Unfortunately, too many wounded deer are not recovered.
This happens for a number of reasons, such as poor shot selection, arrow flight, or a deer that moves at the wrong time. But one reason that’s no excuse is not knowing where to aim.
Michael Cantrell, founder of Pure Instinct Hunting, has great advice on shot placement.
Todays broadheads are made to smash through flesh and bone, but no broadhead will ever compensate for poor decision-making in the field. There are some bowhunting shots you should never take, and where to aim at a deer largely depends on the situation…
The Broadside Shot
The broadside shot is the opportunity we see in our dreams. The vitals are right there in front of us, only shielded by breakable ribs. A double-lung shot is the deadliest shot we can take, but some hunters like to aim for the heart in case the deer “jumps the string.” If the deer reflexively crouches at the sound of the shot and drops down, your arrow will still hit the mid-chest cavity and do damage to the lungs. Accuracy is a must when aiming for the heart because you are flirting with the bone that connects the leg and shoulder.
String jump is an issue for hunters shooting a recurve or compound bow with less draw weight, but most modern bows shoot fast and quiet, a broadhead has already penetrated the deer before it can react. This is why some folks opt to aim a little higher and two inches behind the leg line for a shot square in the lungs. You can be off a little bit and still do major damage to the lungs. Deciding to take out the heart or lungs depends on your bow setup and how proficient you are with it. Both shots are deadly vital shots that will ethically kill the deer.
Many bowhunters prefer a quartering-away shot to a broadside shot because the aiming point is clear and the deer is looking away from you. Place your pin on the opposite shoulder, in line with the leg about halfway up the body. This will give you the biggest kill zone of any shot opportunity.
It is irresponsible to take a quartering-to, frontal, rear or straight-down shot on a deer. A frontal shot and a straight down shot can reach the vitals if arrow placement is absolutely perfect, but the margin for error is too great and wounding the deer is likely. Another shot every ethical bowhunter should pass on is the “Texas heart shot.” There are arteries in the rear of deer that when damaged, will kill it. But again, this is a lousy shot option. Don’t take it.
Another controversial shot, and one you may have seen on TV is the quartering-to shot. Often times, a deer comes into range quartering-to when calls or rattling antlers are used. There are too many variables to this shot to make it ethical. You need to go through the shoulder, often times the deer is looking in your direction and the kill zone is too small. Wait for the deer to turn broadside.
As hunters we strive for the perfect shot opportunity to make a ethical kill shot. Be patient and wait for the best possible shot opportunity during the moment of truth. It will all be worth it in the end when you have that big buck down. Put in the work and practice, then hunt hard.