View Full Version : Question for experienced hunters only. (No posers please)

February 22, 2008, 11:57 AM
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.

Dean C
February 22, 2008, 12:35 PM
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.

The Tourist
February 22, 2008, 12:42 PM
+1 for Dean C

February 22, 2008, 01:12 PM
+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.

February 22, 2008, 01:22 PM
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...

February 22, 2008, 01:27 PM
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"

February 22, 2008, 01:36 PM
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 !!

February 22, 2008, 01:38 PM

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.

February 22, 2008, 03:17 PM
+1 to Dean, that is the most important thing to remember when hunting.


February 22, 2008, 03:41 PM
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.


February 22, 2008, 03:43 PM
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.

February 22, 2008, 05:38 PM
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.

February 22, 2008, 06:03 PM
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.

February 22, 2008, 06:32 PM
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.

February 22, 2008, 06:53 PM
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.

February 22, 2008, 08:26 PM
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..............

February 22, 2008, 09:20 PM
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.

February 22, 2008, 09:24 PM
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.

February 22, 2008, 09:35 PM
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.

February 22, 2008, 09:37 PM
(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.
TURKEY Tactical knife and a good pair of running shoes.
CROW 50 cal. who cares whats left.

February 22, 2008, 09:37 PM
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.

February 22, 2008, 10:00 PM
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.

Fat White Boy
February 22, 2008, 10:51 PM
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...

February 23, 2008, 12:10 AM
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.)

February 23, 2008, 12:55 AM
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.

February 23, 2008, 01:34 AM
Meek kind of reminds me of the cable guy;
I also never bow hunt. I tried it a few years ago and had a really nice doe lined up.

Like when his girlfriend gave him those Bi-Kini breifs, and he said "There ain't no way............."
They were so tight i......
Or something like that
Just funnin yo Meek!

Art Eatman
February 23, 2008, 08:50 AM
For someone who is relatively new to hunting, the old adrenalin rush is commonly a factor. The heart/lung shot gives more margin for error. The same holds for those who may not be highly practiced in rifle skills.

I ws lucky, starting in with a .22 around age seven. I got my first '06 at age 16. My father was one of these superb shots who could hold offhand, sight and kill. Pick your distance; he didn't care. My uncle's attitude about a Springfield 1903 with iron sights was, "If it jumps up inside of 300 yards, it belongs to me."

I guess I didn't think it was legal or ethical to shoot a deer anywhere but in the neck. Hey, I was a good kid; I did what the grownups did and what they told me to do. I will say that when you bust 'em in the white spot, they fold up and quit.

The years went by, as years will, and I sorta put a limit to the neck shot thing, no matter what my father had been observed to do. Somewhere between one and two hundred yards I'll go for the chest instead of the neck. Beyond two hundred yards, I don't even consider a neck shot unless everything is perfect and I'm maybe showing off a bit. "Perfect" means a good rest and a patient, cooperative deer--plus that old Zen feeling that says everything's gonna go just right. All that doesn't happen very often. :)


February 23, 2008, 12:54 PM
Head or neck when I'm tired and cold and not thinking very well.

Does pay to look at mounted specimens and especially museum skeletons for an understanding of where all the vital parts really are in different species. That is it's not really a head shot - it's a brain shot; the jaw doesn't count and it's not really a neck shot it's a spine shot the dew lap doesn't count and so it goes.

February 23, 2008, 01:05 PM
my decision on shot placement has a lot to do with the animal itself, as well as my rest, and range. In lots of cases I opt not to shoot at all simply because something does not "feel" right about the shot. I only shoot when I feel I can put the bullet exactly where I want it. This does not mean I don't miss, but I try to eliminate it as much as possible. As fare as the head/neck shot, I want a calm animal, with predictable movements, or one that is staring me down...if I have a rock solid rest. My breathing must be under control, and buck fever minimal. I usually take these shots on does, because they usually fall under this category, and I have been watching them long enough to not be jittery. Also, when I shoot a doe, it's always a meat hunt, and I dislike the mess when you shoot em in the innards. The benefit to this shot is It's going down. I have heard stories of head shots going bad, this that, and yes it does happen, but the shock of the bullet hitting the animal close to the brain usually knocks em down. If the animal is kicking excessively after a head or neck shot, (very seldom mind you) then I will try to put another round in the head to be on the safe side, because I've heard the stories of animals getting up and running off, and I believe them. I can think of one specific time where that could have been the case, and I know the follow up shot may have been what kept the animal from being wounded.

That being said, my decision for a shoulder shot (I don't shoot behind the shoulder) depends on the distance. I like head/neck shots to be 150 or less, preferably less. because it's a very precise shot. A shoulder shot while precise, has much more margin for error, especially if the animal is moving. Another factor is the load. I hunt w/ a 22-250, as well as a 7mm rem mag. Obviously, I'll take a shot w/ my 7mm I won't take w/ the '250. I have killed animals w/ shoulder and head/neck shots w/ both guns. Terrain is another factor...especially w/ the '250. I'll shoot a deer in the shoulder w/ my '250 in open terrain, but won't in dense cover. That's where the 7mm comes in.

all in all, it boils down to knowing the limitations of what you are hunting with, and your personal abilities. That comes from experience, and practice.

February 23, 2008, 08:26 PM
I prefer the lung shot, and if I get the heart in there too it's a bonus. Where I hunt elk those things are always moving, and nobody every took a shot past 150 yards, and they are ususally around 50-100 yards - there is just too darn many trees.

I have yet to take a head or neck shot for the aforementioned reason, but probably should have in 06 when a cow elk presented a broad side shot to me. Huffing a puffing up hill, she's there between two trees about 100 yards uphill (what else!) I can see her head, and her body. I take the body, she drops... and gets up and runs off. This was 11 am. We track her all day, but lose the trail in the dark. First light comes and we pick it up again, only to lose it 3 hours later. I still don't know where exactly I hit her, but i'm sick about it to this day. No shot is fool proof, and never underestimate their will to live. I got one the next day with my .308, with a h/l shot that fell up hill towards me. She was dead before she hit the ground.

Same year a hunting buddy shot a herd cow 3 times in the h/l area and she kept running, to this day we talk about how seemingly impossible it was she was even alive, let alone running. Her insides were jello, and could barely distinguish any lung tissue at all, and the heart was blown to bits, as were both front shoulders. Only a head shot would stop her.

This last year, my son got his first elk with a shoulder shot that missed the h/l, but the 7mm mag 160gr Fail Safe creased her liver. He failed to consider the angle (which I need to work with him on). She was quartering towards him, and still dropped. You could tell she was in pain, and my 10mm headshot ended it quickly.

I killed two this year, both with double lung shots, both were running full steam. One was clean, was was not.

The h/l is not the end all shot, none of them really are, but it is the most forgiving, as many have stated. I would only try a head/neck if the elk wasn't moving, and was un-alrmed, holding still, etc., that hasn't happened yet. h/l is a BIG target.


February 23, 2008, 10:04 PM
The only thing I see wrong with a "shoulder" hit is personal... I hate to lose the best cuts of meat to a bullet wound... If I had no other shot I would likely take the shoulder shot but prefer a quartering away or quartering towards me so both my entrance and exit wound are in less than ideal eating meat...:cool:
Save them quarters for the table. But if I have to take out a shoulder it gets fed to the dogs and I am "all that and a bag of chips" in their eyes...

February 24, 2008, 12:40 PM
About the only reason that I know of for a point of the shoulder shot is for the DRT factor. I took this shot on my Bull elk last season due to the fact that he had just topped out on the ridgeline where I could drive my truck to him for pickup as opposed to having to retrieve him out of the adjacent canyons. True, I lost some meat but the slipped disc and fracture I had in my back didn't get worse....

February 29, 2008, 12:32 AM
I did some rifle hunting, and muzzleloaders, for whitetails many years ago. I never took any shot but for the lungs. For the past 15 years I have been archery hunting whitetails, and early on I took two shots that were not lung shots. One was a between the eyes, one in the neck (both within 10 yards). Both were instant drops, the quickest kill shots I ever made with a bow. However, I've never attempted those type of shots since, and that has been for over tweleve years. Why? I let hundreds of whitetails walk by me within 20 yards each season. What I discovered is that you are never left with the choice of only one shot. I have deer walk away, then turn broadside. I've watched them run off 300 yards, then walk back to me and stand broadside. I had them disappear for hours, then return, and I've seen the same deer at a different stand location weeks later. I am by no means in any way telling people what shots they should not take, only that you are never left with only one choice. My personal challenge is to wait for the shot I want, not take the shot given to me.

February 29, 2008, 01:31 AM
You have to know what you are capable of and what your gun/cartridge are capable of, in the given situation you have your sights on that deer.

Practice at the range a lot and know your hunting gun really well, and you will know what you can hit and not hit.

You want to kill the animal clean.

Its a horrible feeling when you take a shot you shouldn't of, and that deer is crawling away with two legs, making that horrible noise, and you have to go up and shoot it in the back of the head.

February 29, 2008, 06:21 AM
if you are new to the sport of hunting then here are my tips, nothing on huntin game, camo, scent control, scouting or tracking, since you are a virgin to the sport, do yourself a favor and TAKE A HUNTER'S SAFETY CLASS, in there they cover the basics of hunting, laws in your area and ethics along with the most important thing-gun handling in the field

handling a gun in the field is completely different than at the range, so who cares how old you are, enroll in a class with a bunch of 12 year olds looking forwards to their first year hunting and by the end you will fit right in with them

February 29, 2008, 10:48 AM
My buddy uses the "off-side shoulder" method of aiming, and it does work. From most angles (this does not work from tree stands), if you aim to strike the off-side shoulder, you will drive it through the pump-house.

Down side is, you will often lose that off-side shoulder.

February 29, 2008, 11:08 AM
so who cares how old you are, enroll in a class with a bunch of 12 year olds looking forwards to their first year hunting and by the end you will fit right in with them

I have been teaching FAS over 20 years and always encourage parents to sit through the class, and if they are not certified, they can be.
BUT, i have to insist that they let the youth respond in the class. I do not want the adults to "Hy-Jack" these young kids Firearms Safety Class. It is not fair to them. I do however look to them to move things along if the youth are stumped on something. They are not ignored.
In MN there is also a Home Study Course and an On Line course for those 18+.

February 29, 2008, 12:41 PM
practice a lot. Practice from different rests, sometimes i practice resting on my ATV seat because i know that is the most likely position i will be shooting from.

go for the kill you KNOW you can make. It is really important (for me anyhow) to make the most humane kill possible.


February 29, 2008, 03:16 PM
i practice resting on my ATV seat because

This is where you have to know the Law where you hunt.In MN Even with a disability ATV permit one has to be off the ATV to shoot.(In no way do i imply that Yukon kid is breaking a law in his area).

February 29, 2008, 03:33 PM
I thought he meant using the seat for a rest, not actually sitting on it.

February 29, 2008, 03:51 PM
haha, yeah. I kneel next to it and use the seat as a rest, for a steadier shot. ATVs work well because horses like to move around ;)


February 29, 2008, 07:10 PM
To me it comes down to how much of the animal is showing. Where we hunt in Maine,it is thick. The chances of a shot at a deer broadside can happen but not usually. Sometimes it is really thick and all you see is the head and neck so you shoot at what you see.

Sure if I had the chance at a heart/lung shot that is what I would prefer. But if the animal is only showing its head or is quartering away then a head/neck shot can really come in handy. If you shoot a deer and made the neck shot you will know it immediately. You will hear the vertebrea crack and see the deer collapse in its tracks. Kind of sounds like breaking a stick over your knee.

If shooting at a bear, I wouldn't recommend a head shot. A neck shot is fine, but a bullet in the front shoulder works better IMHO. The bear I shot in Maine was a shoulder shot. It dropped, as I took out both front shoulders. When I got up to the animal it was still alive but couldn't get up so I finished it off with a neck shot.

February 29, 2008, 07:53 PM
You will hear the vertebrea crack

I've never heard that. Only thing I have heard is the distinct echo off of soft tissue (Crack-Whump).

March 1, 2008, 01:15 AM
at one time i would take a head shot, i liked the clean field dress job, but mainly i like to brag to my buddies about how i shot the animal. i had even made head shot on turkey, i tell this to illustrate my marksmanship abilities. the day i made a low shot and knocked off a bucks lower jaw, and lost the deer, i quit shooting at the head. years later it makes me feel ill, thinking of how that deer must have suffered because my ego exceeded my respect for the hunt.

Wild Bill Bucks
March 2, 2008, 12:29 PM
I hunt with a .308 rifle that has had considerable work on it, and I am capable of clover leafs at 100 yards. Since most of my stands are in areas that only allow me about an 80 yard shot, I don't have to do any split second sight adjustmemnts. Just put the cross-hairs on, and shoot.

With that being said, I generally let the deer decide for me, where I intend to shoot. If the deer steps into my clearing, and acts nervous, like walking fast, or looking around while he walks, or moving his feet or head nervously, then I will take a heart shot. If he comes into my clearing in a calm matter such as stopping to look around, or possibly stopping to get a little browse, then I will take a neck shot. I hate to trail a wounded deer, and this is by far the best shot for leaving them in there tracks.

I have a very steady rest on my stands, and feel very confident about my rifle and ability. If you are not confident in your ability, or your rifles capabilty to make pin point shots, then I would stay with the heart and lung area exclusively.

I try not to take a head shot, unless it is the only available option, and I can see the base of the ear. Shooting the base of the ear gives about a 2" kill zone and will drop them immediately.

March 3, 2008, 04:30 AM
Head shots, Never ever under any circumstance, any distance, any weapon.

Neck, I wouldn't, but if it will keep you from trying headshots....

Heart/lung, Broadside or quartering away is a go. Quartering away is just as dead but with bullet, bone fragments in the guts. Chest is ok facing you direcly, not much room for error but at least you're not risking blowing off a jaw or snout for a headshot.

March 3, 2008, 09:01 PM
Only neck shots I have taken have been under 150 yds, and all were with 22-250 back when that was only rifle I owned. All of the shots were at does, but I had and still do have a lot of confidence in that rifle, .5 moa and all handloads. If you know your rifle and your ability, I don't think there is a problem with it. Never have tried a head shot. To me a neck shot will either put the animal down in its tracks, or be a clean miss. And for the most part neck shot will not spoil much meat.

March 3, 2008, 11:36 PM
As above.

March 4, 2008, 01:23 PM
I haven't seen anyone mention this, so I'll touch on it.

Being a bowhunter, I don't take unnecessary shots despite the fact that I work darn hard to hone my skills to get that close to an animal. So, that means heart/lung shots all the time for me. Even if I wind up looking for does at the end of rifle season with a 308.

The idea of the head shot sounds good to a lot of novices who like the idea of being a sniper or those who lack the skills to track a deer.

But, with the cases of hoof and mouth or Crutchfield/Jackobs or chronic wasting or kuru, or scrapie, or whatever you want to call it, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuru_(disease)) making a head shot is a very very bad idea. The C/J prion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prion) is a nasty critter that, if isolated within the brain and spine of an animal you are attempting to harvest, isn't something you want to let out on purpose. And, an ungulate or bovine with this disease in early to early-mid stages is very hard to pick out of a crowd of healthy animals.

So, leave the gray matter alone. Either do a neck shot or a heart/lung shot.

Art Eatman
March 4, 2008, 02:02 PM
One thing about a neck shot: It's not nearly so messy when you cut the diaphragm. :D:D:D


March 4, 2008, 11:15 PM
Kraven, I agree with you. That being said, it is impossible to remove a head for a mount and not cut the cord. I have thought about prions while butchering many times.

lt dan
March 5, 2008, 01:38 AM
you ask when to make that decision. i make it when the target presents itself. you say that you are new to hunting so asking these questions shows you respect the task ahead. i have been hunting many years and every time i thought i knew what i was doing nature knocked me flat. be very carefull about the headshot. rather grow into the headshot. you did not mentioned what you are intending to hunt. i favour the lung hart shot. over here in africa we shoot a lot of dangerous and pest animals. in these animals we go for the most damage- the chest shot- this dissable the front legs and 90% of the time hits the hart or lungs. after all is said and done only experience will teach you what to do an when to do it. so this is good news, no? this means a lot of target practis and lot of hunting awaits you.enjoy

March 5, 2008, 09:10 AM
Hello123, good point.
Being educated about the dangers of the prion gives you something to consider when taking trophies.
To me, it's not worth it, as it is with the head shot.

Blue Duck
March 5, 2008, 10:40 PM
I usually always go for the high percentage shot, which is the shoulder/lung area. This a big target and usually drops the animal with in 100yds and often less then 50yds, even sooner most of the time when the shoulder is hit.

However, I have taken head and neck shots on occasion, usually when I felt like I needed to drop the animal right there on the spot. I did this last year while hunting around some deep ditches, that would have made it very hard to drag a deer out of, and would have more then likely been the final resting place of any lungshot deer. The range was close, so I took neck shots at the base of the head. This always dropped the deer right in it's tracks, and I didn't have to go into the deep ditches to retrieve a deer.

I do not favor neck shots or head shots as a general rule, because for one thing, the idea that a neck shot or a head shot always drops a deer on the spot or you missed is a myth. I have seem deer with blown off jaws still walking around, to die of hunger or something else, and I once shot a deer with a blackkpowder rifle in the neck by accident, I hit the deer hard, 4 inches into it's neck, with a 54 cal roundball and it bled like a stuck hog, and ran off. My hunting buddy killed it, later in the morning, while it was just walking along, a full 200yds away. I would have never gotten that deer.

So don't take neck and head shots, thinking that it is always a miss or an instant kill, because it just isn't so, not always. I only take one when I know for dead certian that I will hit exactly where I am aiming.

March 6, 2008, 06:55 AM
I taught hunter safety in NY State for many years, where we did some cursory "shoot, no shoot" exercises, and often talked about shot placement. Always recommended the high percentage heart/lung shot and never talked about head or neck shots. I always go for the heart/lungs, and have passed on deer that only presented head shots. I believe this is particularly appropriate when archery hunting, but also for firearms. I've never had to shoot a deer hit solidly in the heart/lung area twice.

March 6, 2008, 09:31 AM
"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.

+1 for Dean

W. C. Quantrill
March 6, 2008, 07:46 PM
First you need to be proficient enough with your rifle that you can put the shot where you want it. No two shots will be lined up the same. You must have a good enough understanding of the animals skeletal system and organ placement that you CAN put a boolit into a fatal area from whatever angle that you are presented with.

I usually pick my shot. If it isnt lined up right, its just like a city bus. There'll be another one by in about 15 minutes. I dont shoot does, and I dont shoot fork horns (immature bucks). I do however, shoot out the spikes and 3x3's. (Spikes and 3x3's never become more than that and impart inferior genetics into your herd.) I only search for the alpha buck. I want the oldest largest buck in the herd. By using this technique, I have increased both the number of animals in my herd, and the size of the animals in my herd. So, if I dont find the alpha buck, and I take a shot at a beta buck, I usually take a shot that will break the spine. Either a neck or high lung shot that gets the spine. I prefer the neck shot. I have had too many instances in heart shots of having to trail an animal.

If I encounter what I believe to be the alpha buck, then I want him dead. I will usually take a lung shot knowing I may have to trail him up. I took such a shot on the alpha buck this last season, at about 300 yards, taking out the top of the heart and both lungs, and the bullet exited the off side. I finally found the buck 1/2 mile away where he had crawled in under a brush pile and died. The success was in taking him out of the herd.

You might ask what is my motive here. The whitetail buck reaches breeding maturity at maybe 7 years of age. At that time, his fertility goes to pot and he for the most part is shooting blanks. However, he is still a big healthy buck and can whip off the beta bucks. Result? Fewer pregnant does. By taking out the old bucks, I maintain a herd of young vigorous bucks and almost 100% pregnancy rate on the does. Result is more deer and for some reason larger deer. Because I have water on my place, I have hunting when others are not finding bucks.

March 6, 2008, 08:09 PM
Because I have water on my place, I have hunting when others are not finding bucks.

Lucky bugger.:D I have water too but they only seem to come to it at night. My woods are pretty dense too. You've seen the pics.

W. C. Quantrill
March 7, 2008, 10:29 PM
I have a creek that runs through the place, there being no other water for about 5 miles each side of it. When it freezes, I have the only springs that run and do not freeze for miles.

The alpha bucks are almost always nocturnal. But that is why you scout to find the bedding areas. That then is the hunt. Stalking them while they are laying in the bed, and putting a galena pill through their neck. They never know you are there, they never get an adrenaline rush, they just die and relax.

March 7, 2008, 10:37 PM
Too much undergrowth for that on my huntin grounds.

W. C. Quantrill
March 7, 2008, 10:58 PM
I have a creek that runs through the place, there being no other water for about 5 miles each side of it. When it freezes, I have the only springs that run and do not freeze for miles.

One of the fellers from New Mexico with 3 mediocre beta bucks. There were 3 guys hunting. You can see the creek in the background and the terrain that we hunt.

That's strange-I just started to add this pic to the above post and it reposted it. Didnt want to hijack the thread, but these 3 were shot at ranges from 60 to 200 yards and were all neck shots.

lt dan
March 8, 2008, 07:46 AM
can someone explain to me the practice of hunting with bright orange colors
as i see so many usa hunters hunt with on espn shows. i think this is due to regulations/safety, no?. in africa you will be asked to get other clothes or go away.

March 8, 2008, 08:42 AM
can someone explain to me the practice of hunting with bright orange colors
as i see so many usa hunters hunt with on espn shows. i think this is due to regulations/safety, no?. in africa you will be asked to get other clothes or go away

Its a safety requirement in many jurisdictions for hunting certain types of game (usually deer). Deer and elk are color blind. They see orange as a shade of grey so it doesn't handicap the hunter to wear them.

March 8, 2008, 11:14 AM
can someone explain to me the practice of hunting with bright orange colors

On the opening day 650,000 Nimrods(self proclaimed) take to the woods/bush/field, and for many the game plan is "If It's Brown, Its Down" Now what would you like to wear.
If every hunter used common sense there wouldn't be as much a need. Some states have no requirements for Blaze orange.

Deer and elk are color blind. They see orange as a shade of grey so it doesn't handicap the hunter to wear them.
One Co-worker has a feeder in his front yard, 30 ft. from the window. Feeding deer pay no attention to people in the house, Then when a Blaze orange hunting jacket is worn in the house, Deer take flight. (thats his claim)

My neck of the "woods" i see/jump, on average 3 deer a season with 60-90 hours hunting. 1/2 may be in a stand. the rest is mooching.
So when the Grandsons are in their stand, and see noth'n 3-4 days a-hunt'n they start to get a little bored. Noth'n like watch'n the tube, and see'n them by the doz'n.

W. C. Quantrill
March 8, 2008, 12:04 PM
The fish and game nazis require that you have not only an orange covering on your head, but something like 200 square inches of orange both front and back on your body.

You can be fined more for not being orange than you can for breaking other of their humbling rules. It is not about safety, it is about control. Just another nail in your coffin.

We only hunt on our own land, but that does not matter either. It is all a part of the great socialist movement to take away peoples "rights", take away their property, and let the government take care of them like it is supposed to happen.

lt dan
March 9, 2008, 03:33 PM
i thought as much. 650 000 that is a lot of hunters!!!. i will not wear something orange i will be orange. over here the colourblind story is also told and there is a popular believe that cammo with a dark blue background is the best.

slick slidestop
March 9, 2008, 05:01 PM
I only take Heart/Lung shots.

The kill zone is at least as big as a pie plate which is much more forgiving if you are off -VS- a Head or Neck shot.....Also the land where I hunt in Texas my shots are usually 250 yards and even though I have hunted for about 32 years, I am quite honestly not a good enough shot at that distance to be comfortable with a head/neck shot.

Now if a Huuuge Buck passed within 50-75 yards, and I had only a head /neck shot due to heavy brush etc, I might try the Head/Neck shot, but that situation has never presented itself to me in my terrain. I guess its all about the circumstances. I am lucky enough, that I can usually pass on Iffy shots....there are plenty more Deer where that one came from.

Art Eatman
March 9, 2008, 11:16 PM
The advent of regulations requiring hunters to wear blaze orange led to a notable decline in accidental shootings. This was particularly true on public lands.


March 10, 2008, 09:19 AM
i like shoulder shots on almost everything. the lungs and heart for almost all game is behind the shoulder and when a bullet goes through the shoulder bone fragments help in creating collateral damage.

March 10, 2008, 02:46 PM
Most every deer I've killed was a shoulder shot, all but two dropped within a few seconds. One I grazed his chest and saw him again a few days later, dropped him with a shoulder shot and noticed the wound to his chest. Another one I was never able to track down. The first deer I ever killed when I was still on a youth lisence, I was nervous and shaking around all over the place. Aimed for the heart, cliped her spine and dropped her right where she stood..that was the best luck I've ever had

conrad carter
March 11, 2008, 02:36 AM
Every deer or Antelope I ever shot through the lungs with an '06 using 180gr bullets... they went down like they'd been hit with a hammer. Sometimes a little running, but just a little.

conrad carter
March 11, 2008, 02:39 AM

Art Eatman
March 11, 2008, 11:22 AM
conrad, I won't delete it, but that's just a wee bit off-topic. Not recommended.


March 25, 2008, 08:00 PM
I will take a high neck shot on a whitetail if it is close, calm, and is a doe or buck I am not going to shoulder mount. The only reason I do it is it makes the cleaning job a little more pleasent w/o bloody trauma in the chest cavity.

March 25, 2008, 10:05 PM
I am competent enough with a rifle to consistently hit prairie dogs at 500+ yds, but I stick with the heart/lung shots because I will not risk wounding the animal I am shooting at. I guide a lot of hunters for mule deer and antelope and tell them when they book the hunt I do not allow head/neck shots. I was once guiding a guy and he took the jaw off a deer at about 60 yds, I had to track the deer 6 miles before I was able to bring the deer down, I am not saying I have never had to track a gut shot deer or anything but a core shot has less likelyhood of only wounding an animal. I have seen too many animals without jaws or with holes in their necks that didn't hit the spine or airway to go for shots like that. I am confident in my abilities with a rifle to make the shot, I just won't do it. But that's just my humble opinion.

March 25, 2008, 10:29 PM
With all due respect, if you hang the deer by his back legs or put him up on the tailgate of the truck all the gore just falls out into your garbage can or wash tub when you open the chest. My opinion is that it is much better to have all the blood in the deer's chest where you can wash it out than to have it congealed in the meat so that you have to soak every roast and steak before you can stand to cook it. :barf:

March 29, 2008, 12:37 AM
I always go for the vitals. Missing by a half inch on a head shot can mean letting a deer with no bottom jaw go running into the woods to die of starvation. I have seen the remnants of one and it is not pretty. Depending on caliber, neck shots are also not always fatal.

That being said, I have only ever seen two deer die where they stood and both shots were taken with sabot slugs at medium range to the vitals. When I say to the vitals I mean through both lungs and the heart completly destroyed.