Proper Bullet Placement for Big Game

by Emrah Oruc
A hunter must practice to make accurate shots for quick, humane kills on animals.

A hunter must practice to make accurate shots for quick, humane kills on animals.

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Hunting game is an old tradition that is still practiced to this day. North America is home to many big game animals, the most prolific species being the whitetail deer. Other animals such as antelope, black and brown bear, elk, caribou, moose and even wild pigs are considered big game and can be hunted. Proper bullet placement is essential for a quick, humane kill that puts the animal down without undue suffering.

Heart/Lung Shot

The preferred location to shoot an animal is the heart/lung area. A heart or lung shot destroys the tissue and results in massive internal bleeding. This loss of blood -- and blood pressure, to be more precise -- is what causes the animal's brain to shut down and the animal to die quickly. The exact location is different depending on the animal, but this zone is typically right behind the animal's front shoulder, approximately half way up the body. This shot is best achieved when the animal is perpendicular to you and you have a full profile view of its body.

Shoulder Shot

The second-most-preferred location is squarely through the shoulder of the animal. For this shot to be successful, a bullet must be large enough and, more importantly, tough enough to penetrate the dense bone and tissue. The goal is for the bullet to break through the bone and continue its path inward to destroy the lungs. This type of shot also has the benefit of breaking the shoulder and leg bones, preventing the animal from running far after the shot. This means less tracking, but it does ruin the shoulder meat around bullet wound.

Neck Shot

The neck is the third-most-preferred place to shoot animals such as deer, elk and moose. The theory is that the bullet will sever the spinal column or arteries in the neck as it passes through. The secondary killing effect comes from the hydrostatic shock of the bullet. This ballistic wave traveling through the neck will sever and destroy the spine if the bullet is close enough, but does not physically touch the spine. The spinal column runs parallel to the neck, a few inches from the top of the neck. Neck shots provide quick kills, but misses will injure an animal, who may then run off and suffer a slow death.

Head Shot

The head shot is by far the quickest way to kill an animal. A bullet through an animal's brain will kill it and drop it where it is shot. There is no ruined meat or tracking. However, this is the least recommended place to shoot because of the very small target. The brain on a typical whitetail deer is a little larger than a child's fist. If you miss the brain, you risk hitting the animal in the nose, cheek or jaw. The animal will run off, but not die quickly. It will starve to death, and no animal deserves that. Only very experienced hunters with accurate rifles at close ranges take these types of shots.

About the Author

Emrah Oruc is a general contractor, freelance writer and former race-car mechanic who has written professionally since 2000. He has been published in "The Family Handyman" magazine and has experience as a consultant developing and delivering end-user training. Oruc holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a minor in economics from the University of Delaware.

Photo Credits

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