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University » Articles » Shot Placement Guidelines for Archers

Shot Placement Guidelines for Archers
by Ty Landry


Having a thorough understanding of a whitetail deer's anatomy is critical for any responsible and ethical hunter.

We’ve heard it all before: “The shot was perfect, but I never recovered the deer.” Many hunters ignore the path in which an arrow takes, focusing only on where the arrow enters the deer to declare whether or not the shot was “perfect.” Perfect shots, my friend, will bring a deer down within 100 yards, and you just don’t know what “perfect” is unless you see the deer crash in sight or recover it. Sometimes what they ears hear and the eyes see are not always reality. Treat every shot as a “bad shot” until you find enough evidence to conclude otherwise—that evidence being a dead deer.

Broadside and quartering away are the only shots we should be attempting. Bad shots are classified as low-percentage shots and are sometimes unethical. With a bow, you don’t have that penetration or neck-breaking energy like a rifle, so what would be a kill shot with a gun should not necessarily be attempted with a bow.

Consider the deer’s neck; there’s a very slim chance you’ll cut the main artery or sever the windpipe, which is what it would take to kill the animal. Of course you could impact its spine and bring the animal down, but spine shots don’t kill deer—they simply immobilize them until you can kill them by other means.

A head-on shot is very tempting, but normally results in deflection on the brisket bone causing the left or right shoulder to be broken. This is a low percentage shot, and if you’ve been presented this opportunity and it’s made it that far, then chances are it’ll continue its course and you’ll be presented with a better shot.


Play this game to learn some excellent info about shot placement. What did you score your first time at bat? Be honest now; you know the running deer took you 6 tries.

Another low-percentage shot (mostly unintentional) is the femoral artery-butt shot—aka the Texas Heart Shot. This shot is extremely lethal and leaves a good blood trail, but the window for effectiveness is about the size of a dime. Missing this artery will usually lead a deer down the road to a very slow, agonizing death which could last over a week. It should be noted, however, that severing the femoral artery clean will result in rapid death—sometimes faster than a heart shot. I once trailed someone’s deer unintentionally shot in this manner. It was unbelievable. There was blood everywhere and the deer expired within 60 yards, but I do not advise anyone to aim at or near a deer’s rectum—it just ain’t right!

There’s also the straight-down shot. You have a chance of hitting the spine or a single lung, and a deer single-lunged will take time to expire. It can survive hours and travel miles on one lung—sometimes recovering altogether—so this type of shot should be used with caution. The positive side of it is that you’ll have a great blood trail, especially if an artery connecting to the heart is severed—if you get a pass through and exit wound—because the hole will be on the lower quarter of the deer. Gravity takes over from here. My suggestion is be patient and stealthy when a deer is below you, and it will eventually present that high percentage, quartering away shot.

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