View Full Version : Physiology of double lung

January 16, 2012, 03:35 AM

It seems there are really three types of double lung shots:

There seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding concerning how the animal actually dies in each case. For hunters it seems to me the "true" shot is what is of the most interest.

A friend indicated the key is to separate the lung from the diaphragm. You damage the lung then the diaphragm pulls it apart. If this is done the lung diaphragm can not pull on the lungs to inflate them and the deer will suffocate.

From my observations it seems this is not exactly true. It seems the double lung results in holes in both lungs which causes them to fill with blood and the animal begins to drown. I say this because it seems a great deal of blood usually exits out the nose and mouth when the animal is running away. It seems to me this is indicative of the respiratory system continuing to function until it is filled with blood.

Additionally, I know, on a human, an air choke takes approximately one minute to cause loss of consciousness and several minutes for death whereas a blood choke takes 8-10 seconds to lose consciousness and irreparable brain damage begins not long after. Assuming deer expire in similar times it would seem to me that the deer must die from blood being cut off from the brain, or at least the supply of newly oxygenated blood.
So it seems to me, the shot must remove the lungs ability to oxygenate blood which in return causes the deer to pass out in 8-10 seconds. By the time you catch up the deer is likely still alive, although unconscioous and unresponsive, but it may take several minutes for the deer to become totally brain dead.

I was thinking about this b/c I killed a deer with a double lung for the first time. It was inside 15 yards with a rifle, and i can't help but think there might be a better way.

January 16, 2012, 05:00 AM
For me, the double lung hit is a perfect non-eating meat destructo facto good place to send lead. I am usually hopped up on adrenalin, so most of the time this shot isn't always perfect, but dead deer none the less.

As far as the "head shot" being the best way to kill, only at the stock yards, maybe, I have no use for this in my hunting world unless it's a humane coupe de gracy.

Suit yourself young man, but every kill is different in some fashion.;)

January 16, 2012, 09:32 AM
Said it before and I'll say it again. Learn the physiology of the animal, where the scapula of the front shoulder comes in, the spine dips down right there a little bit. 4" from the ridge of the back and centered for a rifle shot. Hit 'em right there and blow that bone and tissue up and you'll never have to track another one. DRT, back the truck up, easy as pie every time.

January 16, 2012, 10:30 AM
Almost every deer I've gotten has been a lung shot .I destroys little or no meat, and while they may run it's usually no more than 50 yds -no problem ! It also helps bleed out the deer.

January 16, 2012, 11:43 AM
What Mete said +1. I shot a buck recently in the neck and it blew out a lung on the other side. He only ran about 20 yards, and there was blood everywhere including on the trees about 10 feet in front of where he dropped! When we loaded him up only a little puddle spilled out so he was pretty much drained within a minute or so from being hit.

Hog Buster
January 16, 2012, 11:47 AM
Every body shot deer dies from a different set of circumstances. It all depends on where in the body the deer is hit. No shots being exactly the same causes this. Some fall dead on the spot, but most take a bit of time to expire, from seconds to minutes, to hours. Some run a few feet, while others run a few miles. With a body shot deer there’s no way of determining how quickly it will expire.

Enter the head shot. This shot knocks out the animals command and control center. While it may not cause instant death, it anchors the deer in it’s tracks. Death is usually fairly rapid, seconds, not minutes. I’ve never had a deer get up and run off after a head shot. Just a couple of twitches and it’s all over.

I hunt in extremely thick cover, head shots are all I take. I have the ability to do so which is fortunate, I would lose many if I had to track them. Also a plus for head shots is no waste of meat.

If you have the ability to make head shots, take them, if not, don’t. This is true of any shot, if you have doubts, don’t take it. True deer hunters don’t enjoy filling the woods with cripples or lost venison.

Brian Pfleuger
January 16, 2012, 12:28 PM
I've always thought that most people confuse "dead" with "laying there not moving".

The only way to cause instant "death" is to destroy the brain. Even if the animals heart and lungs stop instantly and it is paralyzed, it's not "dead" instantly.

I thought about trying to get into a layman's discussion of the physiological effects of double lung trauma with two holes in the chest but I'm hoping maybe a doctor will come around and give us the info instead....

In any case, I'm not sure what "better way" there would be than a double lung shot for almost all hunters.

The lungs are a large target. Not only are they a large target but other important targets exist in nearly 180 degree arc from the lungs... liver, spine, nerve junctions, heart, neck, arteries....

They do not move quickly or suddenly apart from the entire animal.

They are absolutely necessary for survival and directly and immediately affect the function of both the heart and brain.

A double lung shot causes massive and immediate hemorrhage and a clear and obvious blood trail.

Targeting the lungs creates a high probability of hitting other major blood vessels and/or the heart.

I do not believe there is a better target or method of harvest than lung shots. I have seen all the arguments and pondered them sufficiently and I have killed and participated in the recover of over 100 deer that have been killed with bow and arrow, 12 and 20ga shotguns, muzzle-loaders with various projectiles and a couple different rifle cartridges.

January 16, 2012, 02:12 PM
I take the best shot I can, given the circumstances. If I can't find a shot that I believe will be a guaranteed kill (hopefully, within seconds), then I don't take a shot, at all.

On Doe Pronghorn, I take a lot of head shots. Blowing up the brain case is an instant kill, and usually surprises the rest of the herd so much, that you can take additional animals while they stand there confused.

When I can't get one, or don't have confidence in a head shot, I go for the double-lung. Antelope don't have many large muscles on them. I can't afford to waste any meat, by blowing up a shoulder or the backstraps (spine shot). The double-lung works well for that.

You get multiple issues causing a quick death:
1. Bleeding into the chest cavity. (Hemothorax)
2. Air entering the chest cavity. (Pneumothorax)
--Those two complications diminish the animals ability to breath, and greatly limit blood oxygenation. In addition, it can cause irritation to the heart, and trigger heart spasms.
3. Blood in the lungs.
4. Loss of blood pressure.
--Altogether, you get: Dropping blood pressure, blood blocking airways, pneumothorax, hemothorax, and possible collapsed lungs (due to #1 and #2).

Where things get really "good", is when you use a bullet that causes a lot of hydrostatic shock. "Shattering" the lungs is a beautiful thing. Death is very quick, and anchoring them occurs even sooner (3-5 seconds). When you open them up, you have lung soup.
(Last year, I had it occur with a .277" 140 gr Nosler Partition that barely expanded, and only hit the lungs. Tiny entrance hole. Tiny exit hole. Ran about 50 yards*. Lung soup.)

*Remember, they're the fastest long-distance runner in the world, and the fastest sprinter besides the Cheetah. They can cover 50 yards in the blink of an eye.

For pretty much any other big game animal, I take anything available. Since I don't hunt Whitetails (any of the sub-species), that means I'm after Muleys, Elk, or Moose. On those animals, a spine shot, heart shot, neck shot, or anything else that seems like a good idea, isn't such a big deal. I can afford to lose a little meat, and don't hesitate to pull the trigger when I get a kill shot lined up.

January 16, 2012, 02:38 PM
I believe any animal that falls in place experienced hydrostatic shock, or other CNS injury.

Full death, or the completed process of dying is never instant or predictable. There are final stages of death that you know its the last few seconds.

January 16, 2012, 06:17 PM
lung shots for me. i tried a head shot on a little doe once at 25-30 yds, she moved or i moved ,but i shot her jaw off and it was a long chase to finish her. eastbank.

January 16, 2012, 06:37 PM
I too am a lung shot man, anywhere just behind the shoulder and it's a done deal. I still get a shot of adrenlin right before the shot and it's all I can do to control my breathing for a clean hit. Most of my shots are 150+ yards and a head/neck shot are just too iffy for me with all the adrenlin pumping.(if that ever goes away and the excitement is gone I will probably quit hunting)
I know a few guys who swear by the neck shot and that's OK. I have taken a few does that way at short range and find they don't bleed out well. When I unzip them and cut the main artery in the throat it is pretty messy. Really startled me the first time, hell it was like a garden hose! So now I just stick to the tried and true lunger. Works every time for me.

January 16, 2012, 07:03 PM
Anything that is a kill shot and visible. I killed quite a few deer with a 2 blade arrowhead through both lungs and they usually only make it 50-60 yards running flat out. Time wise that is seconds. Yes, there is always blood around the mouth and nose. I have shot them and split the heart with a rifle and had them go a lot farther. I would guess they drown too.

January 16, 2012, 07:19 PM
I was thinking about this b/c I killed a deer with a double lung for the first time. It was inside 15 yards with a rifle, and i can't help but think there might be a better way. It seems like there might be a better way(head).

To me, the best shot is a lung shot. All of my deer and most of my antelope have been lung shots and all of them have died quickly without suffering.

While a head shot might drop them quicker, I don't believe that a head shot gives you as much room for error as a chest shot does. Personally, I'd let a deer pass before I'd take a head shot.

January 16, 2012, 09:10 PM
Frankenmauser's got it right, for the most part.

The lungs are elastic, and want to collapse. The chest wall and diaphragm want to expand. They are held together by the vacuum between them. Punching a hole in the chest wall allows air in between lungs and chest wall. Now the lungs collapse, and there is no seal for the diaphragm and chest wall to pull them open. No breathing, no oxygenation of blood or elimination of carbon dioxide. Unconsciousness in 1-2 minutes at rest, but faster because the deer is trying to run away.

The lungs are also extremely vascular, as might be expected. Punching a hole in them allows bleeding into the chest cavity, which is freshly vacated by collapsed lungs, as well as into the airway (and out the mouth and nose). The closer to the central vessels the shot hits, the faster the bleeding. The faster the bleeding, the less blood makes it back to the heart to be sent to the body, and the faster blood pressure and the animal drop.

So a good double lung shot causes catastrophic 2 organ system failure, a quick demise, and no lost meat.

January 16, 2012, 10:57 PM
This is where the effects of hydrostatic shock are the most noticeable.
I have taken deer with my .270 and upon dressing them out the lungs come out in pieces. I have also taken deer with a 30-30 (.30WCF) at around the 200 yard distance and find the lungs intact with a hole with a bruise ring around it and very minimal trail that was very hard to follow and LONG.
Of courses the .270 Win will do the same thing at a longer range.
Keep your shots inside the effective range of the equipment you are using.
As a note, the .30WCF was reloaded with a Lee Hand Loading Kit with the scoop (dipper) and those loads are very mild.
As for wjg686,
So a good double lung shot causes catastrophic 2 organ system failure, a quick demise, and no lost meat.
I have lost one and sometimes both or a good portion of the front shoulders but will still take that shot over any other.
One of the thing to keep in mind about head and neck shot animals is the nervous tissue being splattered and sometimes thought to be carried by the blood stream throughout the whole body or a great portion of it.

January 16, 2012, 11:08 PM
"lung soup" is what I got. less than 75 yard run and the head lowered to the point a spike caught and a somersault resulted. No movement followed. It wasn't a bad kill.

I previously shot one in the neck and hit the spine there(it was running behind a log when I shot so I could only see the neck). That took a bit longer for the death although it stopped where it was. Another time I was walking back to camp with two buddies and one jumped up with-in 10 yards. It died from multiple hits. I have seen some others taken from a variety of shots. The only really bad one was a running deer on a drive where the back hip was what was hit. Stopped the deer where it was, but took another shot to kill it and it ruined a lot of meat.

With my shotgun a headshot would be out of the question at any range. With a pistol also. Maybe off a rest with great irons or a scope at pretty close range. My muzzle loader is a Thompson Center that is very accurate with really nice stock irons and at the range I was at I would feel very comfortable with a headshot. I was very glad I had sighted my irons and set-up with see through rings. Would have been far more difficult shooting with the scope.

January 17, 2012, 08:33 PM
Gbro --

I said a GOOD shot ;) -- behind the shoulders!

I'd be astonished to find neural tissue throughout the body following a CNS hit. I don't shoot at the CNS because the boiler room is so big and inviting.

January 17, 2012, 11:33 PM
I am not that good at threading a needle so I do see shoulder damage almost every time. (meaning loss of my favorite stew meat).


As for the nervous tissue being carried throughout other parts of the body, well I have spent the last 2 hours looking for a cite for what I posted and I do not find anything. Back when the precautions were 1st coming out there was a lot of information given out that wasn't scientifically proven and that information isn't found today. But the precautions still exist that we shouldn't cut bone, don't touch brain and spinal tissue, eye's, glands, spleen etc. and head shot animals will make for hard to handle carcasses.

January 19, 2012, 02:36 PM
Yes, that concern regards chronic wasting disease, a close relative of mad cow disease, thought to be transmitted by tiny protein fragments (called prions) in neural tissue. It can be moved around by contact (knife blade, hand, etc.) with infected neural tissue. Theoretically, one could dispatch an infected animal with a head shot, skin it without contacting any damaged tissue (including splatters), discard the head and skin and be safe. In Ohio, we haven't seen CWD yet.


Brian Pfleuger
January 19, 2012, 07:01 PM
I don't believe that picture posted above is a good representation of a deer's anatomy.

The lungs are larger, not angled upward like that and extended farther back....



January 19, 2012, 08:23 PM

January 20, 2012, 08:06 PM
One reason I started processing my own was b/c of CWD, but it isn't something I think I can avoid all that well. I am not going to concern myself with it until it is a visible problem in Ohio.

Art Eatman
January 21, 2012, 01:41 PM
I figure that if Bambi drops in his tracks and when I walk over and see that his eyes have gone green, that's close enough to DRT to suit me. Not worth worrying about, seems like.

That's always been the case for neck shots, and for most of the cross-body heart/lung shots I've made.

January 21, 2012, 02:19 PM
Feel the same Art and after 2-300 deer, haven't been fooled yet. Course, guess there's always a first for everything.

I have been field dressing a deer and had them twitch a leg a time or three though. Just nerves.
That always makes ya think to keep your more 'manly' parts out of hoof-shot range. Don't wanna be singin soprano. ;)

January 23, 2012, 09:41 AM
I agree with Peetzakilla. I have walked up to a downed deer many times and thought I had gut shot it when looking at the entrance hole. Open it up and the lungs are gone and the stomach is untouched. The heart and lungs are a lot farther back than most people realize. You have quite a large kill area on a deer.