Guidelines to Making a Vital Shot

Before you start hunting, you need to understand how to make a vital shot on an animal. Your goal as a hunter should be to make a shot that will produce a quick lethal kill. You can help yourself accomplish this by establishing some preset guidelines.

Today we will talk about 3 important things you need to consider and have set in your mind before you see an animal.

Establish Your Effective Range

Effective range is the maximum distance you know you can place a vital shot on an animal consistently. You will establish your effective range during shooting practice.

For instance, my effective range is out to 300 yards with my rifle. I am very confident that I can place a bullet in the heart and lung area consistently at that distance or closer. Now, when I am hunting, if I range an animal at more than 300 yards, I immediately know I need to get closer to take the shot.

roscoe shooting

Now hear what I am about to say. It doesn’t mean I can’t take a shot at more than 300 yards, but I know I can put a bullet in a 3″ circle at 300 yards or less. That kind of confidence will make a world of difference when I squeeze the trigger.

Establish your effective range. Decide before you go hunting, what is the maximum yardage you will shoot. This will help you be confident in your shot.

Quick note – If the conditions are not perfect ( wind and rain) and/or my rest is not solid, this can have an affect on my shot. In many cases my effective range will be reduced by these factors. Consider the elements and your shooting position when setting up for the shot.

Where Should You Shoot the Animal

You need to decide where on the animal you will try to place your shot. You want to hit a vital organ that will lead to a quick death. So let’s discuss a vital shot and the location of vital organs on big game animals.

My years of experience has taught me to aim for a vital organ that will bring the animal the least amount of suffering and myself the highest potential for recovering the animal. This means I usually aim for the heart or lungs.

Vital Organs

Heart – The heart is usually located in the bottom 3rd of the chest cavity behind the front leg. A well placed shot in the heart will certainly produce a deadly outcome. I would encourage you to think of the heart as one of your primary targets when taking the shot.

Lungs – The lungs are the largest target on the animal consuming a majority of the chest cavity. The lungs typically lay behind the front leg and stretch to the last couple ribs.deer showing vitals

The lung shot is my favorite shot. It is extremely deadly and usually will produce a solid blood trail. My one suggestion is to always shoot from a direction that will allow you to penetrate both lungs at the same time. An animal with a hole in only one lung will often require a follow up shot.

Liver – The liver lays behind the lungs near the stomach. A liver shot is fatal, but can take some time to cause death. If I know that I have shot an animal in the liver, I will always attempt to make a follow up shot.

The liver is not a vital organ I try to hit, but I am certain the animal will die if shot there. For this reason I am very patient and intentional as I track an animal I feel may be shot in the liver.

Brain – A bullet to the brain can mean instantaneous death for an animal. Probably one of the quickest ways to bring a large animal to the ground. But even though the brain is an easy target to locate, it is a relatively small target. I rarely take this shot unless I’m very close and have an extremely good rest. Beware! An animal can move their head suddenly and change your impact point.  

Animal Position

Broadside – The broadside shot is when the animal is allowing you to see it’s entire right side or left side from chest to tail. This position gives you the best opportunity to place your bullet or arrow through both lungs or the heart at the same time. This is the position that gives you the largest target and offers a quick vital killing result. 

Quartering Away – This is when the animal is looking away from you but you can still see part of it’s right or left side. This shot still allows you to shoot at the heart and lungs. But it reduces the size of the lung target relative to the angle of the animal.

mule deer quartering away

You need to consider the shot angle when shooting at a quartering away animal. I always aim through the animal by considering where the bullet should exit. If I feel it will exit out the front chest without hitting the opposite lung, than the shot angle is to severe and I won’t shoot.

Quartering Toward – This position is when the animal is facing you at an angle that still allows you to see it’s right or left side. Again like the quartering away, you need to consider the degree of the angle. The other obstruction at this position is the front shoulder bone. If a bullet or arrow strikes a large bone like the shoulder, it can change the point it could impact a vital organ.

Think Before You Shoot

You can shoot an animal when it is standing in any position, but aren’t we trying to produce a quick lethal kill? Therefore, I recommend you wait for the animal to give you the shot you need to accomplish that goal. This is why you need to decide what position the animal needs to be in before you shoot.

You need to consider again the angle of the bullet and where it should exit if it passes all the way through. This position also runs the risk of the bullet or arrow going into the stomach cavity. You will not enjoy field dressing the animal if the stomach has a large hole in it.

There are many other positions an animal could present to you. I encourage you to think about those positions and their possible results. Ask yourself this question and make up your mind before you go to the woods. What position does the animal need to offer you before you will shoot?

A Deadly Combination

Would you like to know what I’m looking for when I’m hunting? Below is a perfect scenario.

If I have a solid rest and the deer is under 300 yards and standing broadside to me, I like my odds. With nothing covering the heart and lung area, I’m going to make that shot. I’m very confident in my ability and the outcome of this opportunity.

If the animal is offering me something different than this scenario, I’m going to filter it with the things I know and you learned above. I want to give myself the best chance for success. I have established some strict guidelines before I will shoot.

Would you like a copy of an E-book that will help answer more of your hunting questions? Just enter your name and email below.

This E-book takes you through the 10-steps I use to help me enjoy every hunt. When you know all the steps involved in a successful hunt, you will be better equiped to consistantly fill your freezer.

0 comments… add one

Leave a Reply