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Guest Shoot Me Down: Headshots on Deer Are Contemptible

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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

Comments (58)

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from smccardell wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

Sanjuancb,

Disruption of the central nervous system and disruption of respiratory and circulatory are not same. Even with a rifle you can punch a whole in a deers lungs and depending on the situation it can travel a great deal of distance before it succumbs to its wounds. It would effectively either bleed out or drown in its own blood. With a well placed headshot, the animal drops. Period. It does not suffer.

Again with more "meat on the table" your argument is weak. I do not, on very many occasions (especially with EHD), find myself dining on the brains of the deer I shoot. I do, however, enjoy a nice rack of ribs as well as venison heart tacos. This does not take in to account the other tasty vitals that can be consumed from the wobbly bits. With a lung shot or a heart shot, there certainly is more wasted meat. I would grant that perhaps some hunters are not using that meat on a regular basis, but that in itself brings up ethical considerations; ie wanton waste.

I do agree with you that the headshot is more difficult to make than a lung shot. The head is a smaller targer than the lungs. But it's like saying I should be aiming for the broad side of the barn, just because I can hit it. Are headshots a good idea for all hunters in all situations? No. But are there good situations where even an average marksman should take a headshot? Absolutely! The closer the target the better. The less factors to interfere with the shot the better (field versus wooded lot, etc.) To state that headshots have no place in hunting is kind of like saying you don't have to really sight your gun in that well, because as long as you hit it in the body you should probably be able to recover the deer. Also you state that with the lung shot, even if you are off you still have a chance of making a killable shot. I agree with that statement, but killable and retrievable are two different things. You are going to be a lot less likely to recover a gut shot deer. With that 10 inches of lung shot, if you miss your mark you are a lot more likely to still hit the deer,b ut you might not kill it. You might just wound it. With the three inches of the head, there is a lot greater probability that if your shot is off (you really shouldn't be taking the shot if you can consistently hold your grouping anyway) you completely miss the deer all together.

It's not about ego, it's about knowing ones cababilities and knowing what the best shot for the situation is. I only shoot that way if all the stars align. But with each successful shot confidence is gained in the ability to make that same shot in another situation. Do not look down upon those hunters who have practiced in the off season and are capable of making a head shot just because you are not confident enough in yourself to make the same shot.

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from smccardell wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

Wow I really should spell and grammar check things in word before I post them. :)

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from buckhunter wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

I'll never forget the time my buddy called and asked that I help track a wounded deer. The blood trail was faint but the woods were small so we eventually came upon his bedded deer. The arrow had hit the deer right between the eyes and was sticking out like a unicorn. I asked how the hell he did that. He just told me to shut-up and proceeded to put the kill shot in her. I suspect he was going for the world-famous-frontal-shot when the deer put her head down.

Anyway. I think it was somebody in Ohio who was shot by a police officer when his bullet bounced off the head of a deer which had been hit by a car and went into a nearby house.

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from nehunter92 wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

I agree with you for the most part. While going for the brain may damage less meat (and put the animal down quicker), the risk do not justify the potential reward. Too much can go wrong. Unless you or your family are in dire need of as much meat as possible (which is the case for some folks), then you owe to the animal not to take that type of risk. I will concede the point to smccardell that the meat and painlessness benefits of a properly done headshot are far in excess of the heart/lung shot. These benefits do not outweigh the ethical considerations for me however.
Before I comment further, may I ask a question (and I promise not to ramble on like on that last SMD topic). Do you consider neck/spine shots to be in the same category as the brain shot?

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from mike0714 wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

90%+ of the time i aim for the heart and lungs but there are definitely ways to take head shots that are ethical. keep them short and shoot deer that are facing you head down feeding or bedded not moving around. I have only shot does this way but it is very effective. I hunt family land in upstate NY and does are killed to fill the pot. We eat the heart and liver (strait on and heavy quartering to shots will can cause damage to the liver while any ethical rifle shots can damage the hearts). thus a head shot can be very effective saving meat but the important thing with all ethical shots is the person taking the shot. In my opinion if you can't shoot a 3in group at sub 100 yards (size of brain) you need to take a fresh look at your abilities. I not saying your fist shot as a hunter should be for the brain but there are times when it can be ethical and effective.

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from mike0714 wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

NY is the only place I hunt does and am willing to take head shots. in az and out west where i'm not stand hunting i wont take head shots.

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from HeidelbergJaeger wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

Head shots ensure a quick, painless kill. A hunter that is as proficient with his equipment as he is with his shooting skill can accomplish with one shot what it can take multiple shots aimed at the body to do.

If a hunter misses (and we all do), the shot most often goes high, and the deer will be no worse for wear. Aim low, and you feed the dirt. When you aim on the body and miss, you most often wound the deer, and begin a blood trailing odyssey that may or may not discover the animal. That to me is contemptible.

As for your overall argument, saying that vital organ shots routinely provide clean, instant kills; please show me evidence of a deer running after losing his brain to a 150 grain soft point. I see deer that run for 500m after having nothing of a heart left inside their chest cavity.

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from aferraro wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

The "ethical shot" is the one that you can make.

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from blueticker wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

A friend who hunts deer only from ground level has killed his share & then some by shooting them dead center of the azzhole. He says they can be a mess to field dress (he actually said the guts looked like they had been in a blender) but you did not have to worry about not finding the deer after the shot. Anybody else tried this?

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from MattM37 wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

Blueticker, your friend needs to get out of the woods and stay out. And maybe seek counseling.

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from jcarlin wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

I've lost one deer in my life, the first buck I'd shot, on my first day in the woods, and I would have taken a follow up head shot if presented. I will admit that in my excitement and inexperience I shot too far back on a deer quartering towards me. A follow up shot quartering away behind the shoulder seconds later after a brief run and pause clearly was on target and set the deer immediately down, however several kicks propelled the deer behind a large diameter tree less than 5 yards from a rain swollen river. I decided that if I saw the buck's head project past the tree, at that point I would take the head shot and not commit the sin of letting a wounded animal expire in vain to save antlers for the wall.(Said antlers were not impressive, but it was my first, and I still wish I had them.) I waited at least 45 minutes and the deer failed to appear out the other side. When I descended and walked to the spot where I expected to find my buck, what I found instead was a deep cut in the bank that was otherwise an intact overhang which was out of my site with clear signs that a wounded deer had slid down it and struggled into the water. You may disagree with me, but you will fail to convince me in this case. I'd take that particular headshot if I could, and still feel sick about that deer.(I searched the banks downstream for the next 2 days, with help on Sunday, with no further sign found) I really wasn't sure I'd have the heart to hunt again.

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from jcarlin wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

blueticker,
I'm not commenting on the mindset or morality, but last year I helped a new hunter I ran across on the way back to the truck gut and drag a deer he'd gut shot multiple times before placing one in the lungs. I'd never dealt with a gut shot deer (hadn't repeated a gut shot since the story above). Gutting isn't the most enjoyable task at any point, more of a necessary chore, but in this case was literally an S-house mess. I can't imagine repeatedly opting to go through that.

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from Sarge01 wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

As a Conservation Officer it was my job to clean up crippled deer left over from hunters after deer season so I feel compelled to comment on this subject. I don't like head shots or neck shots either one. There are times when the deer is super close and the hunter has a dead rest that it may work. I have had to kill numerous deer over the years that have had their lower jaws shot off or the tops of their head taken off, but not enough to kill them, wind pipes shot into and the deer breathing through the hole in their neck, chunks of meat shot out of their neck and not hitting the backbone( it is very small) . I am a hunter and things like this disgust me and I don't like to see them. This was the times when I saw people turn against hunters when they saw animals like this wander into their yards or their farms. I am a "high shoulder" shooter myself , I have tried other locations but the "high shoulder" works the best for me. Do I lose a small amount of meat, yes, but then I don't lose a whole deer.

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from blevenson wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Sarge makes an excellent point. Just shoot for the damn lungs or heart and have a kill zone that's the size of a volleyball vs a head shot which gives you a kill zone the size of baseball at best. I'll take losing a little bit of meat on a lung or heart shot over botching a head shot and having to deal with the guilt and lost deer.

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from schaum wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I liked that post!!! I made my own website for a school project and am trying to get it more publicized... Does anybody want to check it out? www.outdoorspeople.webs.com
It's free to anyone who wants to join. and NO spam

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from RockySquirrel wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Center Mass,

With something big enough to ensure the center mass shot is quick and painless as possible. Anything else is just vanity.

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from chuckles wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I am with the shoot for the heart/lungs crowd. It has never taken more than one shot and not one has gone farther than 40yds.
Sanjuancb, thank you for that wonderfully written article!

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from Red Angus wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I easily understand your position and I agree up to a point. I will not take a head shot at a deer simply because I know that even though I may be a good shot, I'm not that good. On the other hand, IF someone is a crack shot and can do it cleanly, I'm not going to complain.

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from Fruguy101 wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I am a hunter. I am not a sniper, sharpshooter, marksman, rifleman, nor a shooting instructor. However, I am able to hit what I aim at most of the time. I consider myself to be a competent shooter.

After reading the post about headshots, I had to think about times when I might have been able to make such a shot. After some reminiscing, I could only remember one such time that particular shot was available to me. It was first light, and a herd of deer was slowly walking through the woods in front of me. I say herd, but I'm not sure if more than eight deer would be considered a herd, but here in Mississippi it would most likely count. I was sitting against a tree when a doe walked in front of me maybe fifteen yards away broadside with her head down eating. I shot just behind the shoulder with my Marlin 30-30, and she dropped instantly. There was no consideration of a head shot at the time, and even now, I don't think i would have opted for it anyways.

Hunting in Mississippi has gotten better over the last 20 years. Bigger deer, larger racks, plenty of opportunities to kill some whitetail. I know plenty of hunters, both serious and casual, and none have ever told of a head shot. I think that is because most of them have been taught to shoot for the vital organs, with great success every single year.

Should the just returned military sharpshooter happen to go deer hunting, take a film crew, look for 500+ yard shooting opportunities, find one, then take a head shot just to prove he can, I have no problems with that. Just don't expect your average hunter to rely on that low percentage kill each time he heads into the woods.

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from jhjimbo wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I have taken head shots when that was all that was presented and taken them successfully. Also, taken some directly up the tooter. Same thing, when that was all that was presented. Never lost a deer from either end.

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from moswald wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I don't have a problem either way and there are some situations that might deam a headshot necessary. I was out with a friend who was a new hunter, shot a doe high and back breaking the spine taking out it's back legs, but not killing the animal, he proceeded to shoot this thing 4 or 6 more times, finally after I caught up I walked over to the sitting there, full of holes, staring at us doe and ended her pain. Also, to consider that many of us live in suburban areas where huntable land is scarce and small, sometimes you need to make a no nonsense, deer HAS to drop shot, head shots are very effective for this.

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from Savageshot wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

even if I was the most accurate marksman on the planet, id still double lung deer, It destroys more meat, would take longer to die and a has higher odds on killing the deer. the latter being the most important above all else. not to mention ive seen guys at the archery range say inside a paper plate at 20 yards and you can kill deer, if you cant group three inches at 20 you shouldn't be bow hunting. a head shot on a deer is the same your putting yourself before the animal and doing so disrespecting the animal and hunting.

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from Island_Time wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

moswald, if you have to drop a deer to keep from tracking you can shoot the shoulder joint with a smaller caliber. It may destroy more meat in one of the quarters, but is far more ethical. Also, if you are in a suburban area and worried about where a shot deer can run shouldn't you be using a bow and not a rifle?
The only way I can rationalize a head shot is shooting a doe for meat at close range. You may have a 3" object to hit, but that depends on your angle; it is ovoid and not a sphere. Anatomically, you are aiming at a quarter size target from most angles. While you should be able to place your grouping inside a quarter at 100 yards on the range, I doubt most can do it in the stand. I have seen several attempts at a head shot by guys trying to prove something and every one shot the jaw off. They thought center mass on the head would do the trick. Poor accuracy and lack of a realistic knowledge of anatomy.
One last thought for those who have never seen the result. Do you want quarts of blood all over your food plot or hunting area? More than 50% of the blood pumped out by the heart goes to the brain.

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from Mr.Smell wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I am not against head hunters. Everybody has their own opinion on their marksmanship. If a person can cleanly kill his deer with a headshot, more power to them. More meat in the freezer and I agree. My problem is the majority of headhunters are deliberately glorifying their kills and we as sportsman/woman do not need to see that. Some people should not hunt, but what can we do. These ideas are brought upon from father to son or daughter. Headshots with bow, now that is a lowlife, I dont care if you can kill 99% of the time.

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from PreserveTheWild wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

@ smccardell,

"I would grant that perhaps some hunters are not using that meat on a regular basis, but that in itself brings up ethical considerations; ie wanton waste."

This is not necessarily true. We waste a lot as humans with our ways of commercially raising livestock, aquaculture, and commercial fishing. It's not wanton waste if your are not eating the entrails of your quarry. Is it wanton waste to use minnows or worms for bait? or to not eat every inch of the fish you catch? Wanton Wasts is when someone kills a deer for fun and leaves it lay or just throws the whole deer next to a parking lot or something ignorant to that nature.

As for head shots on deer, i understand both sides of the argument;however, i don't find it necessary in a large number of cases to try and make a head shot. also, i don't believe most of us are capable of making headshots, consistently and effectively enough at 100+ yards to make it worth attempting. If you're hunting over a field and a doe steps at at 150 yds. and you decide you wanna try and take this doe. Why would you attempt a headshot? The margin of error is much smaller with a head shot, and you can kill the deer just the same aiming behind the front shoulder. There is a large number of deer killed every year that fall instanly, drop in their tracks, when shot behind the shoulder. The whole goal is to kill the game fast, and humanely. In my opinion though,i wouldn't attempt a head shot on a deer at 25yds. much less 100+. Im not dealing with the mess, and its hard to take a memorable picture when half your quarries face was left in the field.

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from makersman wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Sarge01 you made a perfect point you have YOUR shot preference as do us all. A head shot is not an easy shot but if you have the SKILLS to take the shot it is the most effective and humane way to put an animal down. The problem I see is that some people shouldn't take shots just to see if they can do it, they need to practice and know their abilities with their guns and have the confidence to make a clean shot.

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from Robert Minter wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I have been hunting since I was old enough to carry a gun. Young boy in the Idaho woods always taught by his father that there are differences in shot placement and the opportunities will vary on the shot you get to take. Often we are sitting or walking slowly and animals move at different rates of speed depending on the spookiness or time of the season. I was always taught to take the animal,whether it was Elk, Deer or other big game right behind the shoulder in the soft hair patch of the stepping leg. Not to say I have not had made head shots but I tend to take a shot in the neck, at the spine, rather than the head itself. It all depends on closeness and opportunity if you ask me.I will not shoot at an animal over 60 yards to sooth my ego over being an incredible shooter to jeopardize an animal being wounded and running off. If that ruffles feathers, too bad. One shot, one kill, in fact I think I am still shooting out of the box of ammo I bought 7 years ago and still loving the opportunity just to see animals in the wilderness with my brother, Dad and hunting buddies.

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from abetheham wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Hey Hurteau,

I'm enjoying these 'Shoot Me Down' articles. I'd like to hear your take on taking shots with bow/gun on running/moving deer.

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from Bernard Duane R... wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Gunshot to the head is recognized as a humane method of euthanasia in cattle and other farm animals, properly applied. Yes, a whitetail's brain is a small target, but I think the main problem is that the brain is not located where most folks think it is. If you take a frontal shot right between the eyes, it's going to miss the brain, low. Go squirrel hunting, folks (with a rifle!). If you can hit a squirrel in the head, you can hit a whitetail in the head, too!

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from mspl8sdcntryboy wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Head shot with an arrow, I don't think so.
However I would not oppose a close range head shot with a rifle on a deer, notice I said close---anything more than 75-100yds is asking for trouble. But the best placement is when they are quartering away, right behind the ear into the skull cavity. I know a guy who does this all the time and as far as I know has never had to track a deer.

But it is a personal choice, just like some people not bow hunting because they say it is cruel, and causes unnecessary pain for the quarry. If you don't do it, fine; but I'm not going to condemn anyone who does or doesn't.

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from dtownley wrote 32 weeks 4 days ago

After tracking near 50 head/neck shots I have had enough(lowballed), 13 yrs of hunting with some paper shoot'in magicians, it did not equate in the field.
This is why .22LR are not allowed, if all this great head shoot'in had been done right the species would not be over populated and only dumb poachers would be caught.
Maybe they just did'nt want to clean them ? ... "got a shot", "he jumped up and got away","here's the hair he can't be far away" ect.,excuses are like a--holes and everybody got one and maybe if your errant headshot would have hit'em, in it, we might have found'im ?
THAT HEART/LUNG AREA'S PRETTY GOOD PLACE TO SHOOT"EM !
just say'in

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from Pathfinder1 wrote 32 weeks 4 days ago

Hi...

I'm a good shot with a rifle. If I can get a good shot at a deer's head, I'll take the shot.

No trying to find the deer after its run off...no damaged meat...and the animal is harvested in a (presumably) painless manner.

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from action1250 wrote 32 weeks 4 days ago

Head shots are for muslim extremists!
PERIOD!

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from Gierhedd75 wrote 32 weeks 4 days ago

I personally, always go for just behind the shoulder - midway. If a miss the heart, I hit the lungs. Gun or bow. As someone else pointed out, the ethical shot is the one that is well within the hunter's abilities and has solid repeatedly proven success. One that is not a "well, maybe this'll work. Let's cross fingers and hope for the best" shot. To simply take a headshot or any other high risk shot for bragging rights is unacceptable. Save the "no scope" moments for Call of Duty.
Headshots performed on livestock are completely different than those taken during hunting. Without being graphic, just take my word for it.
Stick with what is proven to work.

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from Ralph Oakley wrote 32 weeks 4 days ago

I've head shot many moose, they where all Roadkill, I have seen an officer gut shoot a moose many times as the animal lay on the ground.

The issue of head shot vs lung/heart shot is all dependent on shooters skill, power of weapon and accuracy of weapon.

I've shot rifles that no matter how good you are they will group like a shotgun and I've seen shooters that would shoot a shotgun pattern even firing from a bench rest with a good rifle.
weapon power is next factor heard of person attempting head shot on a brown bear with a 357 mag, that is a good way to really piss it off, then again attempting heart/lung shot would probably have been just as effective.

most important is to have powerful enough weapon with proper ammunition and then have the skill to hit exactly where you need to hit to make a clean kill.

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from JKinPA wrote 32 weeks 3 days ago

I was taught to aim for the heart/lung area because it is the largest zill zone, providing the greatest margin for error, in the event of an errant shot. Using the author's measurements, a 10" heart/lung area produces a kill zone of 78.5 square inches (5" x5" x3.14)while a 3" brain equalls a 7.07 square inch target to produce a quick, humane kill. Put another way, the heart lung area is OVER 11 TIMES larger.
The only conclusion to be drawn is that anyone who shoots headshots is a moron who should have their hunting privileges revoked before their ubethical stupidity is inevitably exploited by anti-hunters to the detriment of us all. The beautiful, majestic animals we hunt deserve nothing less than our best efforts to minimize wounding rates and harvest them with the least amount of suffering possible.

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from Blowfly basher wrote 32 weeks 3 days ago

Use enough gun (rifle)? or too much. Island-time made a point of considerable value, use a smaller calibre...If .17 can drop a donkey through instant blood migration to that point then that's a better result than almost all the argument here.Sarge01 made a critical point concerning the damage caused and that has been also illustrated in African and Indian hunting in the hunting "hayday".

I have almost no sympathy will killers calling themselves hunters as I see it as a part of the great self delusion they adopt to try to convince others. It's well recorded that many PH's became wearied by the morons they took "on safari"...or rather a killing spree on wheels very often.
Some of course were serious killers but almost entirely on requistion by authority or in some case villagers to execute a 'pest'.

Some PH's entertained themselves by bonking males and female clients and their native staff...which meant they also lived largely in illusion bubble...looking after the clients in the field was mechanical and rewarded them with money and 'comfort' as well.It wasn't/isn't all one way some males and females went 'on safari'to score the PH..or the African boys.Some were so outrageous that their quotas were ensured to be quickly filled...often by the PH doing the killing....so they could be exported to the treehouse or some club and then to home.

In the conversation, all valid, is said if a shooter misses with the headshot less damage is done than bad placement of a body shot. That may be so if it's an individual but experienced people know that such shooting into a herd to take an individual sometimes generates errors of perception.The animal behind is hit..or several...in the body.

The relentless application of perfume to killing animals and purporting to be a hunter involves millions of words on calibre and a great deal of inanity..including endless discussons on recoil. I think the American concept of vast numbers of police to arrest a misdemeanour,chase car thieves to their death or several 'colatteral' deaths armies sent to punish other nations, WMD's Nuclear weapons, patriot acts and an obsession with spreading and justifying planetary paranoia for the new order shows it hsn't moved forward from the close-to-extermination of the buffalo.

Big calibres, big bombs, big talk, exterminating whole families with almost, or totally no conscience has become a culture for have gun MUST kill...or if the animal is so stupid that it moves when I have just committed to squeeze (or jerk) the trigger and therefor cops smashed bones and vicera and suffers...well...I'll wander over that 300 metres and 'put it out of it's misery'...maybe after I have a victory or valedictory smoke or slug of whisky..." or "it's run off...I'll see about following the blood after I knock off that other one...damn!!...missed again..or did I?...which one will I look for first?"

Smaller calibres probably require competent stalking and a closer shot, in clear ground, undiverted by foliage.That doesn't appeal to those I think, who like to shoot at long distances maybe even across ranges at some victim enjoying its life. Carrying a 30.06 upwards attracts kudos and perhaps helps to make the incompetent shooter look otherwise ...Using a small calibre with sensible projectile and loading and confining it to the specific target means competence which isn't as brassy as shooting cannons. "it died of hydrostatic shock" isn't nearly as "Ooooohhh Aaaaahhh" as "it took out both shoulders and the heart" or "I shot it up the ar...rectum..and the bullet ended up in Nairobi after passing through its skull"...WOW!!

The urge to kill to feed a starving 'id' may be accompanied by a secondary interest in eating some of what is killed or maimed but the vast bulk of killing is not for essential provisions. Never but occasionally in African or Indian history have I read across a vast range of comments and stories of the 'hunter' applying any conscience or consciousness to the conservation(other than waffle about safari fees) of the species, the absolute essential of the older animals training the young...Some of us know that shooting older foxes for example makes the partly trained young more of a pest through shooting the adult. You can apply that to meircats, elephants, lions and even deer

That crime against the herd occurs also when the largest 'trophy' is sought. "It's all about me" is the general demeanour and it's very strong in American comments..Can't you apply the present ruination of the seas to the way you approach killing off 'game' whatever the excuse.?

On the particular issue again...so much can affect the shot at the head with such a small target and for me it can range from sadism to ignorance.You ought to know that many shooters revel in suffering once caused even if unintended... Those who claim their 100% headshot kills I can't dispute but it's unlikely unless they shoot at less than 50 yards. I can think instantly of at least 7 factors that make a headshot unlikely to hit accurately if at all.

Some think it fantastic they have been able to wound or kill having shot through a sapling or like Jack the Giant Killer, killed several with one blow....for me that reinforces even the most lopsided argument by genuine conservationists and anti-hunting activists. The worst traits are, sad to say, praised in a forum mardi-gras to poor performers.The serious, small quantity hunter who stalks and kills with at least reasonable integrity,with a well placed shot, and accepts he has just taken a life with deserved to be allowed to continue and respects not just the animal but its life and its place in the environment is rarely a contributor to the excited chatter on calibre,recoil,fantasy, selective admission and ego. Sometimes in the life of a professional hunter, icluding the famed Selby to name one well known to Americans and British he makes plain that he no longer enjoys the killing.Ruark didn't get so far as that neither did the paradox called Hemmingway nor Roosevelt.Here are 3 quotes, two by mature people and one by Roosevelt.
1) Whenever I see a photograph of some sportsman grinning over his kill, I am always impressed by the striking moral and esthetic superiority of the dead animal to the live one. Edward Abbey (1927 - 1989), A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

2)When I was twelve, I went hunting with my father and we shot a bird. He was laying there and something struck me. Why do we call this fun to kill this creature who was as happy as I was when I woke up this morning.
Marv Levy

3)In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919)

Again my acknowledgement goes to Sarge01 and Island-time, neither or either of whom might agree with me.

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from Bioguy01 wrote 32 weeks 3 days ago

Nice article! Personally, my preference is the high shoulder shot because an animal with a broken shoulder and some lung damage will usually drop within 20 yards and die quickly. There's a large margin for error which usually ends with a downed animal within 50 yards. That being said, there is DEFINITELY a place for the head shot in hunting, but it depends on the shooters situation and capability to make the shot. My first deer was killed using a head shot. It was close range, I had a steady rest, and the gun I was using was an absolute tack driver. I could hit the eye of a squirrel at 50 yards with that gun. When I shot, the deer dropped instantly and was dead. No suffering of any kind, no tracking required, and no wasted meat.

That being said, those who have never lost an animal probably haven't been hunting very long. It happens to even the best hunters, and it's a gut wrenching, terrible feeling any time it happens, but it happens no matter how much you practice and no matter how good of a tracker or woodsman you are. To each their own. Be safe and good luck this season!

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from Retired Chief wrote 32 weeks 3 days ago

Squirrels are what I try to head shoot. As for deer, "saving meat" is absolute bulls**t. There is no family, not one, except perhaps in the most extreme survival emergency situation, who's existence hinges on the few ounces of venison which will be bloodshot and ruined by a heart-lung shot. If they're that desperate for food all they have to do is show up at any welfare office and they'll be given vouchers enough to add to our national obesity problem. I have next to no opportunity for quality deer hunting anymore, and it is just getting worse. Buy it, lease it, or be born into it is the norm these days almost everywhere. "Hunters" who live in a fantasy world of tactical-this and sniper-that and egotistical backwards-ball-cap talk of "CNS Hits" pretty much make me want to beat their azzes to a pulp. Want to be a "sniper" and want to be "tactical" ? Then go sign on the dotted line and put your butt into the grinder and find out if you have what it takes. Don't equate those words with shooting deer or other game animals.

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from Douglas wrote 32 weeks 2 days ago

Only head shot I ever made was by mistake. Shooting at running deer with a slug gun. I don't shoot at running deer any more.
I helped track a doe last fall that had been shot thru the face.The shooter was trying to hit it thru the eyes. Not an intelligent choice and the deer was not recovered till morning.
Seeing things like that makes me want to quit hunting. It's lungs or shoulder shots for me.

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from ingebrigtsen wrote 32 weeks 2 days ago

When I still hunted seals, the only ethical shot TO take was the headshot. And I trained for it extensively and got me a rifle that could deliver the precision needed.. ethics r biased and based on mediocrity.. one is allowed to rise above the rest and not embrace the average hunters skills as a personal benchmark in ability.. if u can deliver a perfect headshot 99,99% of the time then how could one possibly claim its unethical??? This whole discussion is a symptom of a monoculture where distinction and personality and skill is ignored completely to fit in with politically correct "CORRECT-SPEACH"!!

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from Retired Chief wrote 32 weeks 2 days ago

ingebrigtsen- even though I mentioned squirrels in my post, the overall concept of the debate is Whitetail deer in the USA. Certainly there are times, places, situations, and species where head shots are "ethical" or even required (crocodiles? ) but not for "Whitetail 365".

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from Rgw3 wrote 32 weeks 1 day ago

To be absolutely honest, this is such a tough question. If we all agree that the key tenants of a clean kill are that the animal dies quickly (so it doesn't suffer) and the minimum amount of meat is lost then we can have a debate.

I am primarily a bow hunter, thanks to injuries sustained in the military, I am a crossbow hunter only. Head shots are unlikely to do more than disfigure the animal, should I hit it at all. Instead I have to try for a lung/heart shot. Anyone who bow hunts knows you wait 20 minutes before you begin tracking. This way the animal, hopefully, will lay down and die. This kind of shows that the animal will suffer to some extent. So despite the fact that the deer has a better chance of smelling/hearing me, as getting up close is significantly harder than 100-200 yard rifle shots, my shots fall short in the animal suffering. Does that make them less humane, not really because I cannot hunt the animal any other way.

If you can effectively make a kill shot that preserves meat and the animal doesn’t suffer, the by all means do it. If you cannot make the shot, then shoot the one you can.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 32 weeks 1 day ago

I don't take head shots, and probably will not, unless my survival depended on it. There is just too much room for error, and the skull is not a good target to assure proper bullet penetration. As for neck shots, I have taken a few and the animals have gone down wihin 20 yards of being hit; a few animals needed a follow-up kill shot.
Bottom line for me, I prefer to take a heart/lumg shot but if conditions on good I will take a neck shot, as well.

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from Sanjuancb wrote 32 weeks 1 day ago

Glad to see this resulted in a number of responses. The fact is, this is not a matter of "can", but a matter of "should." There are a lot of typewriter commandos out there that can hit a gnat at 1,000 yards, but wonder of wonders most of the deer hunters that I encounter are lucky to hit a coffee can at 100 yards while sitting. I won't touch the offhand shooting prowess that I have (not) seen demonstrated. It ultimately comes down to the question, do I want to look like a BA or do I want to take the highest percentage killing shot possible?

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from Kbeall03 wrote 32 weeks 1 day ago

Hello Everyone, First thing I can see is that everyone is concerned about a clean ethical kill. Me too!!!! But I also noticed comments that sound like folks have never taken or seen a deer that was shot in the head. I have hunted since I was about 12---Over 30 years. I have killed probably 10 deer all does with head shots. First off all of the deer were closer than 30yds. The deer were stationary and I had a rest for all of the shots with a rifle and a scope. None of the deer moved. They died instantly where they were standing. There was not a big mess of blood all over the ground; when the brain stops the hearts stops--no blood. I do admit there was a mess of brains on the ground and the skull was caved in but it was not a gross horror movie type scene. I DO NOT THINK THAT A HEAD shot should be taken on a moving animal, or without a rest or over 40 yards. Wounding an animal is a terrible for the animal and really bad day for the hunter and probably the hunter's friends. So, I do think it is an ethical shot under the right circumstances.

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from Michael Jay wrote 32 weeks 20 hours ago

Let me tell you a short story about head shots....or in this case one head shot.I hunt private property in suburbia PA and I am very lucky to have this place to hunt (which is the best spots I have hunted in my life.There are plenty of deer.Well I got my best friend permission to hunt this property too..the philosophy is ONE SHOT ONE KILL....CLEAN.PERIOD.WEll we had been seeing a monster on the property i had many encounters with this beast but never had a clean kill shot(heart/lung)well my buddy was in one of my stands one night I couldn't hunt and it was well after dark I called him He he said he shot something but not the big one well after search by him and I for hours and me the next two days I find out he took the shot at the monster but only had a head shot.....we never seen that deer again....So my point is never take that head shot in less it is to finish off a animal.....And one last thing my best friend has never hunted this property again I told him he was not welcome anymore.I did not put it on the owner

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from themadflyfisher wrote 32 weeks 1 hour ago

This is a good topic.
I have taken head shots on deer and I will again if the shot presents itself. That said, I have only ever taken them from the one stand I hunt and it is always at very close range and when the deer has it's head down feeding. I do this because I know I can make the shot. If I had any doubts in the shot I would not take it. I believe the scenarios in which I have taken the shot is very ethical. I do not agree with guys taking the shot when the deer is at distance and with it's head in the air. JMO

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from ray cummings wrote 32 weeks 4 min ago

Almost every deer I have seen "lung shot" has run from 40 yards to half a mile. On the other hand, a shot through the front shoulders stop it NOW! As far as a head shot is concerned it is all right in the right circumstances with the right hunter. In these instances I prefer a neck shot. It gives more margin for error without wounding the deer. Too high or low is a clean miss. Too far back takes out the shoulders/chest cavity.

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from woodpecker wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

I deer hunt in the Adirondack's, all forests and swamp's. We don't see that many deer, let alone,mature buck's. When we do catch one, he'll run just so far and then hug a tree and peek out around the tree to see what made the noise that he heard. Chances are that head shot is the only shot I'm going to get that day, maybe that season. I guess what I'm trying to say is, if it works for you fine, but don't throw stones at me for taking the headshot.

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from MalachiH1 wrote 31 weeks 23 hours ago

i agree with the previous comment it saves meat on the deer.

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from MPEK wrote 30 weeks 1 day ago

YES ,CONTEMPTABLE ..... IRESPONSIBLE .....In short , most hunters feel they can shoot better than than can ; try adding heartbeat and excitement..
I spend a lot of time at the rifle range. It gets very busy 2 weeks before the deer season. I see Guys fire 3 shots , and go home .Their rifle is on ... So they mite be ready for a "Head Shot" Everyone is a "Marksman" There are a few of us thousnds of shooters than can make that shot ..
Please ,don't condone the head shot . Too many animals will suffer .

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from MPEK wrote 30 weeks 1 day ago

Forgive me Blofly Basher .

Nice article . But I Got lost with your rambling .

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from MPEK wrote 30 weeks 1 day ago

Forgive me Blofly Basher .

Nice article . But I Got lost with your rambling .

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from William Rauch wrote 30 weeks 19 hours ago

Wow a lot of interesting comments and a lot of let’s be generous and say stretches. But I believe most of us can agree and if you don’t I am suspect of your depth of knowledge.
1) If you hit a Deer with Arrow or Bullet through the Lungs and or Heart it won’t go more than 100 yards. There are always exceptions so I will push the boundaries to say 200 yards, period. Anyone who says a deer will go 1/2 mile with a double lung shot or a heart shot is a poor judge of distance.
2) A Head shot is a lousy choice as a first shot.
I am not really sure of what the objective of the conversation is but if it is putting game in the bag…….leave the head shots to Hollywood and stick to the basics. If you can’t track a deer that has been hit in the Heart and or Lungs there is an issue get to the Doctor.

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from Matt Herbert wrote 28 weeks 1 hour ago

blowfly?!? Indian history and Jack the Giant Slayer...wow!

Unless your target deer has a hostage you should aim for the larger more stable target.

The same way police/snipers are trained to shoot. Heads snap this way and that unpredictably. The center mass is not so quick.

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from Chip Adams wrote 20 weeks 1 day ago

Everyone has an opinion. Is it ethical? Numerous people make the comment "Ethical is a shot you can make". I could not agree more. A head shot you are hitting a 3" kill zone, body 8", and neck 4" (ish I'll explain).

At 100 yards I would say nearly all hunters are comfortable shooting to one of those locations. So ethical comes into what level of skill you are. Do you practice all the time? head shots are tough to make, so are neck shots, both of those shots are specifically for standing deer. Body shots you have more leeway, you can make a mistake and still hit the kill zone. Lets go to 300 yards now. I would equate shooting a deer at 300 yard to the equivalent of shooting a nickle at 100.

I ask myself these questions before I pull the trigger every time. Let me give you a few examples from this year (2013). My first deer of the season was in THICK brush (another question of ethics) and I passed on easier shots because I was going to let the deer pass (my mistake) When I made my mind up I shooting through a 5" window in the trees to the neck of the deer. I made the shot, but I am 100% confident in that shot. When I am taking a neck shot there are only 2 times I will take it. 1 when it is looking at me, seriously aim at the white spot, it is a bulls-eye. And 2 when it is directly away from me and it is my only choice. They are kill shots if you are confident. When shooting a deer in the neck if you are shooting the white spot you will hit the spinal cord and again just like the head shot kill the deer immediately. The key difference is you have a little bit of room for a mistake here. Not much but shooting a deer in the head it is easy to shoot the jaw off, in an ear, hell in the head and it just not die. I know the game warden posted above that he has seen them with a hole in their throat and breathing. This is why I NEVER take a side neck shot, and honestly why would you..? The deer i standing broadside. A front neck shot it is TOUGH to wound the deer. Not saying it can't be done. But it is tough.

Now lets go to body shots. First I have only ever wounded 1 deer in my life that I didn't get (was still shot just no given to me), and 1 fawn that I did get. Both of those shots were taken broadside < 50 yards. Am i a horrible hunter? No. That was 18 and 17 years ago respectfully and I was 14 and 15 years old. I aimed for the heart and missed... it is that simple. I vowed since then I would never make that mistake again. Now for the fawn, I ended up shooting it in the head, which ended up being a luck shot, as I had missed 3 other head shots at it. Why was it luck? Because it jumped up, I pulled up, saw brown in the scope and shot. Also my first running deer shot.

The reason I brought that up, is my brother took a 350 yd shot this year and wounded his deer. And my sister and fiance and even him later, said he shouldn't have taken the shot. I disagree. My brother is a very good shot, rarely misses and I sited his gun in, I know that it is going to be on at 300. The question is should HE have taken the shot. I don't know. I wasn't upset at him for taking it, it sucked it ended up being GUT shot, and we were unable to find it. It upsets me greatly when this happens as it does the rest of my family. I know that if I would have been the one to see that deer first, I would have taken the shot, but I can't say that I would have made a better shot. Conditions were right for it, but 350 makes things more difficult. An errant breath, a gust of wind, elevation can all make minor differences. If it would have been me, I was using a 7mm mag vs his 7mm-08, that alone could have made the difference.

I go back to what is ethical. As was mentioned above, a head, neck, and body shot are all ethical IF and ONLY IF you can make the shot. Do I think people should take head shots? No not really, I avoid them like the plague. But my older brother has made without a doubt the most impressive shots I have ever seen and they were both in the EYE. A few years ago, he called in a beautiful 10 point. At 20 yds the only thing he could see was an eye. He shot it. This was the best shot I have ever seen to this day. I walked to his deer, with him on the trail, and in FULL BLAZE ORANGE, I could not see him at 20 yds.

This year, at 75 yds a similar situation and again he made the shot. Even with these 2 examples I do not believe a head shot to be a wise choice. Take a body shot or if possible a neck shot, the key here is to take a shot you are CONFIDENT in. And ask yourself before you pull the trigger every time. Is this the right shot for me?

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from Chip Adams wrote 20 weeks 1 day ago

Everyone has an opinion. Is it ethical? Numerous people make the comment "Ethical is a shot you can make". I could not agree more. A head shot you are hitting a 3" kill zone, body 8", and neck 4" (ish I'll explain).

At 100 yards I would say nearly all hunters are comfortable shooting to one of those locations. So ethical comes into what level of skill you are. Do you practice all the time? head shots are tough to make, so are neck shots, both of those shots are specifically for standing deer. Body shots you have more leeway, you can make a mistake and still hit the kill zone. Lets go to 300 yards now. I would equate shooting a deer at 300 yard to the equivalent of shooting a nickle at 100.

I ask myself these questions before I pull the trigger every time. Let me give you a few examples from this year (2013). My first deer of the season was in THICK brush (another question of ethics) and I passed on easier shots because I was going to let the deer pass (my mistake) When I made my mind up I shooting through a 5" window in the trees to the neck of the deer. I made the shot, but I am 100% confident in that shot. When I am taking a neck shot there are only 2 times I will take it. 1 when it is looking at me, seriously aim at the white spot, it is a bulls-eye. And 2 when it is directly away from me and it is my only choice. They are kill shots if you are confident. When shooting a deer in the neck if you are shooting the white spot you will hit the spinal cord and again just like the head shot kill the deer immediately. The key difference is you have a little bit of room for a mistake here. Not much but shooting a deer in the head it is easy to shoot the jaw off, in an ear, hell in the head and it just not die. I know the game warden posted above that he has seen them with a hole in their throat and breathing. This is why I NEVER take a side neck shot, and honestly why would you..? The deer i standing broadside. A front neck shot it is TOUGH to wound the deer. Not saying it can't be done. But it is tough.

Now lets go to body shots. First I have only ever wounded 1 deer in my life that I didn't get (was still shot just no given to me), and 1 fawn that I did get. Both of those shots were taken broadside < 50 yards. Am i a horrible hunter? No. That was 18 and 17 years ago respectfully and I was 14 and 15 years old. I aimed for the heart and missed... it is that simple. I vowed since then I would never make that mistake again. Now for the fawn, I ended up shooting it in the head, which ended up being a luck shot, as I had missed 3 other head shots at it. Why was it luck? Because it jumped up, I pulled up, saw brown in the scope and shot. Also my first running deer shot.

The reason I brought that up, is my brother took a 350 yd shot this year and wounded his deer. And my sister and fiance and even him later, said he shouldn't have taken the shot. I disagree. My brother is a very good shot, rarely misses and I sited his gun in, I know that it is going to be on at 300. The question is should HE have taken the shot. I don't know. I wasn't upset at him for taking it, it sucked it ended up being GUT shot, and we were unable to find it. It upsets me greatly when this happens as it does the rest of my family. I know that if I would have been the one to see that deer first, I would have taken the shot, but I can't say that I would have made a better shot. Conditions were right for it, but 350 makes things more difficult. An errant breath, a gust of wind, elevation can all make minor differences. If it would have been me, I was using a 7mm mag vs his 7mm-08, that alone could have made the difference.

I go back to what is ethical. As was mentioned above, a head, neck, and body shot are all ethical IF and ONLY IF you can make the shot. Do I think people should take head shots? No not really, I avoid them like the plague. But my older brother has made without a doubt the most impressive shots I have ever seen and they were both in the EYE. A few years ago, he called in a beautiful 10 point. At 20 yds the only thing he could see was an eye. He shot it. This was the best shot I have ever seen to this day. I walked to his deer, with him on the trail, and in FULL BLAZE ORANGE, I could not see him at 20 yds.

This year, at 75 yds a similar situation and again he made the shot. Even with these 2 examples I do not believe a head shot to be a wise choice. Take a body shot or if possible a neck shot, the key here is to take a shot you are CONFIDENT in. And ask yourself before you pull the trigger every time. Is this the right shot for me?

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from Sarge01 wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

As a Conservation Officer it was my job to clean up crippled deer left over from hunters after deer season so I feel compelled to comment on this subject. I don't like head shots or neck shots either one. There are times when the deer is super close and the hunter has a dead rest that it may work. I have had to kill numerous deer over the years that have had their lower jaws shot off or the tops of their head taken off, but not enough to kill them, wind pipes shot into and the deer breathing through the hole in their neck, chunks of meat shot out of their neck and not hitting the backbone( it is very small) . I am a hunter and things like this disgust me and I don't like to see them. This was the times when I saw people turn against hunters when they saw animals like this wander into their yards or their farms. I am a "high shoulder" shooter myself , I have tried other locations but the "high shoulder" works the best for me. Do I lose a small amount of meat, yes, but then I don't lose a whole deer.

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from smccardell wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

Sanjuancb,

Disruption of the central nervous system and disruption of respiratory and circulatory are not same. Even with a rifle you can punch a whole in a deers lungs and depending on the situation it can travel a great deal of distance before it succumbs to its wounds. It would effectively either bleed out or drown in its own blood. With a well placed headshot, the animal drops. Period. It does not suffer.

Again with more "meat on the table" your argument is weak. I do not, on very many occasions (especially with EHD), find myself dining on the brains of the deer I shoot. I do, however, enjoy a nice rack of ribs as well as venison heart tacos. This does not take in to account the other tasty vitals that can be consumed from the wobbly bits. With a lung shot or a heart shot, there certainly is more wasted meat. I would grant that perhaps some hunters are not using that meat on a regular basis, but that in itself brings up ethical considerations; ie wanton waste.

I do agree with you that the headshot is more difficult to make than a lung shot. The head is a smaller targer than the lungs. But it's like saying I should be aiming for the broad side of the barn, just because I can hit it. Are headshots a good idea for all hunters in all situations? No. But are there good situations where even an average marksman should take a headshot? Absolutely! The closer the target the better. The less factors to interfere with the shot the better (field versus wooded lot, etc.) To state that headshots have no place in hunting is kind of like saying you don't have to really sight your gun in that well, because as long as you hit it in the body you should probably be able to recover the deer. Also you state that with the lung shot, even if you are off you still have a chance of making a killable shot. I agree with that statement, but killable and retrievable are two different things. You are going to be a lot less likely to recover a gut shot deer. With that 10 inches of lung shot, if you miss your mark you are a lot more likely to still hit the deer,b ut you might not kill it. You might just wound it. With the three inches of the head, there is a lot greater probability that if your shot is off (you really shouldn't be taking the shot if you can consistently hold your grouping anyway) you completely miss the deer all together.

It's not about ego, it's about knowing ones cababilities and knowing what the best shot for the situation is. I only shoot that way if all the stars align. But with each successful shot confidence is gained in the ability to make that same shot in another situation. Do not look down upon those hunters who have practiced in the off season and are capable of making a head shot just because you are not confident enough in yourself to make the same shot.

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from aferraro wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

The "ethical shot" is the one that you can make.

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from blevenson wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Sarge makes an excellent point. Just shoot for the damn lungs or heart and have a kill zone that's the size of a volleyball vs a head shot which gives you a kill zone the size of baseball at best. I'll take losing a little bit of meat on a lung or heart shot over botching a head shot and having to deal with the guilt and lost deer.

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from mike0714 wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

90%+ of the time i aim for the heart and lungs but there are definitely ways to take head shots that are ethical. keep them short and shoot deer that are facing you head down feeding or bedded not moving around. I have only shot does this way but it is very effective. I hunt family land in upstate NY and does are killed to fill the pot. We eat the heart and liver (strait on and heavy quartering to shots will can cause damage to the liver while any ethical rifle shots can damage the hearts). thus a head shot can be very effective saving meat but the important thing with all ethical shots is the person taking the shot. In my opinion if you can't shoot a 3in group at sub 100 yards (size of brain) you need to take a fresh look at your abilities. I not saying your fist shot as a hunter should be for the brain but there are times when it can be ethical and effective.

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from MattM37 wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

Blueticker, your friend needs to get out of the woods and stay out. And maybe seek counseling.

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from smccardell wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

Wow I really should spell and grammar check things in word before I post them. :)

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from buckhunter wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

I'll never forget the time my buddy called and asked that I help track a wounded deer. The blood trail was faint but the woods were small so we eventually came upon his bedded deer. The arrow had hit the deer right between the eyes and was sticking out like a unicorn. I asked how the hell he did that. He just told me to shut-up and proceeded to put the kill shot in her. I suspect he was going for the world-famous-frontal-shot when the deer put her head down.

Anyway. I think it was somebody in Ohio who was shot by a police officer when his bullet bounced off the head of a deer which had been hit by a car and went into a nearby house.

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from nehunter92 wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

I agree with you for the most part. While going for the brain may damage less meat (and put the animal down quicker), the risk do not justify the potential reward. Too much can go wrong. Unless you or your family are in dire need of as much meat as possible (which is the case for some folks), then you owe to the animal not to take that type of risk. I will concede the point to smccardell that the meat and painlessness benefits of a properly done headshot are far in excess of the heart/lung shot. These benefits do not outweigh the ethical considerations for me however.
Before I comment further, may I ask a question (and I promise not to ramble on like on that last SMD topic). Do you consider neck/spine shots to be in the same category as the brain shot?

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from jcarlin wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

blueticker,
I'm not commenting on the mindset or morality, but last year I helped a new hunter I ran across on the way back to the truck gut and drag a deer he'd gut shot multiple times before placing one in the lungs. I'd never dealt with a gut shot deer (hadn't repeated a gut shot since the story above). Gutting isn't the most enjoyable task at any point, more of a necessary chore, but in this case was literally an S-house mess. I can't imagine repeatedly opting to go through that.

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from RockySquirrel wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Center Mass,

With something big enough to ensure the center mass shot is quick and painless as possible. Anything else is just vanity.

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from action1250 wrote 32 weeks 4 days ago

Head shots are for muslim extremists!
PERIOD!

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from mike0714 wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

NY is the only place I hunt does and am willing to take head shots. in az and out west where i'm not stand hunting i wont take head shots.

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from HeidelbergJaeger wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

Head shots ensure a quick, painless kill. A hunter that is as proficient with his equipment as he is with his shooting skill can accomplish with one shot what it can take multiple shots aimed at the body to do.

If a hunter misses (and we all do), the shot most often goes high, and the deer will be no worse for wear. Aim low, and you feed the dirt. When you aim on the body and miss, you most often wound the deer, and begin a blood trailing odyssey that may or may not discover the animal. That to me is contemptible.

As for your overall argument, saying that vital organ shots routinely provide clean, instant kills; please show me evidence of a deer running after losing his brain to a 150 grain soft point. I see deer that run for 500m after having nothing of a heart left inside their chest cavity.

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from chuckles wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I am with the shoot for the heart/lungs crowd. It has never taken more than one shot and not one has gone farther than 40yds.
Sanjuancb, thank you for that wonderfully written article!

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from Savageshot wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

even if I was the most accurate marksman on the planet, id still double lung deer, It destroys more meat, would take longer to die and a has higher odds on killing the deer. the latter being the most important above all else. not to mention ive seen guys at the archery range say inside a paper plate at 20 yards and you can kill deer, if you cant group three inches at 20 you shouldn't be bow hunting. a head shot on a deer is the same your putting yourself before the animal and doing so disrespecting the animal and hunting.

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from PreserveTheWild wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

@ smccardell,

"I would grant that perhaps some hunters are not using that meat on a regular basis, but that in itself brings up ethical considerations; ie wanton waste."

This is not necessarily true. We waste a lot as humans with our ways of commercially raising livestock, aquaculture, and commercial fishing. It's not wanton waste if your are not eating the entrails of your quarry. Is it wanton waste to use minnows or worms for bait? or to not eat every inch of the fish you catch? Wanton Wasts is when someone kills a deer for fun and leaves it lay or just throws the whole deer next to a parking lot or something ignorant to that nature.

As for head shots on deer, i understand both sides of the argument;however, i don't find it necessary in a large number of cases to try and make a head shot. also, i don't believe most of us are capable of making headshots, consistently and effectively enough at 100+ yards to make it worth attempting. If you're hunting over a field and a doe steps at at 150 yds. and you decide you wanna try and take this doe. Why would you attempt a headshot? The margin of error is much smaller with a head shot, and you can kill the deer just the same aiming behind the front shoulder. There is a large number of deer killed every year that fall instanly, drop in their tracks, when shot behind the shoulder. The whole goal is to kill the game fast, and humanely. In my opinion though,i wouldn't attempt a head shot on a deer at 25yds. much less 100+. Im not dealing with the mess, and its hard to take a memorable picture when half your quarries face was left in the field.

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from Bernard Duane R... wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Gunshot to the head is recognized as a humane method of euthanasia in cattle and other farm animals, properly applied. Yes, a whitetail's brain is a small target, but I think the main problem is that the brain is not located where most folks think it is. If you take a frontal shot right between the eyes, it's going to miss the brain, low. Go squirrel hunting, folks (with a rifle!). If you can hit a squirrel in the head, you can hit a whitetail in the head, too!

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from Pathfinder1 wrote 32 weeks 4 days ago

Hi...

I'm a good shot with a rifle. If I can get a good shot at a deer's head, I'll take the shot.

No trying to find the deer after its run off...no damaged meat...and the animal is harvested in a (presumably) painless manner.

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from Retired Chief wrote 32 weeks 3 days ago

Squirrels are what I try to head shoot. As for deer, "saving meat" is absolute bulls**t. There is no family, not one, except perhaps in the most extreme survival emergency situation, who's existence hinges on the few ounces of venison which will be bloodshot and ruined by a heart-lung shot. If they're that desperate for food all they have to do is show up at any welfare office and they'll be given vouchers enough to add to our national obesity problem. I have next to no opportunity for quality deer hunting anymore, and it is just getting worse. Buy it, lease it, or be born into it is the norm these days almost everywhere. "Hunters" who live in a fantasy world of tactical-this and sniper-that and egotistical backwards-ball-cap talk of "CNS Hits" pretty much make me want to beat their azzes to a pulp. Want to be a "sniper" and want to be "tactical" ? Then go sign on the dotted line and put your butt into the grinder and find out if you have what it takes. Don't equate those words with shooting deer or other game animals.

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from ingebrigtsen wrote 32 weeks 2 days ago

When I still hunted seals, the only ethical shot TO take was the headshot. And I trained for it extensively and got me a rifle that could deliver the precision needed.. ethics r biased and based on mediocrity.. one is allowed to rise above the rest and not embrace the average hunters skills as a personal benchmark in ability.. if u can deliver a perfect headshot 99,99% of the time then how could one possibly claim its unethical??? This whole discussion is a symptom of a monoculture where distinction and personality and skill is ignored completely to fit in with politically correct "CORRECT-SPEACH"!!

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from Sanjuancb wrote 32 weeks 1 day ago

Glad to see this resulted in a number of responses. The fact is, this is not a matter of "can", but a matter of "should." There are a lot of typewriter commandos out there that can hit a gnat at 1,000 yards, but wonder of wonders most of the deer hunters that I encounter are lucky to hit a coffee can at 100 yards while sitting. I won't touch the offhand shooting prowess that I have (not) seen demonstrated. It ultimately comes down to the question, do I want to look like a BA or do I want to take the highest percentage killing shot possible?

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from Kbeall03 wrote 32 weeks 1 day ago

Hello Everyone, First thing I can see is that everyone is concerned about a clean ethical kill. Me too!!!! But I also noticed comments that sound like folks have never taken or seen a deer that was shot in the head. I have hunted since I was about 12---Over 30 years. I have killed probably 10 deer all does with head shots. First off all of the deer were closer than 30yds. The deer were stationary and I had a rest for all of the shots with a rifle and a scope. None of the deer moved. They died instantly where they were standing. There was not a big mess of blood all over the ground; when the brain stops the hearts stops--no blood. I do admit there was a mess of brains on the ground and the skull was caved in but it was not a gross horror movie type scene. I DO NOT THINK THAT A HEAD shot should be taken on a moving animal, or without a rest or over 40 yards. Wounding an animal is a terrible for the animal and really bad day for the hunter and probably the hunter's friends. So, I do think it is an ethical shot under the right circumstances.

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from themadflyfisher wrote 32 weeks 1 hour ago

This is a good topic.
I have taken head shots on deer and I will again if the shot presents itself. That said, I have only ever taken them from the one stand I hunt and it is always at very close range and when the deer has it's head down feeding. I do this because I know I can make the shot. If I had any doubts in the shot I would not take it. I believe the scenarios in which I have taken the shot is very ethical. I do not agree with guys taking the shot when the deer is at distance and with it's head in the air. JMO

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from ray cummings wrote 32 weeks 4 min ago

Almost every deer I have seen "lung shot" has run from 40 yards to half a mile. On the other hand, a shot through the front shoulders stop it NOW! As far as a head shot is concerned it is all right in the right circumstances with the right hunter. In these instances I prefer a neck shot. It gives more margin for error without wounding the deer. Too high or low is a clean miss. Too far back takes out the shoulders/chest cavity.

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from MalachiH1 wrote 31 weeks 23 hours ago

i agree with the previous comment it saves meat on the deer.

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from MPEK wrote 30 weeks 1 day ago

YES ,CONTEMPTABLE ..... IRESPONSIBLE .....In short , most hunters feel they can shoot better than than can ; try adding heartbeat and excitement..
I spend a lot of time at the rifle range. It gets very busy 2 weeks before the deer season. I see Guys fire 3 shots , and go home .Their rifle is on ... So they mite be ready for a "Head Shot" Everyone is a "Marksman" There are a few of us thousnds of shooters than can make that shot ..
Please ,don't condone the head shot . Too many animals will suffer .

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from William Rauch wrote 30 weeks 19 hours ago

Wow a lot of interesting comments and a lot of let’s be generous and say stretches. But I believe most of us can agree and if you don’t I am suspect of your depth of knowledge.
1) If you hit a Deer with Arrow or Bullet through the Lungs and or Heart it won’t go more than 100 yards. There are always exceptions so I will push the boundaries to say 200 yards, period. Anyone who says a deer will go 1/2 mile with a double lung shot or a heart shot is a poor judge of distance.
2) A Head shot is a lousy choice as a first shot.
I am not really sure of what the objective of the conversation is but if it is putting game in the bag…….leave the head shots to Hollywood and stick to the basics. If you can’t track a deer that has been hit in the Heart and or Lungs there is an issue get to the Doctor.

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from Matt Herbert wrote 28 weeks 1 hour ago

blowfly?!? Indian history and Jack the Giant Slayer...wow!

Unless your target deer has a hostage you should aim for the larger more stable target.

The same way police/snipers are trained to shoot. Heads snap this way and that unpredictably. The center mass is not so quick.

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from jcarlin wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

I've lost one deer in my life, the first buck I'd shot, on my first day in the woods, and I would have taken a follow up head shot if presented. I will admit that in my excitement and inexperience I shot too far back on a deer quartering towards me. A follow up shot quartering away behind the shoulder seconds later after a brief run and pause clearly was on target and set the deer immediately down, however several kicks propelled the deer behind a large diameter tree less than 5 yards from a rain swollen river. I decided that if I saw the buck's head project past the tree, at that point I would take the head shot and not commit the sin of letting a wounded animal expire in vain to save antlers for the wall.(Said antlers were not impressive, but it was my first, and I still wish I had them.) I waited at least 45 minutes and the deer failed to appear out the other side. When I descended and walked to the spot where I expected to find my buck, what I found instead was a deep cut in the bank that was otherwise an intact overhang which was out of my site with clear signs that a wounded deer had slid down it and struggled into the water. You may disagree with me, but you will fail to convince me in this case. I'd take that particular headshot if I could, and still feel sick about that deer.(I searched the banks downstream for the next 2 days, with help on Sunday, with no further sign found) I really wasn't sure I'd have the heart to hunt again.

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from schaum wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I liked that post!!! I made my own website for a school project and am trying to get it more publicized... Does anybody want to check it out? www.outdoorspeople.webs.com
It's free to anyone who wants to join. and NO spam

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from Red Angus wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I easily understand your position and I agree up to a point. I will not take a head shot at a deer simply because I know that even though I may be a good shot, I'm not that good. On the other hand, IF someone is a crack shot and can do it cleanly, I'm not going to complain.

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from Fruguy101 wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I am a hunter. I am not a sniper, sharpshooter, marksman, rifleman, nor a shooting instructor. However, I am able to hit what I aim at most of the time. I consider myself to be a competent shooter.

After reading the post about headshots, I had to think about times when I might have been able to make such a shot. After some reminiscing, I could only remember one such time that particular shot was available to me. It was first light, and a herd of deer was slowly walking through the woods in front of me. I say herd, but I'm not sure if more than eight deer would be considered a herd, but here in Mississippi it would most likely count. I was sitting against a tree when a doe walked in front of me maybe fifteen yards away broadside with her head down eating. I shot just behind the shoulder with my Marlin 30-30, and she dropped instantly. There was no consideration of a head shot at the time, and even now, I don't think i would have opted for it anyways.

Hunting in Mississippi has gotten better over the last 20 years. Bigger deer, larger racks, plenty of opportunities to kill some whitetail. I know plenty of hunters, both serious and casual, and none have ever told of a head shot. I think that is because most of them have been taught to shoot for the vital organs, with great success every single year.

Should the just returned military sharpshooter happen to go deer hunting, take a film crew, look for 500+ yard shooting opportunities, find one, then take a head shot just to prove he can, I have no problems with that. Just don't expect your average hunter to rely on that low percentage kill each time he heads into the woods.

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from jhjimbo wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I have taken head shots when that was all that was presented and taken them successfully. Also, taken some directly up the tooter. Same thing, when that was all that was presented. Never lost a deer from either end.

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from Island_Time wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

moswald, if you have to drop a deer to keep from tracking you can shoot the shoulder joint with a smaller caliber. It may destroy more meat in one of the quarters, but is far more ethical. Also, if you are in a suburban area and worried about where a shot deer can run shouldn't you be using a bow and not a rifle?
The only way I can rationalize a head shot is shooting a doe for meat at close range. You may have a 3" object to hit, but that depends on your angle; it is ovoid and not a sphere. Anatomically, you are aiming at a quarter size target from most angles. While you should be able to place your grouping inside a quarter at 100 yards on the range, I doubt most can do it in the stand. I have seen several attempts at a head shot by guys trying to prove something and every one shot the jaw off. They thought center mass on the head would do the trick. Poor accuracy and lack of a realistic knowledge of anatomy.
One last thought for those who have never seen the result. Do you want quarts of blood all over your food plot or hunting area? More than 50% of the blood pumped out by the heart goes to the brain.

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from Mr.Smell wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I am not against head hunters. Everybody has their own opinion on their marksmanship. If a person can cleanly kill his deer with a headshot, more power to them. More meat in the freezer and I agree. My problem is the majority of headhunters are deliberately glorifying their kills and we as sportsman/woman do not need to see that. Some people should not hunt, but what can we do. These ideas are brought upon from father to son or daughter. Headshots with bow, now that is a lowlife, I dont care if you can kill 99% of the time.

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from makersman wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Sarge01 you made a perfect point you have YOUR shot preference as do us all. A head shot is not an easy shot but if you have the SKILLS to take the shot it is the most effective and humane way to put an animal down. The problem I see is that some people shouldn't take shots just to see if they can do it, they need to practice and know their abilities with their guns and have the confidence to make a clean shot.

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from Robert Minter wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I have been hunting since I was old enough to carry a gun. Young boy in the Idaho woods always taught by his father that there are differences in shot placement and the opportunities will vary on the shot you get to take. Often we are sitting or walking slowly and animals move at different rates of speed depending on the spookiness or time of the season. I was always taught to take the animal,whether it was Elk, Deer or other big game right behind the shoulder in the soft hair patch of the stepping leg. Not to say I have not had made head shots but I tend to take a shot in the neck, at the spine, rather than the head itself. It all depends on closeness and opportunity if you ask me.I will not shoot at an animal over 60 yards to sooth my ego over being an incredible shooter to jeopardize an animal being wounded and running off. If that ruffles feathers, too bad. One shot, one kill, in fact I think I am still shooting out of the box of ammo I bought 7 years ago and still loving the opportunity just to see animals in the wilderness with my brother, Dad and hunting buddies.

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from abetheham wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Hey Hurteau,

I'm enjoying these 'Shoot Me Down' articles. I'd like to hear your take on taking shots with bow/gun on running/moving deer.

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from mspl8sdcntryboy wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

Head shot with an arrow, I don't think so.
However I would not oppose a close range head shot with a rifle on a deer, notice I said close---anything more than 75-100yds is asking for trouble. But the best placement is when they are quartering away, right behind the ear into the skull cavity. I know a guy who does this all the time and as far as I know has never had to track a deer.

But it is a personal choice, just like some people not bow hunting because they say it is cruel, and causes unnecessary pain for the quarry. If you don't do it, fine; but I'm not going to condemn anyone who does or doesn't.

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from dtownley wrote 32 weeks 4 days ago

After tracking near 50 head/neck shots I have had enough(lowballed), 13 yrs of hunting with some paper shoot'in magicians, it did not equate in the field.
This is why .22LR are not allowed, if all this great head shoot'in had been done right the species would not be over populated and only dumb poachers would be caught.
Maybe they just did'nt want to clean them ? ... "got a shot", "he jumped up and got away","here's the hair he can't be far away" ect.,excuses are like a--holes and everybody got one and maybe if your errant headshot would have hit'em, in it, we might have found'im ?
THAT HEART/LUNG AREA'S PRETTY GOOD PLACE TO SHOOT"EM !
just say'in

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from Gierhedd75 wrote 32 weeks 4 days ago

I personally, always go for just behind the shoulder - midway. If a miss the heart, I hit the lungs. Gun or bow. As someone else pointed out, the ethical shot is the one that is well within the hunter's abilities and has solid repeatedly proven success. One that is not a "well, maybe this'll work. Let's cross fingers and hope for the best" shot. To simply take a headshot or any other high risk shot for bragging rights is unacceptable. Save the "no scope" moments for Call of Duty.
Headshots performed on livestock are completely different than those taken during hunting. Without being graphic, just take my word for it.
Stick with what is proven to work.

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from Ralph Oakley wrote 32 weeks 4 days ago

I've head shot many moose, they where all Roadkill, I have seen an officer gut shoot a moose many times as the animal lay on the ground.

The issue of head shot vs lung/heart shot is all dependent on shooters skill, power of weapon and accuracy of weapon.

I've shot rifles that no matter how good you are they will group like a shotgun and I've seen shooters that would shoot a shotgun pattern even firing from a bench rest with a good rifle.
weapon power is next factor heard of person attempting head shot on a brown bear with a 357 mag, that is a good way to really piss it off, then again attempting heart/lung shot would probably have been just as effective.

most important is to have powerful enough weapon with proper ammunition and then have the skill to hit exactly where you need to hit to make a clean kill.

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from Bioguy01 wrote 32 weeks 3 days ago

Nice article! Personally, my preference is the high shoulder shot because an animal with a broken shoulder and some lung damage will usually drop within 20 yards and die quickly. There's a large margin for error which usually ends with a downed animal within 50 yards. That being said, there is DEFINITELY a place for the head shot in hunting, but it depends on the shooters situation and capability to make the shot. My first deer was killed using a head shot. It was close range, I had a steady rest, and the gun I was using was an absolute tack driver. I could hit the eye of a squirrel at 50 yards with that gun. When I shot, the deer dropped instantly and was dead. No suffering of any kind, no tracking required, and no wasted meat.

That being said, those who have never lost an animal probably haven't been hunting very long. It happens to even the best hunters, and it's a gut wrenching, terrible feeling any time it happens, but it happens no matter how much you practice and no matter how good of a tracker or woodsman you are. To each their own. Be safe and good luck this season!

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from Douglas wrote 32 weeks 2 days ago

Only head shot I ever made was by mistake. Shooting at running deer with a slug gun. I don't shoot at running deer any more.
I helped track a doe last fall that had been shot thru the face.The shooter was trying to hit it thru the eyes. Not an intelligent choice and the deer was not recovered till morning.
Seeing things like that makes me want to quit hunting. It's lungs or shoulder shots for me.

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from Retired Chief wrote 32 weeks 2 days ago

ingebrigtsen- even though I mentioned squirrels in my post, the overall concept of the debate is Whitetail deer in the USA. Certainly there are times, places, situations, and species where head shots are "ethical" or even required (crocodiles? ) but not for "Whitetail 365".

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from Rgw3 wrote 32 weeks 1 day ago

To be absolutely honest, this is such a tough question. If we all agree that the key tenants of a clean kill are that the animal dies quickly (so it doesn't suffer) and the minimum amount of meat is lost then we can have a debate.

I am primarily a bow hunter, thanks to injuries sustained in the military, I am a crossbow hunter only. Head shots are unlikely to do more than disfigure the animal, should I hit it at all. Instead I have to try for a lung/heart shot. Anyone who bow hunts knows you wait 20 minutes before you begin tracking. This way the animal, hopefully, will lay down and die. This kind of shows that the animal will suffer to some extent. So despite the fact that the deer has a better chance of smelling/hearing me, as getting up close is significantly harder than 100-200 yard rifle shots, my shots fall short in the animal suffering. Does that make them less humane, not really because I cannot hunt the animal any other way.

If you can effectively make a kill shot that preserves meat and the animal doesn’t suffer, the by all means do it. If you cannot make the shot, then shoot the one you can.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 32 weeks 1 day ago

I don't take head shots, and probably will not, unless my survival depended on it. There is just too much room for error, and the skull is not a good target to assure proper bullet penetration. As for neck shots, I have taken a few and the animals have gone down wihin 20 yards of being hit; a few animals needed a follow-up kill shot.
Bottom line for me, I prefer to take a heart/lumg shot but if conditions on good I will take a neck shot, as well.

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from Michael Jay wrote 32 weeks 20 hours ago

Let me tell you a short story about head shots....or in this case one head shot.I hunt private property in suburbia PA and I am very lucky to have this place to hunt (which is the best spots I have hunted in my life.There are plenty of deer.Well I got my best friend permission to hunt this property too..the philosophy is ONE SHOT ONE KILL....CLEAN.PERIOD.WEll we had been seeing a monster on the property i had many encounters with this beast but never had a clean kill shot(heart/lung)well my buddy was in one of my stands one night I couldn't hunt and it was well after dark I called him He he said he shot something but not the big one well after search by him and I for hours and me the next two days I find out he took the shot at the monster but only had a head shot.....we never seen that deer again....So my point is never take that head shot in less it is to finish off a animal.....And one last thing my best friend has never hunted this property again I told him he was not welcome anymore.I did not put it on the owner

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from woodpecker wrote 31 weeks 6 days ago

I deer hunt in the Adirondack's, all forests and swamp's. We don't see that many deer, let alone,mature buck's. When we do catch one, he'll run just so far and then hug a tree and peek out around the tree to see what made the noise that he heard. Chances are that head shot is the only shot I'm going to get that day, maybe that season. I guess what I'm trying to say is, if it works for you fine, but don't throw stones at me for taking the headshot.

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from MPEK wrote 30 weeks 1 day ago

Forgive me Blofly Basher .

Nice article . But I Got lost with your rambling .

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from MPEK wrote 30 weeks 1 day ago

Forgive me Blofly Basher .

Nice article . But I Got lost with your rambling .

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from Chip Adams wrote 20 weeks 1 day ago

Everyone has an opinion. Is it ethical? Numerous people make the comment "Ethical is a shot you can make". I could not agree more. A head shot you are hitting a 3" kill zone, body 8", and neck 4" (ish I'll explain).

At 100 yards I would say nearly all hunters are comfortable shooting to one of those locations. So ethical comes into what level of skill you are. Do you practice all the time? head shots are tough to make, so are neck shots, both of those shots are specifically for standing deer. Body shots you have more leeway, you can make a mistake and still hit the kill zone. Lets go to 300 yards now. I would equate shooting a deer at 300 yard to the equivalent of shooting a nickle at 100.

I ask myself these questions before I pull the trigger every time. Let me give you a few examples from this year (2013). My first deer of the season was in THICK brush (another question of ethics) and I passed on easier shots because I was going to let the deer pass (my mistake) When I made my mind up I shooting through a 5" window in the trees to the neck of the deer. I made the shot, but I am 100% confident in that shot. When I am taking a neck shot there are only 2 times I will take it. 1 when it is looking at me, seriously aim at the white spot, it is a bulls-eye. And 2 when it is directly away from me and it is my only choice. They are kill shots if you are confident. When shooting a deer in the neck if you are shooting the white spot you will hit the spinal cord and again just like the head shot kill the deer immediately. The key difference is you have a little bit of room for a mistake here. Not much but shooting a deer in the head it is easy to shoot the jaw off, in an ear, hell in the head and it just not die. I know the game warden posted above that he has seen them with a hole in their throat and breathing. This is why I NEVER take a side neck shot, and honestly why would you..? The deer i standing broadside. A front neck shot it is TOUGH to wound the deer. Not saying it can't be done. But it is tough.

Now lets go to body shots. First I have only ever wounded 1 deer in my life that I didn't get (was still shot just no given to me), and 1 fawn that I did get. Both of those shots were taken broadside < 50 yards. Am i a horrible hunter? No. That was 18 and 17 years ago respectfully and I was 14 and 15 years old. I aimed for the heart and missed... it is that simple. I vowed since then I would never make that mistake again. Now for the fawn, I ended up shooting it in the head, which ended up being a luck shot, as I had missed 3 other head shots at it. Why was it luck? Because it jumped up, I pulled up, saw brown in the scope and shot. Also my first running deer shot.

The reason I brought that up, is my brother took a 350 yd shot this year and wounded his deer. And my sister and fiance and even him later, said he shouldn't have taken the shot. I disagree. My brother is a very good shot, rarely misses and I sited his gun in, I know that it is going to be on at 300. The question is should HE have taken the shot. I don't know. I wasn't upset at him for taking it, it sucked it ended up being GUT shot, and we were unable to find it. It upsets me greatly when this happens as it does the rest of my family. I know that if I would have been the one to see that deer first, I would have taken the shot, but I can't say that I would have made a better shot. Conditions were right for it, but 350 makes things more difficult. An errant breath, a gust of wind, elevation can all make minor differences. If it would have been me, I was using a 7mm mag vs his 7mm-08, that alone could have made the difference.

I go back to what is ethical. As was mentioned above, a head, neck, and body shot are all ethical IF and ONLY IF you can make the shot. Do I think people should take head shots? No not really, I avoid them like the plague. But my older brother has made without a doubt the most impressive shots I have ever seen and they were both in the EYE. A few years ago, he called in a beautiful 10 point. At 20 yds the only thing he could see was an eye. He shot it. This was the best shot I have ever seen to this day. I walked to his deer, with him on the trail, and in FULL BLAZE ORANGE, I could not see him at 20 yds.

This year, at 75 yds a similar situation and again he made the shot. Even with these 2 examples I do not believe a head shot to be a wise choice. Take a body shot or if possible a neck shot, the key here is to take a shot you are CONFIDENT in. And ask yourself before you pull the trigger every time. Is this the right shot for me?

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from Chip Adams wrote 20 weeks 1 day ago

Everyone has an opinion. Is it ethical? Numerous people make the comment "Ethical is a shot you can make". I could not agree more. A head shot you are hitting a 3" kill zone, body 8", and neck 4" (ish I'll explain).

At 100 yards I would say nearly all hunters are comfortable shooting to one of those locations. So ethical comes into what level of skill you are. Do you practice all the time? head shots are tough to make, so are neck shots, both of those shots are specifically for standing deer. Body shots you have more leeway, you can make a mistake and still hit the kill zone. Lets go to 300 yards now. I would equate shooting a deer at 300 yard to the equivalent of shooting a nickle at 100.

I ask myself these questions before I pull the trigger every time. Let me give you a few examples from this year (2013). My first deer of the season was in THICK brush (another question of ethics) and I passed on easier shots because I was going to let the deer pass (my mistake) When I made my mind up I shooting through a 5" window in the trees to the neck of the deer. I made the shot, but I am 100% confident in that shot. When I am taking a neck shot there are only 2 times I will take it. 1 when it is looking at me, seriously aim at the white spot, it is a bulls-eye. And 2 when it is directly away from me and it is my only choice. They are kill shots if you are confident. When shooting a deer in the neck if you are shooting the white spot you will hit the spinal cord and again just like the head shot kill the deer immediately. The key difference is you have a little bit of room for a mistake here. Not much but shooting a deer in the head it is easy to shoot the jaw off, in an ear, hell in the head and it just not die. I know the game warden posted above that he has seen them with a hole in their throat and breathing. This is why I NEVER take a side neck shot, and honestly why would you..? The deer i standing broadside. A front neck shot it is TOUGH to wound the deer. Not saying it can't be done. But it is tough.

Now lets go to body shots. First I have only ever wounded 1 deer in my life that I didn't get (was still shot just no given to me), and 1 fawn that I did get. Both of those shots were taken broadside < 50 yards. Am i a horrible hunter? No. That was 18 and 17 years ago respectfully and I was 14 and 15 years old. I aimed for the heart and missed... it is that simple. I vowed since then I would never make that mistake again. Now for the fawn, I ended up shooting it in the head, which ended up being a luck shot, as I had missed 3 other head shots at it. Why was it luck? Because it jumped up, I pulled up, saw brown in the scope and shot. Also my first running deer shot.

The reason I brought that up, is my brother took a 350 yd shot this year and wounded his deer. And my sister and fiance and even him later, said he shouldn't have taken the shot. I disagree. My brother is a very good shot, rarely misses and I sited his gun in, I know that it is going to be on at 300. The question is should HE have taken the shot. I don't know. I wasn't upset at him for taking it, it sucked it ended up being GUT shot, and we were unable to find it. It upsets me greatly when this happens as it does the rest of my family. I know that if I would have been the one to see that deer first, I would have taken the shot, but I can't say that I would have made a better shot. Conditions were right for it, but 350 makes things more difficult. An errant breath, a gust of wind, elevation can all make minor differences. If it would have been me, I was using a 7mm mag vs his 7mm-08, that alone could have made the difference.

I go back to what is ethical. As was mentioned above, a head, neck, and body shot are all ethical IF and ONLY IF you can make the shot. Do I think people should take head shots? No not really, I avoid them like the plague. But my older brother has made without a doubt the most impressive shots I have ever seen and they were both in the EYE. A few years ago, he called in a beautiful 10 point. At 20 yds the only thing he could see was an eye. He shot it. This was the best shot I have ever seen to this day. I walked to his deer, with him on the trail, and in FULL BLAZE ORANGE, I could not see him at 20 yds.

This year, at 75 yds a similar situation and again he made the shot. Even with these 2 examples I do not believe a head shot to be a wise choice. Take a body shot or if possible a neck shot, the key here is to take a shot you are CONFIDENT in. And ask yourself before you pull the trigger every time. Is this the right shot for me?

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from moswald wrote 32 weeks 5 days ago

I don't have a problem either way and there are some situations that might deam a headshot necessary. I was out with a friend who was a new hunter, shot a doe high and back breaking the spine taking out it's back legs, but not killing the animal, he proceeded to shoot this thing 4 or 6 more times, finally after I caught up I walked over to the sitting there, full of holes, staring at us doe and ended her pain. Also, to consider that many of us live in suburban areas where huntable land is scarce and small, sometimes you need to make a no nonsense, deer HAS to drop shot, head shots are very effective for this.

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from JKinPA wrote 32 weeks 3 days ago

I was taught to aim for the heart/lung area because it is the largest zill zone, providing the greatest margin for error, in the event of an errant shot. Using the author's measurements, a 10" heart/lung area produces a kill zone of 78.5 square inches (5" x5" x3.14)while a 3" brain equalls a 7.07 square inch target to produce a quick, humane kill. Put another way, the heart lung area is OVER 11 TIMES larger.
The only conclusion to be drawn is that anyone who shoots headshots is a moron who should have their hunting privileges revoked before their ubethical stupidity is inevitably exploited by anti-hunters to the detriment of us all. The beautiful, majestic animals we hunt deserve nothing less than our best efforts to minimize wounding rates and harvest them with the least amount of suffering possible.

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from Blowfly basher wrote 32 weeks 3 days ago

Use enough gun (rifle)? or too much. Island-time made a point of considerable value, use a smaller calibre...If .17 can drop a donkey through instant blood migration to that point then that's a better result than almost all the argument here.Sarge01 made a critical point concerning the damage caused and that has been also illustrated in African and Indian hunting in the hunting "hayday".

I have almost no sympathy will killers calling themselves hunters as I see it as a part of the great self delusion they adopt to try to convince others. It's well recorded that many PH's became wearied by the morons they took "on safari"...or rather a killing spree on wheels very often.
Some of course were serious killers but almost entirely on requistion by authority or in some case villagers to execute a 'pest'.

Some PH's entertained themselves by bonking males and female clients and their native staff...which meant they also lived largely in illusion bubble...looking after the clients in the field was mechanical and rewarded them with money and 'comfort' as well.It wasn't/isn't all one way some males and females went 'on safari'to score the PH..or the African boys.Some were so outrageous that their quotas were ensured to be quickly filled...often by the PH doing the killing....so they could be exported to the treehouse or some club and then to home.

In the conversation, all valid, is said if a shooter misses with the headshot less damage is done than bad placement of a body shot. That may be so if it's an individual but experienced people know that such shooting into a herd to take an individual sometimes generates errors of perception.The animal behind is hit..or several...in the body.

The relentless application of perfume to killing animals and purporting to be a hunter involves millions of words on calibre and a great deal of inanity..including endless discussons on recoil. I think the American concept of vast numbers of police to arrest a misdemeanour,chase car thieves to their death or several 'colatteral' deaths armies sent to punish other nations, WMD's Nuclear weapons, patriot acts and an obsession with spreading and justifying planetary paranoia for the new order shows it hsn't moved forward from the close-to-extermination of the buffalo.

Big calibres, big bombs, big talk, exterminating whole families with almost, or totally no conscience has become a culture for have gun MUST kill...or if the animal is so stupid that it moves when I have just committed to squeeze (or jerk) the trigger and therefor cops smashed bones and vicera and suffers...well...I'll wander over that 300 metres and 'put it out of it's misery'...maybe after I have a victory or valedictory smoke or slug of whisky..." or "it's run off...I'll see about following the blood after I knock off that other one...damn!!...missed again..or did I?...which one will I look for first?"

Smaller calibres probably require competent stalking and a closer shot, in clear ground, undiverted by foliage.That doesn't appeal to those I think, who like to shoot at long distances maybe even across ranges at some victim enjoying its life. Carrying a 30.06 upwards attracts kudos and perhaps helps to make the incompetent shooter look otherwise ...Using a small calibre with sensible projectile and loading and confining it to the specific target means competence which isn't as brassy as shooting cannons. "it died of hydrostatic shock" isn't nearly as "Ooooohhh Aaaaahhh" as "it took out both shoulders and the heart" or "I shot it up the ar...rectum..and the bullet ended up in Nairobi after passing through its skull"...WOW!!

The urge to kill to feed a starving 'id' may be accompanied by a secondary interest in eating some of what is killed or maimed but the vast bulk of killing is not for essential provisions. Never but occasionally in African or Indian history have I read across a vast range of comments and stories of the 'hunter' applying any conscience or consciousness to the conservation(other than waffle about safari fees) of the species, the absolute essential of the older animals training the young...Some of us know that shooting older foxes for example makes the partly trained young more of a pest through shooting the adult. You can apply that to meircats, elephants, lions and even deer

That crime against the herd occurs also when the largest 'trophy' is sought. "It's all about me" is the general demeanour and it's very strong in American comments..Can't you apply the present ruination of the seas to the way you approach killing off 'game' whatever the excuse.?

On the particular issue again...so much can affect the shot at the head with such a small target and for me it can range from sadism to ignorance.You ought to know that many shooters revel in suffering once caused even if unintended... Those who claim their 100% headshot kills I can't dispute but it's unlikely unless they shoot at less than 50 yards. I can think instantly of at least 7 factors that make a headshot unlikely to hit accurately if at all.

Some think it fantastic they have been able to wound or kill having shot through a sapling or like Jack the Giant Killer, killed several with one blow....for me that reinforces even the most lopsided argument by genuine conservationists and anti-hunting activists. The worst traits are, sad to say, praised in a forum mardi-gras to poor performers.The serious, small quantity hunter who stalks and kills with at least reasonable integrity,with a well placed shot, and accepts he has just taken a life with deserved to be allowed to continue and respects not just the animal but its life and its place in the environment is rarely a contributor to the excited chatter on calibre,recoil,fantasy, selective admission and ego. Sometimes in the life of a professional hunter, icluding the famed Selby to name one well known to Americans and British he makes plain that he no longer enjoys the killing.Ruark didn't get so far as that neither did the paradox called Hemmingway nor Roosevelt.Here are 3 quotes, two by mature people and one by Roosevelt.
1) Whenever I see a photograph of some sportsman grinning over his kill, I am always impressed by the striking moral and esthetic superiority of the dead animal to the live one. Edward Abbey (1927 - 1989), A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

2)When I was twelve, I went hunting with my father and we shot a bird. He was laying there and something struck me. Why do we call this fun to kill this creature who was as happy as I was when I woke up this morning.
Marv Levy

3)In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919)

Again my acknowledgement goes to Sarge01 and Island-time, neither or either of whom might agree with me.

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from blueticker wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

A friend who hunts deer only from ground level has killed his share & then some by shooting them dead center of the azzhole. He says they can be a mess to field dress (he actually said the guts looked like they had been in a blender) but you did not have to worry about not finding the deer after the shot. Anybody else tried this?

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