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Deer shot placement

In big game animals, the bowhunter's primary target area lies within the animal's chest cavity. The chest cavity holds the heart, lungs, and major arteries and veins of the body, all of which are crucial to sustain life.

  • A razor-sharp broadhead shot through the chest will immediately depressurize the cavity, sever lung tissue, and cause massive bleeding. It may cut lung vessels to add to the blood loss and cut heart tissue or heart vessels that will cause even more blood loss.
  • The circulatory system of a big game animal is under pressure. All cuts in the major blood vessels, lung tissue, and muscle tissue will result in an immediate and sustained blood loss.
  • The most effective shot for bowhunters on black bear and deer-sized or smaller animals is a diagonal shot (45 degrees) that angles forward and hits the liver, diaphragm, lungs, and heart.
  • The second most effective shot is the double-lung, broadside shot because it collapses both lungs. The animal leaves a good-to-excellent blood trail and typically goes a shorter distance before lying down.

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Video Transcript

To ensure a quick and humane kill, a bowhunter must know where the center of the vital zone is located. Only then can he or she choose the correct spot at which to aim. Since a razor-sharp broadhead kills by cutting blood vessels, an arrow must be directed at the largest zone of concentrated veins and arteries. As a deer offers a broadside shot, we must choose just the right spot at which to aim. The best way to accomplish this is to learn the internal anatomy of a deer. We must first be cautioned about large bone structures that may stop an arrow’s penetration.

On screen, a diagram lights up the Humerus bone connecting the deer’s front leg to its shoulder blade, which is labeled the Scapula.

The Humerus bone and the Scapula bone actually cover very little of the ideal aiming zone on a deer standing broadside. However, the location of these bones must be understood when shot placement decisions are made. While not considered an aiming zone, the liver contains many blood vessels.

The diagram indicates the liver, located toward the top center of the deer’s torso and extending down along the ribcage about halfway.

It is located behind the chest cavity, just back of the diaphragm. A deer’s lungs offer the largest area of concentrated blood vessels.

The area between the Humerus, Scapula, and the liver is highlighted.

Consisting of two lobes, these organs nearly fill the chest cavity. The heart, made visible here, is located in the center of the chest and lies between the two lobes of the lungs.

The heart is depicted as lying parallel to the Humerus bone.Veins extend higher throughout the chest.

Major arteries and veins leading to and from the heart are also shown. To achieve a quick and humane kill, an archer should pick a spot in the center of the most concentrated area of blood vessels. Experts agree that that spot is approximately here, where the crosshairs intersect: a spot slightly above the heart.

An area slightly above and behind where the deer’s front leg connects to its torso is indicated.

Note that if the aiming point is missed by three inches in any direction, the broadhead would still pass through a zone resulting in rapid death, usually within seconds.

This video segment is from The Basics of Bowhunting: Traditions In Safe and Ethical Bowhunting on the 2003 Kansas Bowhunter Education DVD produced by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks; written, directed, photographed, and edited by Gene Brehm; and narrated by Bob Mathews.