View Full Version : Meat Damage

September 5, 2006, 04:41 PM
A couple of posts have stated that larger, slower rounds do less damage to meat, in animals intended for eating, then smaller faster rounds. No doubt you'd waste a lot of venison if you got it with a .228-378, but if you use a fast but less-potent cartridge generally suitable for quarry - say, a 7mm-08 or .270 for deer - are you really going to waste significantly more meat then if you'd used a 12 ga. slug?

September 5, 2006, 04:59 PM
The useful parts to eat on deer size game are the shoulders,hams,and loins.Most of the meat is in the hams and you should avoid putting a bullet back there anyway.A well placed round through the rib cage is not going to damage much meat regardless of the caliber,try to stay below the loins.Sometimes hitting a shoulder on the entry or exit is hard to avoid.But there is not a lot of meat on it anyway.I think that the damaged meat argument for or against any particular cartridge is overblown.

September 5, 2006, 05:01 PM
It's more a function of the bullet design. Slower bullets of the same design will expand less than the same bullet at higher velocity. There are some bullets that will fragment with little help and some very tough bullets that will hold together at screaming velocities (like the Barnes X).

September 5, 2006, 05:20 PM
From butchering animals shot with a 270. A deer shot through the shoulders within about 100 yds with a 130 gr 270 - the far shoulder is disgarded !! The high velocity ruptures tissues over a large area .The more fragile the bullet the more damage also. A 12 Ga slug is going much slower and doesn't have the same effects so will usually just punch a 12 ga hole through the animal. Handgun rounds have the same effect as the 12 ga.

September 5, 2006, 05:45 PM
Interesting. Another reason to study anatomy carefully before hunting. It's also an argument for a head/neck shot.

There have been some interesting discussions of the advantages and disadvantages of head/neck shots on deer. One of the moderators, possibly Rich Lucibella, has argued against head shots on ethical grounds. Sooner or later the deer's going to lift it's head, or turn and look the other way, just as you squeeze off the round. The hunter will have to track a horribly injured animal with a shattered jaw, or some other gruesome injury that isn't even quickly disabling, much less quickly fatal.

This seems a good argument to me, but it applies best to shots taken at the head or the top of the neck. Perhaps a fast bullet is best aimed at the base of the neck, where the spine emerges from between the shoulders. That's a point of reference that isn't going to move much with a quick flick of the head, and it's in close proximity to the windpipe. The big muscles on the sides of the neck would suffer major damage, but that's not a bad thing; that's enough resistance to start bullet expansion, in a typical bullet that you'd use for deer, in most calibers that are appropriate. (I think .... this is still speculation predicated on reading only, on my part.) You get an expanded bullet diameter and more energy transfer. Would anyone bother saving the large muscles on the sides of the neck anyway?

September 5, 2006, 07:18 PM
Hit just behind the shoulder, you won't lose much if any usable meat, neck makes great burger or mince meat. If you use a bullet that expands like it should and not blow up, or over expand and mushroom too much coming apart somewhat, you won't lose much.
I have shot deer with 180 grain bullets of X brand that did plenty of hydro-shock, bruising and made a big mess to the far side shoulder, without any bones being hit, except maybe a rib.
I am sure there are plenty of good bullets out there. Good ones at a reasonable price are Remington's Core-locks I have been using Core-locks, in a 30 caliber, 150 grainer's 20 plus years now. I doubt there are any at any price that work much if any better on thin skinned game. I've yet to recove one from a deer and only one from a elk. I cut/wrap my own animals and have done over 100 for myself and others, so have a bit of experience in seeing what bullets do.
I am a firm believer in heart lung shots, and not a big fan of head/neck shots. If you don't hit the back bone, brain, or a artery you just might be in for a tracking situation or lose the animal outright.
Line your vertical cross hair up with the back of the front leg, horizontal in the Middle or just below center of the chest and it's hard to go wrong.
But deer don't always just stand there and give you that perfect shot, part of what makes it fun.

September 5, 2006, 07:29 PM
Use the bloody ruined meat . Cut it up in bite size chunks and freeze it for use as catfish bait. Works great.
I usually try for just behind the front shoulder. No big loss if I hit the shoulder, I use that and the neck for jerky anyway.

September 5, 2006, 07:39 PM
I usaually go for the neck if at all possible. last year i used a 450marlin and took two deer with it both shot in the neck and both died instantly. i can tell you if i had hit them in the shoulders there would not have been any edible meat on that shoulder

September 5, 2006, 08:11 PM
270's had a terrible reputation for ruined meat when it was introduced. At that time bullets were not able to withstand the high velocity impact and would blow up.

Some bullets arre made to offer fast expansion, such as polymer tips and hollow points. They tend to make a big mess on the entry side. Others a more controlled expansion, they may be a bit more messy on the exit side.

Saw a big buck after the firearm season that had his jaw hanging. I burnt one side of a neck and had a long trail job on a buck that could hardly keep his head up. Head and neck shots are very dramatic when they work. And very ugly when they do not. I have yet to hear of a deer hit behind the shoulders that went over a couple of hundred yards.

You would do well to heed the advice to hit behind the shoulders. The target is quite large on a broadside whitetail. I have found rib meat best consigned to chickens for the winter protein, leave it on the ribs.

john in jax
September 5, 2006, 08:34 PM
Great deer/whitetail advice, I couldn't agree more.

But study the anatomy of ALL the animals you might hunt - and choose an appropriate bullet too. I really like the nosler balistic tip bullets for our little FL whitetails, But I discovered (the hard way) that they don't penetrate a hog's shoulder worth a [email protected]#$. Also a hog's heart and lungs are positioned a little differently than a deer's so your shot placement should be adjusted accordingly.

I don't know what you might be hunting, but make sure you choose a bullet type that you know will humanely put down whatever you may hunt and know where to place the shot.

September 5, 2006, 08:46 PM
I rarely took a head or neck shot. My rifles have usually been 6.5x55 ,140 or 45-70, 300. Velocities kept below about 2800 work well .I saw a deer with it's jaw smashed that was enough to make me think twice about head and neck shots . A lung shot with a proper cartridge will cost you as little as 3 ozs of meat !! They run about 50 yds , so what ? I don't need a spectacular kill and the meat loss. And a lung shot will bleed it out.

September 5, 2006, 08:59 PM
you guys took me the wrong way when i said i take neck shots if possible. by if possible i meant unobstructed shot at under 50yds. and if someone hits a deer in the jaw when aiming for the neck they are a piss poor shot any way. when shooting for the neck you have to shoot low on the neck. if done correctly you will both hit the main vein that supplies blood to the animals brain as well break the animals neck. i shot dozens of deer in this manner and none have ever went more than 50yds when hit with most dropping on impact. of coarse i tend to like big heavy calibers. such as my h&r ultrarifle in 450 with a red dot scope. god i love that gun

September 5, 2006, 09:29 PM
Stay away from neck shots if possible they are a low percentage shot especially if shooting off hand at any distance. I don't hunt from a stand or blind most of the time so having a steady rest to take those kind of shots is rare. I find that taking the lungs, heart, liver, or combo of these three put the animals down quick. Broadside and quartering toward you offer the best chances for the least amount of damage to the meat along with a large target area.

Process the animal as soon as possible to prevent the meat from getting too blood in it if you hit it in the shoulders, this will allow you to salvage as much as possible. I have a friend who is a meat packer and processes game every year and says that you can wash a lot of the blood out of the meat and then process it into burger. He says to mix it in with the other scrap meat that that you are grinding and you will never be able to tell the difference. He said if you do it this way you will only loose a couple of inches around the exit wound instead of having to pitch the whole sholder.

September 5, 2006, 09:40 PM
It's not a perfect world hunting, last elk I shot was facing toward me behind a small hill. I could only see from mid chest up. Found something to rest against, I placed the cross hair just below the chin, elk dropped on the spot, neck bone gone. Shot a deer once looking straight at me over a bush, I could only see the head. Got to looking later and never could find an entrance wound. the bullet had to of gone between it's lips.
But the vast majority have been in the heart lung area, and I try to always.

September 6, 2006, 10:42 AM
The other main advantage with heart lung shots is the animal bleeds out fast! neck and head shots do not and you need to hang the carcase up and cut the main artey ( carotid) onthe neck under the chin to get the blood out of the meat, else it will taste metally and crap, thats what they do in the slaughterers and the animals hang for along while to bleed out.
Me, I go for the engine room pretty near every time, as the deer can move its head / neck in the time it takes for the bullet to get there.
If you dont believe it, get a ball or whatever and your dog and see if you can move your hand before he moves, 20 bucks he beats you every time, we humans are well down in the reaction stakes to animals, a cat can strike 3 times with its claws before you can pull your hand back!
Bigger bullets help too not just meat damage, but more downrange energy and velocity too.

September 6, 2006, 12:23 PM

Cutting the neck after you have killed the animal does little more to drain your deer. Once the heart stops pumping there is not going to be much blood coming out of their arteries. Hanging and sticking a pig is done while it is still alive, the heart continues to pump and that is why it bleeds out. The majority of the bleeding is from the wounds caused at the time of shooting while the heart is still functioning.

That is why a double lung hit is desirable. The tissue is highly vascular, and when the heart is not hit the deer will pump out most of it's blood for you.

After the deer has bled and died, from a bullet or broadhead, the veins and arteries collapse and the blood starts to clot. Some will drain, but the veins and arteries have elastic walls and don't act like straws to drain the deer's carcass.

Wild Bill Bucks
September 6, 2006, 01:52 PM

I'm sure I will get slammed on this, but most meat loss on a deer comes from taking shots that probably shouldn't be taken. If you don't have a real good shot on one, then let it go. I know it's hard to do, especially in years when you don't see much, but I would rather let one go, as to take a bad shot and wound or miss the deer entirely. I take neck shots on almost all the deer I kill, and (Knock on wood) haven't had one move out of it's tracks. It is probably the most devistating and immediate kill shot you can take. Nothing wrong with heart or lung shots, if you are young enough to trail good, but my eyes and knees just can't handle it anymore, so I need a quick killer to eliminate trailing. I agree with MED, cutting the throat on a dead deer does little to bleed him out. I always gut my deer immediatley, and get him hung up and dressed as soon as possible. Always wash the meat down good with cold water, and it won't leave a metally taste. I have killed and eaten a lot of deer, and the only metally taste I have encountered came from my fork.:o
Take the time to know your weapon, and practice so you can make it shoot where you want it to, within an 1" or 2 at 100 yards. Limit yourself to shots you know you can pull off with out any doubt, and you will be fine.

As others have said, any meat that is to bloody to eat, makes good fish bait, or if you own a dog or cat, they will love it also.:D

September 6, 2006, 07:44 PM
Thank you all.

As a novice hunter whose next hunt will be my first, I'm doing my homework.
I intend, at some point, to purchase a rifle. No one complains about the recoil of the 7mm-08, it's well adapted for reasonable amounts of practice, handloadable, and no one complains of inadequate lethality on deer either.
Either that or a .280 will be my first hunting rifle. Wild Bill, I'm not physically capable of trailing deer either. I'll be shooting from a stand or still hunting, and I need that bang/flop to do this ethically. I agree completely with all instructions to take no shots save favorable ones. And, yes, I'd rather waste some meat then take any chance of a horribly injured animal escaping, or even suffering long. .... let me phrase a new question for you. A double lung shot is reliably fatal, but the animal might travel 50+ yards. Assume that the animal was already physiologically ready, with a fight-or-flight response; a fat buck trembling with readiness to run, because it's scented you and is trying for a moment more to spot you before sprinting off. In that case, I'm bbetting you might get a hundred yards' distance before the poor beastie falls over, once shot. Given that situation: what's the optimal chambering for an immediate bang/flop from a heart/lung shot? Not an adequate one, the OPTIMAL one. I know a 140 gr. round from that 7mm-08 is fatal in the heart/lung area. Will the deer keel over as quickly as he'd do with, say, 165 gr. from a .308? Would you get a faster drop if you went to something bigger, a .35 Whelan, or is it really not going to make enough of a difference to matter?

September 6, 2006, 08:00 PM
You have to accept the possibility with a heart/lung shot that the animal willl use the stored energy he has in his system and run it out.Usually 50 to 100 yards.Don't count on anything completely preventing this.

Jack O'Conner
September 6, 2006, 10:40 PM
This is why so many hunters favor the old time cartridges such as 30-30, 32 Special, and 35 Remington. They get the job done without blowing tissue apart.

180 grain round nose is a good one for faster cartridges such as 300 Savage, .308, and 30-06. The bullet opens up instantly like a 150 grain but due to the thicker jacket and slower velocity, meat damage is minimized. Out to about 225 yards or so, the much faster 150 grain spitzer bullets have zero trajectory advantage over this old time design. Past this distance, the round nose design is not the best choice. I'm talking about hunting big game under 225 yards or so; not shooting dixie cups or prairie dogs.

September 6, 2006, 10:52 PM
A couple of posts have stated that larger, slower rounds do less damage to meat, in animals intended for eating, than smaller faster rounds.
The idea is that a large high retention slug makes it possible to utilize a big magnum without destroying the meat...
The smaller bullets are usually thinner jacketed and they rely on rapid opening and higher speed to make them penetrate...
One is not necessarily BETTER than the other when the placement is equal...
It is when the placement is a little off when the bigger bores get the edge...
If you hunt with large, slower, slugs like muzzle-loaders and shotguns you sacrifice flatness and longer range shots...

Art Eatman
September 7, 2006, 08:54 AM
Mainest thing is don't hit where you eat. :) I guess the next thing is that you take the shot where you're as certain as you can be about your hit. If you don't think you can break Bambi's neck, don't try. I've passed on taking that shot, many a time.

I've never noticed any difference in taste between neck-shot deer and heart/lung-shot deer. It was all good.


September 7, 2006, 09:03 AM
"..... don't hit where you eat." LOL.

Thank you, gentlemen.

September 7, 2006, 10:06 AM
Wise words from WBB and Jack O' (and others). Art is a regular commodian. :) :p

September 7, 2006, 11:26 AM
I have found that the rapid expanding type of bullets, placed behind the shoulder of a whitetail buck lay it right down. The same bullet placed in the shoulder make a big mess of that shoulder. However three quarters of a deer beats no deer every time.

I have a 25-06 that is used with 100 gr Barnes-X handloads at around 3300fps that is rather lethal and meat damage is minimal, even when shot in a ham. Did that once and don't recommend it, but it beats a gut shot. Been there and done that, too.

September 7, 2006, 11:39 AM
Yeah, after killing upwards or 40 whitetails with numerous bullets, I've went back to Ballistic Tips behind the shoulder. No meat damage and the deer gets folded immediately. Bonded and total copper bullets are perfectfor larger game, but deer running 100 yards after being shot are no longer acceptable to me.

September 7, 2006, 05:45 PM
" ..... Art's a regular commodian." EXCELLENT! LOL again.

Art Eatman
September 7, 2006, 06:43 PM
Dunno 'bout that. Never had a commode at Hunt Camp.

September 13, 2006, 03:47 PM
BrianBM, your quest for the optimal "one shot, immediate kill" round is fraught with misconception and danger. This is tantamount to the "one shot stop" discussion on the handgun forums. An immediate kill is not as dependent on the round as the shot placement. If a hunter can't kill a deer with a .223 because of lousy shot placement, a .35 won't be much better. Study the anatomy and practice your marksmanship.

September 13, 2006, 07:38 PM
Mulling over this thread, I do believe I will leave the head shots alone.

This thread's shots, as discussed, have been classic broadside shots. Texas heart shots are a different thread, and will be discussed separately.

What about head-on angles? If a deer is looking at you, straight on, a straight line can directly touch no more then one lung, the heart, or CNS. A bullet that strikes the breastbone might well damage all three, but that's ... fancy. Any bullet into the chest is going to dump a lot of energy farther aft then you'd like, and the gut cavity's going to be a messy, messy clean afterwards. What would be your preferred shot? The centerline of the neck offers windpipe, carotid artery and spine in close proximity, but even a shot low enough on the neck to minimize the risk of blowing the shot and just wounding the animal is still too high for the heart/lungs. I'd still rather shoot directly at the heart, since a slightly off shot will still hit a lung, but what would you do?

September 13, 2006, 07:40 PM
Oughta be a web site somewhere with interesting deer autopsy pictures. Gotta find it.

September 13, 2006, 09:04 PM
I can't speak from personal experience, but given the proximity of the heart and lungs, I would expect a straight-on midline heart shot would also do significant damage to the lungs (think: temporary wound channel).

Maybe someone who's taken such a shot can shed some more light on the topic. I'd be interrested to know too.

Fat White Boy
September 14, 2006, 12:54 AM
A straight on shot through the Heart/Lungs is fatal. What happens ofter the bullet leaves that area? As said previously, know your anatomy. The problem with that shot is that the bullet will probably end up in the guts or going out the anal area. Not good for the meat...

Art Eatman
September 14, 2006, 10:21 AM
nico, I've only had one straight-on shot at a deer facing me. It was at about 450 yards. I center-punched him low in the chest. DRT. It mostly just blew out his heart.


September 14, 2006, 10:54 AM
Straight on ? Once I used 165 Sierras recommended by my friend .I shot a bit higher than intended and lost a bunch of chops - terrible bullet. A too low shot will get into the chest but under the heart -no deer !!

Art Eatman
September 15, 2006, 10:20 AM
mete, the Sierra 150-grain BTs and the 165-grain HPBT will really expand or blow up if driven above around 2,800 muzzle velocity and you hit something inside of 30 or 40 yards. Sorta like small hand grenades. The flat-bases have slightly thicker jackets and don't have the problem.


September 15, 2006, 10:47 AM
Brian, not autopsy pics, but reasonably-accurate diagram nonetheless:


September 15, 2006, 10:28 PM
Thank you. Good anatomical sketch, that.

Looking at the diagrams at the far end of that link, it occurs to me a bullet that's optimal for a shot from either flank or head - on is, by definition, a bullet you wouldn't want to fire at the rear end, the Texas Heart Shot discussed in a nother thread. Deer aren't that big and the lungs and heart aren't more then a couple of inches below the skin. A huge buck might have its' heart eight or nine inches below the skin, but not more, really. The SST or something similar, in either 7mm-08 or .280, is really as much as you'd want, and I'd like mine in 140 gr. This is another good reason to not take stern shots, save, as Long Path was commenting, to stop a wounded animal.

Slowly we learn .... heh heh heh.

Big Ruger
September 15, 2006, 11:06 PM
Broadside- heart-lung shot everytime all the time. Chest cavity makes a nice container for debris too. I have only ever shot one head on. He was nosing after a girlie , and was trotting along alternately sniffing the air, and sniffing the ground. He was coming right at me and I waited till he put his head down and shot him through the back of his fat neck. My bullet entered the back of his neck, penetrated thruogh and into his chest cavity. He dropped like he was poleaxed. I must say it wass the most dramatic kill I have ever made. Usually I get a side shot and they run off a little ways then stumble and fall.