How do I Target Deer Vitals?

Ethical hunters aim for an immediate kill when they shoot or pull the trigger. To do so, they target the deer’s vitals. At first sight, it seems to be easy. Maybe yes, and maybe not. 

Placing your shot in the boiler room is the fastest animal-killing method. But there is plenty to consider before and after you pull the trigger or release the arrow.


If you are a beginner at hunting, consider this post, deer hunting 101, from Oklahoma Landsource. If not, a refresher never hurts! This article focuses on bow hunting. However, it also applies to rifle and shotgun hunters.

Let Oklahoma Landsource answer your question” How do I Target deer vitals?”

Where Are Deer Vitals?

The lungs and heart area are vital. If the lung and heart suffer severe damage, death ensues fast from blood loss or asphyxia. So, since shot placement should strike the lungs and heart, I prefer making broadside shots. These shots will hit both organs.

Of course, you can also aim for other points, such as the head or spin. But these shots are tricky. A few inches off can gravely hurt but not kill a deer. Thus, the animal may escape, suffering later an agonizing death. 

Take a rifle headshot only if you are a good marksman and are confident or your shot. Likewise, do not take a bow headshot. If you find and get on your hands an injured deer, you can aim to strike the spine since neck shots are deadly.

To get successful shots from diverse angles, you must understand deer anatomy. Also, you must know your weapon’s capabilities. For example, your .308 Win. The shot may not be suitable for your 50-pound longbow. Likewise, shoulder blades offer minimal resistance to rifle bullets but can block arrows from reaching vitals.

When shooting for the vitals, watch the front leg and shoulder. The leg position determines the shoulder blade position. Besides, remind that shoulder blades are not heavy bones but may be strong enough to stop a typical bow’s arrow.

The heart and lungs do not fill the chest cavity. Thus, as the adage says, “Aim small, miss small.” A few inches can separate a fatal shot from a wounded animal.

Broadside Shots on Deer

Again, broadside shots are preferable. They offer the highest possibilities for a double lung-and-heart shot and pass-through. So, your bullet or arrow will reach the opposite side of the animal.

Gun aiming is more precise. Many bow hunters wait until the deer is broadside and step forward to place the arrow unimpeded by the shoulder and leg bone. Wait for a stride forward with your front leg to increase your chances of missing the bone. 

Adjust the size of the deer’s vitals in your mind. A little buck’s vital organs might be twice as small as those of a huge one.

If your shot is inaccurate and you miss the heart, a double lung shot will certainly kill the deer. Although you miss the heart, you may clip the liver behind and above it. By striking this organ, you will also hit a lung because the lungs partially cover it, and you will get a killing shot.

Dividing the deer’s body into three equal horizontal portions will help you aim. Visualize the top of the lower third horizontal portion. Then move your bow sight or crosshairs 3 or 4 inches back from the deer’s shoulder crease and choose a tiny target. This way, you will hit both the lungs and the heart.

Pass-Through Shots on Deer

You should look for shooting through the animal when possible. So, shooting through the rib cage is better than the shoulder for rifle and bow. A bullet will break the first shoulder before hitting the vitals. But I have seen it stop there without going through a deer’s torso.

Hence, pass-through shots increase the possibility of a healthy blood trail, easing your tracking job.

Quartering Away Shots

A broadside deer provides the best view of the vital point. Imagine your deer as a clock face. You are at six o’clock; the deer’s nose is at three, and the tail is at nine. The deer should be positioned between 2 and 10 o’clock. This quartering-away shot hits vitals better.

Don’t Take Straight on or Quartering Toward Shots

Most hunters should avoid these shots. I know that sometimes, you need to make them. But I think straight-on shots’ downsides exceed their benefits. Archers’ arrows find too much bone and fat matter that impedes them from passing through and reaching the vitals. So, it is unlikely to impact both lungs because of the smaller vital area. Bullets and arrows seldom pass through. Instead, you can puncture more flesh and intestines. So, look for a better shot.