Shots to the Vital Areas

Image of White-tailed deer buck indicating vital area

When taking a shot at a game animal, the goal of the hunter should be to deliver a well placed shot to the vital organs. Knowing the anatomy of your quarry will allow you to place the shot in the most vital spot. This insures a quick, clean kill, which minimizes the suffering of the animal and maximizes the chance of retrieving the downed animal. The angle that the animal is standing in relation to the hunter is the shot angle. If the animal does not present a good shot angle to the hunter, it’s best to wait for the shot angle to improve.

The Broadside Shot

The Broadside Shot presents the largest target area to strike the heart and lungs. For the novice hunter this is the best shot to take. It is just behind the shoulder bones. Properly placed, the bullet will strike the ribs and probably pass completely through the chest cavity.

White-tailed deer White-tailed deer with vital area indicated White-tailed deer with crosshairs positioning indicated

To find the best shot placement, look at the front leg facing you, along a line on the back side of this leg, come up one third of the way into the body. This is the place you want your bullet or arrow to impact.

Turkey broadside with vital areas indicated

The broadside shot for turkey is the best for bowhunters. With a firearm, the head and neck are the best place to aim. Most of the meat on a turkey is in the breast. By aiming for the head with a rifle or grouping for the head and neck with a shotgun, you won’t damage the breast meat.


White-tailed deer in quartering toward position

Quartering-Toward is a shot angle from the front of the animal when their body is angled towards you. This angle still affords a shot to the vital area, however, there is a greater chance of hitting bones in the shoulder. Since the animal is facing you, it can easily detect any movements. Bowhunters should avoid taking this shot because of the added density of the shoulder bones that the arrow must penetrate. Also, many times the animal can see the arrow in flight.


Mule deer in quartering away position

Quartering-Away is a shot angle where the animal’s body is angled away from you. You still have a shot at the vital areas and should aim behind the shoulder. You must be confident of your accuracy with your firearm as misplacement of the shot can result in a “gut-shot,” a shot to the stomach and intestines. Not only does the animal suffer when gut-shot but it can still travel a great distance and there is a good chance you may lose it.


Head on angle of White-tailed doe

Head-On means the animal is standing directly facing you. The vital organs can still be hit but there is a good chance the bullet will damage a good deal of meat. Depending on the velocity of the bullet, it could also pass through and hit the stomach, even continuing into one of the rear legs, ruining even more meat. Bowhunters should not take this shot.


Rear end view of White-tailed buck

Rear-End is exactly that, an angle directly behind the animal. No large vital area is presented. Never take this shot with firearm or bow. Wait for a better shot or pass.

two bucks at bad angle for successful shot

The shot angle on both of these bucks is not good. You should wait for a better angle to the vital area.