and then I would be in the same boat as 1BadF350… I’m 15 years older & 15 years wiser now; I would probably think more about it these days…


January 25, 2005, 07:29 PM
Suppose shot is 100 yards. Suppose bullet moves 3000 feet per second it will take 1/10 second to go 100 yards. Deer has reaction time in the range of 50 milliseconds. Deer's first startle response when it sees a flash is to jerk its head upward.

This gives some more information about what every hunter who's talked to other hunters for a few years hears about, unless they're the one telling the sad story of the deer who jerked his head, got his lower jaw shot off and ran away. :(

Neck shots are good. Aim for as close to the body as possible. Neck bones get a little bigger as you go back. For bucks in rut you have to aim at 1/3 of the distance from top to bottom instead of 1/2 like in does, because the neck is fatter below. If you've got to miss, miss a little low instead of a little high, but anything that hits the blood vessels or bones will generally bring down the deer.

I have some minor worry about contamination of the meat by cerebrospinal fluid, which adds to my tendancy to shoot for the arteries just below the spine instead of the spine itself. This is probably just superstition on my part.

My opinion only. Take it for what you paid for it. :D

January 26, 2005, 12:01 AM
Never had a deer jump or move out of the way of a bullet. 3000 fps is almost 3 times faster than the speed of sound. I never had one resond to the flash ether. But I did have one jump out of the way of an arrow. I had a doe looking at me while I had the bow drawed back. Could not hold it any longer so I let it go. It was about 30 yard shot. She was quick enough to move out of the way of the arrow :eek: . The hardest thing to shoot with a bow is a squirrel! The best way to get a squirrel is when it is not looking at you and you may have a chance. I shot at a squirrel one time while he was pointed away from me at 10 yards. When he heard the sound of the bow he spun around and cought the arrow in the chest. They are that fast!

January 26, 2005, 06:34 PM
C'mon neck shot guys - tell me WHERE EXACTLY on the neck you aim. There's LOTS of options there. Art said front center, but that's not explanation because the animal is not always turned so that you have such a view - it could be from the side or quartering away. What is the goal destination of your bullet? High/Low as to toward neck or toward vitals? High/Low as to toward spine or toward trachea? Or Center/Center, High/Center, High/High, High/Low, Low/Center, Low/High, or Low/Low????????

Edit: Ok, I see Meek did address this. But does anyone else have a concurrence or dissent from what he said?

January 26, 2005, 10:13 PM
In the shots I've taken it hasn't mattered. Anywhere center mass in the neck with the 7mm Mag or 7STW and thy fold up instantaneously.

January 27, 2005, 12:57 AM
firstfreedom anywhere in the neck with a good solid hit will bringem down. firstfreedom! Just kinda want to know why are you ragging Art? I'm a new guy and I see Art has over 11.000 post so he is no new guy! Whats up!

January 27, 2005, 02:56 AM
While putting a coup de grace on a deer that didn't realize it was dead, my bullet hit about 1" low and went under the skull breaking the jaw. The deer just lay there with a morbid, cartoonish expression of shock as it's jaw hung almost staight down, held by soft tissue only.

The shot wasn't far, about 40 yards. I don't know if the deer moved or if I just made a bad shot, but it's enough to keep me from making a head shot on an unwounded deer. I might make an exception for survival.


January 27, 2005, 12:02 PM
I'm not raggin Art - goodness know that Art is THE MAN. And I know he would be able to clarify what he meant when he comes back. But I didn't know how long it would be before he came back to this thread. And he didn't explain what he meant exactly, because obviously, if the animal is standing broadside or quartering away, you cannot aim at something on the animal's FRONT. I'm 100% sure that Mr. Eatman knows *exactly* what he's talking about; it's just that I wanted to elicit more responses, and it seems Art only chimes in the forum now on a less regular basis than he used to, and I didn't know if it would be weeks before he got back and saw my response to his response. In any event, thanks all.

January 27, 2005, 01:01 PM
Its been "my" experience that a neck shot is a anchor shot. This goes for moose and deer. Moose=.300win mag. Deer = 30.06 both using 180 gr. PSP My theory on this is simple, that a center mass hit with these calibres,that close to the spinial cord is going to dispatch the animal or totally parylize it long enough for me to get my a** to the animal for the final kill shot from a couple of feet away. I personally will not take any other shot,if the neck is available. I've unfortuately been on to many tracking expeditions in the dark,and ususally ending up in a swamp, after "good solid hits" in the body have been made. Mind u though I would never attempt a neck shot on a moving animal. Nor would I even dream of taking the neck or head with a bow.I just don't feel that confident in the end results. just my 2 cents

January 27, 2005, 11:21 PM
I've never been a big fan of neck shots. I shoot a .270 win, and I like to put it just right behind the shoulder blade. I've never lost a deer that way, in 25+ deer. I've had a couple run about 50 yds or so, but that was the exception. Then again, I've only tried 1 neck shot, and that was with a 30-30 at 50 yds, and the spike just dropped like a ton of bricks hit him. I just prefer to put it in the boiler room, because the vital area is so much larger than the neck, and I don't always trust my shootin' skills, especially if I've got a case of buck fever going! (yes, I still get it from time to time, don't you?)

January 28, 2005, 12:16 AM
Exactly right.

Art Eatman
January 29, 2005, 01:35 AM
If a deer is facing me, or has his neck turned toward me, I'll go for the center of the white spot. I've never seen a ruined volume inside the neck much less than about half my fist, so that's aorta, throat, spine...I use the Sierra 85-grain HPBT, and that's why I'm picky. But, it's like delivering a mini-grenade.

Pretty much side-on view of the neck, I want the center or a smidgin higher. Again, I don't have to exactly hit the spine for the animal to be at least down and paralyzed.

Quartering, I'll most likely try for heart/lungs.

The only buck I ever headshot, when we were hanging him by his horns back in camp, his horns folded up. Ruined the photo. :D

The majority of my '06 shots have been to the heart. Mostly because of generally longer distances. No point in maybe missing. But, that's mostly walking hunting, with the '06, and offhand shots. Sometimes at running deer, and trying for the neck is rank optimism.