How to Shoot a Deer

E-mail Backyard deer cover 

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The picture of this deer is from the cover of my book, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound. This deer is standing broadside and looking straight at the photographer who was able to raise her camera and take the photo.

 Really wild deer are not commonly as foolish as this backyard visitor. The optimum place to place an arrow or bullet is behind the crease of the front leg mid-way down the body. This will take out both lungs. Should it go a little low, it will take out the heart or the blood vessels above it.  If a little high it will hit the spine.

 From a tree stand with a rifle, spine shots are good. These will down the deer in its tracks. Often a quick follow-up shot will be needed. If it is squirming on the ground shoot it again. Near spine hits can down a deer, only to have it recover, get up and run.

 Moving deer are always a problem. If you aim at the shoulder on a walking deer the hit with an arrow will likely be in the middle of the body. With a faster bullet this is not quite so much of a problem, but it is a factor if the deer is beyond about 50 yards. If the deer is at a steady walk at 200 yards with a rifle aim about four inches into the shoulder.  If the deer should stop, that will still be a good hit, if it continues its pace the bullet will take out both lungs.

 When lever action guns using soft lead bullets were being used, two problems arose.  Many of these guns, like the 1873 Winchester, were under powered and not particularly accurate. Unless the spine or bone was hit these bullets would often not expand, but punch straight through the animal. The advice was often to, “Shoot for the biggest part of the animal and keep shooting until the critter is down.  Reload and keep shooting until it is dead.”

 Modern expanding bullets kill very effectively. A better approach is to wait until the animal offers a good shot. Place that single shot where it needs to be to take out both lungs. Aim carefully, watch your breath control and trigger pull and steadily increase pressure on the trigger until the rifle fires. Exactly the same approach is needed for crossbows and muzzleloaders – none of this bang, bang stuff with the hope that something will connect. If the shot is that chancy, wait for another deer.

 I know that is hard. Be patient, more deer will come. Even if they do not, there will be another day when you can place that vital shot or arrow in exactly the right spot.  Watch every deer being cleaned that you can. This will teach you more about deer anatomy and projectile performance than anything else.

 There is much satisfaction in overcoming “deer fever” and doing precision shooting, despite your instincts to just blast away. If deer did not get your heart pumping and have you a bit excited, you might as well shoot hogs in a feed lot. Good game shooting is as much of a contest between you and you as between you and the deer.

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