August 29, 2013
Guest Shoot Me Down: Headshots on Deer Are Contemptible
By Dave Hurteau
A couple weeks ago, I yelled, “Spare Me the Heart-Shot Photo” and invited you to “Shoot Me Down.” The reader who did the best job of it, who offered the most compelling argument—however wrong, of course—was Whitetail365 regular, Sanjuancb, who has accepted my invitation to pen today’s blog. Remember that while don’t much care what you call me, Sanjuancb is my guest. Shoot him down, by all means, rip his argument to shreds, but try to be nice about it.
And with that, here he is:
For this “Shoot Me Down” I’d like to address what I see as an ignoble and immoral act: taking headshots at deer (and other ungulates). First, let me put forth a few assumptions that underlie my belief that needlessly shooting game in the head is contemptible:
1. Game should be harvested as efficiently and humanely as possible.
2. There is no infallible shot, and loss of game can occur to any person.
3. Field marksmanship is subject to a number of variables that preclude assurance that the projectile will go exactly where you intend.
4. Headshots in question are not done in self-defense (a charging moose, say).
Hopefully those seem reasonable to everyone. And yet, there is a segment within the hunting community that views headshots as not only ethical, but extremely effective. There is no arguing that disruption of the central nervous system will lead to quick death in all animals. However, the same can be said for disruption of the respiratory and circulatory systems. What then, is the benefit of a headshot? Proponents say it also saves maximum meat for the table. Once again, shot placement in the lungs with a reasonable caliber and quality bullet provides the same benefit.
The most damning testimony against headshots is readily available. Anecdotal evidence is everywhere, and a quick Internet search will produce all manner of gory photos of deer without jaws or those otherwise disfigured by errant headshots. The lung shot, on the other hand, provides the same lethality and conservation of meat, while affording a much greater margin of error. Even a heart shot, slightly off, will strike the lungs.
The average whitetail brain measures about 3 inches in diameter, whereas its heart/lung area is closer to 10 inches in diameter. If you miss the former target slightly and take a deer’s lower jaw off with a bullet, the animal will likely leave little spoor for tracking and will make for other country immediately. If you miss the latter, even a gut-shot deer can be relatively easily recovered if care is taken not to push the animal after it beds in the vicinity.
I suspect that good portion of hunters who make it a regular practice of taking headshots are doing so for the benefit of their own ego. Fundamentally, these folks are in the wrong sport. Marksmanship is a critical component of hunting, but it in itself does not a hunter make. Perform a successful headshot and you too can say, “I shot it right between the eyes,” or perhaps better yet, “I’m a deer sniper.” Miss the shot, and no one has to know but you and the deer. This is why hunting has the highest ethical demand of any sport. Respect for the quarry must prevail even when no one is looking, and should be present before anyone is allowed to take a weapon afield. I believe this is missing from those who call themselves “headshot experts”—otherwise they’d be working hard to make the highest-probability shot possible. —Sanjuancb
Photo by huntingdesigns via Flickr