Shooting an animal in the head or neck does not appeal to me except for some specialized circumstances. The head and neck are small targets that are frequently moving which makes sure-shot placement difficult. I have successfully made many such shots, and I have also muffed them. In general, I think that it is unwise to attempt head and neck shots except when the animal is only inches from the gun’s muzzle or you must stop a charge.
If it were the case of missing the animal completely or hitting it, that would be O.K., but an all- to- frequent result is to hit the animals’ nose or lower jaw resulting in a lost animal that carries off a painful, ultimately deadly, injury that may result in its dying many days later. I consider it far better to maybe loose a little shoulder meat and take the animal through both lungs.
As always, there are exceptions. When shotgunning for swan, geese and similarly big birds, I think it best to shoot for the long neck and head, rather than for the body because of the difficulty of the shot (particularly steel shot) to penetrate deep enough to cleanly kill the bird.
Alligators also need to be dispatched with a shot delivered at a
range of a few inches from the skull. Similarly, when it comes time to kill livestock an expanding bullet shot at very close range that ranges forward from the back of the skull towards the nose is very quick.
I once refused to attempt a neck shot in Ireland at the biggest red stag I ever saw because I was shooting from an unsteady platform and could not hold the scope steady on such a small target. I don’t even like such shots at squirrels and rabbits with a .22 L.R. There is not much meat on the ribs and even passing a .45-caliber ball through a squirrel’s midsection does not result in much loss of eatable meat.
It is always the hunter’s responsibility to kill game quickly. Except under absolutely ideal conditions, I think that most hunters would do well to avoid neck and head shots and put the bullet squarely into the heart-lung area.
For more information on game shooting consult the author’s book, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound and visit the website www.hoveysmith.com.