When it comes to hunting big game, shot placement will be the most important thing you do.
Here are a few tips and reminders of the study we take of our big game quarry and why.
Included here are all the shots we’ll see once we get into that tree climber, ladder stand, or ground blind and how to approach taking the shot.
Now is not the time for complacency! No one takes their sport more seriously than big game hunters and the second we take it for granted that our shot will hit the target and do the most damage, that trophy will never be seen again.
Here’s how to make sure that doesn’t ever happen:
1. Quartering Forward
While gun hunters can still hit heart and lungs, especially with quality ammunition, this shot can have the animal’s chest and shoulder bones protecting the vitals. Put the crosshairs on the front of the near shoulder; squeeze, don’t pull.
Tip: Many advise bowhunters to wait for a broadside shot to avoid a glancing blow that only wounds the animal.
2. Quartering Away
This is one of the favorite shot placements/targets for many hunters. This look at any big game animal can take the front shoulder out of play and open up the heart to a good shot.
Tip: If the angle becomes too much, the guts will come into play making it a limiting shot. Intestines can slow an arrow from getting to the vitals for bowhunters, and keep a broadhead or a bullet from penetrating both lungs.
3. Head On
First of all, this animal is looking right at you. Secondly, as nature intended, all the vital organs are protected by the chest (sternum, rib cage) and shoulder bones. This is a no-win scenario for bowhunters.
Tip: With today’s ammunition and optics you have a chance if: the animal’s head is up, he’s not alerted to you, you already have a bead on him, and he’s not moving. A middle-chest shot can do a lot of damage… have you been practicing?
From above may be the most seen target area of them all. Bowhunters all over will wear out their bow shooting at practice targets from a tree. The shoulder blade comes into play at extreme down angles by hiding more of the vitals, causing many to wait for a broadside or even a quartering away shot.
Tip: Practice at the height you plan to hunt. The higher the shot, the more the vitals are protected. Pick a height that gives you a good look and a reasonable chance of success.
Make no mistake, this is the shot we all dream about. With the entire chest cavity exposed, it seems like we can do no wrong. A double lung “pass-through” shot is the easiest from this position and will give the best blood trail to follow.
Tip: Bowhunters look for the near front leg to be a bit forward to make the best of avoiding a bone hit.
6. Rear End
You know that buzzer on game shows that sounds off when you get the wrong answer? Well, you just heard it. Like much of the information here, it’s all about review.
Good, responsible hunters will pass up this shot every time. There’s nothing vital to hit and the animal will only be wounded.
- Quartering forward- probably a better shot for a gun hunter. 4 out of 10.
- Quartering away- your trophy is looking the other way, good for gun or bow with the right angle. 8 out of 10.
- Head on- a good shot is a kill shot with a gun if you don’t get busted; bowhunters probably need to let him turn. 4 out of 10.
- Above- unless you’re trying to shoot straight down, most of us have harvested animals from here and most of us have missed from here as well! 6 out of 10.
- Broadside- what we live for. You cut lanes in that spot for years, you know where they’re coming from and you know where they’re going. 9 out of 10.
- Rear end- there’s nothing to shoot at but the head or possibly the back of the neck. You’ll wound it and you won’t harvest it. There’s nothing to see here. Show’s over. Move along. 1 out of 10.
No one regulates themselves like hunters and fishermen. We’re called on to obey all the laws of seasons and bag limits with only ourselves to answer to in the field.
One of the best ways to do this is by reviewing our big game shot placement each and every year before our hunt.
A successful harvest depends not only on hitting the target, but taking the right shot.
Cheers and good hunting!