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University » Articles » Shot Placement Guidelines for Archers

Shot Placement Guidelines for Archers
by Ty Landry

We all know that broadside, double-lung shots are the best scenario for a quick and ethical kill and recovery. The sound of a double-lung shot can best be described as a light “thwack” sound, unlike the center-shoulder shot, which is a loud crack. What you are hearing is the small rib bones cracking on entry and exit, as well as the deflation of the deer’s lung walls. When a broadhead passes through both lungs, it cuts major arteries and capillaries, resulting in hypertension or a heart attack. It also collapses both lungs and depletes the deer’s oxygen on impact. However, we’re not always fortunate enough to make that perfect shot, so it’s important to know what steps you should take when this occurs.

When a deer is shot with a bow, its after-shot reaction is different depending on where the arrow hits the animal. With these reactions, you can get an idea on the location of your hit. There are a few things you should consider before anxiously climbing out of your stand to retrieve that animal. First off, did you see where you hit the deer and what the reaction of the deer was when hit? This is very important and may cause you to prematurely start trailing a non-vital deer too soon. Deer that are heart, double-lunged, or spleen shot normally buck, run off, and expire within sight of your stand.

When a deer is shot far back in the liver or paunch (gut), it can make for a tough recovery. When hit in the paunch, you will hear a distinct plop on impact. The deer will normally cringe, crunch its body, and sneak away. Don’t worry too much—a paunch shot is fatal, but will take 8-24 hours for infection of the body cavity to cause death. When you presume you have made a bad shot, give yourself one hour or so before descending from your stand to back out. Return much later with a dog or a couple of good tracking buddies. Take your time; normally, there is very little blood. You may find yourself following tracks and ruffled leaves with small specks of blood here and there.


Severing the portal vein near the center of a deer's liver will cause rapid expiration; however, at may take up to four hours elsewhere on the liver.

A liver shot, when center-punched, will cut the portal vein and cause the deer to expire in minutes. However, if not center punched, it’s still fatal, but the deer can take up to 8 hours to expire. Normally, a true indication of a liver shot is dark red blood on your arrow. Once more: be patient, take time out, and your trophy will be recovered.

I firmly believe from experience that when you jump a deer after a bad shot, your chances are very slim to recover that animal. A prime example was the doe I harvested on Bayou Bucks, Season I. I broke one of my own key rules in haste of the camera being there. We knew the shot was far back (liver/paunch). I let my emotions and excitement overwhelm me and began trailing her too soon. We jumped the deer bedded down within a 100 yards and decided to resume trailing the following morning. We had a good blood trail from the point of impact to where she bedded down. After that, it was hands and knees, and by sheer luck we spotted her in the bayou based solely on the direction she was heading when we lost blood. I truly believe that if we’d have backed out and waited until the next morning, she would have been recovered not far from where she had bedded down.

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