Shots To Avoid

Posted by: Steve Flores on Nov 26, 2012
Page 1 of 3

I can still remember the first time I loosed an arrow at an actual living, breathing whitetail.  The smallish doe looked larger than life as I nervously drew back my multi-laminated riser, solid-glass limbed, Browning bow.  Yeah, it’s been awhile.  However, I will never forget the utter disbelief I felt when my arrow struck the young deer and penetrated just enough to keep the heavy aluminum arrow from falling harmlessly to the ground.  In my youthful excitement I pulled the shot, striking the hard bone of the shoulder.  The bewildered animal quickly lunged away; leaving very little blood on the ground but a lasting impression on my inexperienced young mind.  It was a hard lesson for me to learn; although, I’m certain it was much harder on the deer.

Nevertheless, the cold hard truth was I quickly learned that an arrow, unlike a bullet, causes death in a completely different manner.  A bullet kills by inflicting a tremendous amount of static-shock and trauma on the animal; destroying tissue, disrupting the function of the central nervous system and interrupting vital organ behavior.  The kinetic energy levels are unreal when compared to that of an arrow.  Even when the shot is less than perfect, a bullet can most often still get the job done.


The manner in which they cause death is as different as their appearance to one another.  Also, arrows carry far less kinetic energy than that of even the lightest bullets, so correct arrow placement is vital if a quick, humane kill is the goal; and it should be. 

An arrow, on the other hand, kills only from the direct damage caused by a razor sharp broadhead.  By piercing vital organs, and slicing precious arteries and veins, massive hemorrhaging begins and a quick, humane death shortly follows.  Consequently, shot placement is extremely vital when the time comes to dump the bowstring on a whitetail with the intent of taking its life in a respectable manner.  The following is a compilation of shots most likely to end with a lost blood trail and why I believe they should be avoided at all costs.
Straight On
When facing a whitetail head-on it may be tempting to take the shot.  However, I wouldn’t recommend it.  Here’s why.  When viewing the whitetail from the front, there actually is an opening that leads directly to the heart and if an arrow passes through this opening, it will indeed kill the deer quickly.  Although, pulling this shot off successfully is not as easy as it sounds. The opening, which is located right at the base of the neck (at the “V” where the neck joins the rib cage), is very small, probably not much larger than your fist.  Consider that if you decide to chance it, and take the shot, missing the small opening a “little to the left” or a “little to the right” only means your problems have just begun.  If your arrow isn’t deflected away by the rib-cage, causing a nasty flesh wound, it will likely only penetrate one lung.

I have spoken to wildlife biologists who have seen evidence of past lung injury in recently harvested whitetails.  However, it was uncertain whether the previous harm was inflicted by a broadhead or not, or, how long the injury had existed.  In any case, most single lung hits, while not immediately fatal, usually do bring about death.  The only problem is…. finding the animal.  Many can still run long distances and survive for an unknown amount of time.  Certainly, that scenario presents numerous problems; enough so to render this shot unacceptable in my book.

Another point to mull over is that if you blow the shot and your arrow impacts below the small opening at the base of the neck, you will be relying on it to punch through the heavy tissue in the brisket area.  Is your current set-up packing enough punch to drive through this extremely tough region and still have ample kinetic energy to reach vital organs?  Certainly, it’s a lot to ask of both you and your equipment.


Specialized targets, such as this McKenzie Carbon Buck, not only provides a suitable practice medium, it also presents valuable lessons regarding entry and exit paths.  Before removing your arrows, simply check to see if the shot would have resulted in a clean kill or wounded animal.  Even veteran hunters can learn from this target.
Spine Shot
For the treestand hunter, this shot is likely to present itself multiply times over the course of a good season.  Yet, it is a poor choice.  True, if you do manage to strike the spinal cord you will most likely watch as the deer drops straight to the ground; only to see it try to regain its footing without the use of its hind legs. It is a nauseating sight; one that usually requires a follow up shot to bring to an end.  Intentionally taking this shot, knowing the paralyzing effects it will have on the animal, seems insensible to me.  In my opinion it is not an honorable way to purposely try to harvest a whitetail; or any animal for that matter.

Also, be aware that if you decide to take a spine shot and miss your mark, you can almost certainly expect a single lung hit.  Hopefully though, for the deer’s sake, you will slice the dorsal aorta in the process.  If the angle isn’t straight down, you could get lucky and hit this artery which is located beneath the backbone; resulting in a quick death.  However, it should never be an option to take a shot with the hopes of actually hitting this vital blood carrier on purpose. On top of all this, take into account that if your arrow fails to exit the bottom of the chest cavity there will be little to no blood on the ground due to the high entry hole.  Any blood loss will likely stay inside the animal until the chest cavity fills up and the blood finally leaks out; but who knows how long that could take.  Wait for a better shot.

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Steve Flores

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4 Comments on "Shots To Avoid"

Re: Shots To Avoid #
Great article, thank you.
Posted by Danny J Albers on 11/26/2012 7:02:46 PM
Re: Shots To Avoid #
Pretty common sense here if you ask me. Who out there is seriously going to aim for a spine shot??? I can see discussing head on shots and int hat case a neck shot is more feasible than trying to burry a broadhead in a bucks chest.
Posted by Billy Bob on 11/27/2012 4:15:28 PM
Re: Shots To Avoid #
"Billy Bob" - you would be amazed at the shots that people think are okay to take with a bow. Keep in mind that not all bowhunters had someone around to mentor and teach them right from wrong. Some people truly don't know any better, while others just don't care.
Posted by Justin Zarr on 11/27/2012 7:48:32 PM
Re: Shots To Avoid #
i made the mistake of taking a quarting tword me shot with my bow and made a terrible shot on a nice buck and lost him
Posted by Branden on 11/30/2012 10:21:52 AM

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