Where to Shoot a Deer

November 16, 2020

where to shoot a deer

Many deer hunting misconceptions and bad advice are given to beginner hunters, especially when it comes to tracking and shooting. But with deer being the most common and popular game in the United States with 10.9 million hunters out there, it’s crucial to get the facts straight. And when it comes to being an ethical hunter and doing your part for a swift and successful kill, knowing where to aim is crucial. With your eye on the target, here’s where to shoot a deer to minimize suffering and make recovery of the animal easier.

Remember That Deer Are Not 2D Objects

Ideally, you want the bullet to kill the deer swiftly and in one shot, which means aiming for one of its vital organs like the heart, lungs, brain, major artery or spinal cord. However, as a novice hunter, striking one of these organs is trickier when the deer is not a 2D target. As a hunter, you have to take into account bodily obstacles. Before reaching the vital organ, the bullet has to pass through flesh and even bone. And this is where hunters tend to go wrong. So, try to remember this as you aim and prepare to take the shot.

The 7 Best Positions and Places to Shoot a Deer

As you consider where to shoot a deer as it approaches, keep these seven places in mind. And remember that a deer is a 3D object, meaning you probably have more organs than one you can take out.

1. Lung Shot

Many newbie hunters try to shoot deer behind the shoulder as they stand broadside. The reason for this is because it provides the shooter the largest margin of error, ensuring that the lungs, a major vital organ, will indeed be hit. However, you must remember your deer is not a paper prop target and you can still hit the lungs as they stand directly on, so long as you have a steady hand and good aim.

2. Shoulder Shot

The shoulder shot can take out an aorta or even the heart. For this shot, you’ll want to aim just below the point of the shoulder and one-third of the way up from the deer’s belly. Unlike a lung shot that makes the deer lose oxygen slowly and escape, this shot will kill the deer instantly, which means you won’t have to track it down. However, this shot requires a closer vantage point and a powerful rifle that can penetrate the shoulder.

3. Quartering Away

When the deer is quartering away at a three-quarter-degree turn, a shot gets more complicated. Specifically, when the deer’s head is facing away at a quarter turn, it requires a shot some distance behind the shoulder. Aim right behind the shoulder and one-third of the way up from the deer’s belly line to penetrate the lungs, heart or one of the major arteries. For sharper quartering away positions, aim for the offside shoulder farthest away. Often, this means just behind the rib cage, sending the bullet through the stomach first. Keep in mind that this shot should only be attempted with a high-power caliber. Otherwise, have patience and wait for a better shot angle.

deer hunting targets

4. Quartering Toward

The quartering toward is similar to quartering away, only with the deer facing you. For this position, aim for the closest side of the sternum between the deer’s shoulders. This will penetrate the heart and lung, making a swift kill. Avoid shooting a deer behind the shoulder when it’s quartering towards you, only when it's quartering away. Never confuse the two!

5. Head On

When the deer faces you with its chest exposed, the heart or the above aorta is your best target. To hit these vital organs, you’ll need to aim where the neck and the chest meet. This shot will kill a deer quickly. However, if the deer is grazing or drinking with its head down, you might have to wait until it pops its head up again to allow a straight shot.

6. Straight Away

Opposite of head on is the straight away position. With the deer’s rump directly toward you, it doesn’t offer many great options. This position will require a heavier caliber with a controlled expansion bullet and an aim directly under the base of the deer’s tail. Essentially, you will be shooting through the deer’s bowels and into its heart or lungs. This shot has disadvantages, being messy for starters, so if you can be patient and wait for a better shot, do so!

7. From Above

If you are into saddle hunting and use a treestand, this shot is for you! Aim for higher on the deer near the chest cavity so that the bullet penetrates the heart or lungs. If the deer is not necessarily directly below your stand and a little ahead of you, aim through the shoulder blades so the bullet hits the spine and other nearby vitals.

Whatever gun you choose to carry deer hunting, make sure to protect your investment and keep it secure with Pelican gun cases and rifle cases. Pelican’s waterproof hard cases offer complete protection from the elements, keeping your gun dry and safeguarded. Pick up an ammo case to keep bullets dry, too. Happy hunting!

shop pelican cases


Sign up for our newsletter and get exclusive access to new product launches, special offers and much more.