Every hunter’s goal should be to take the most efficient shot he can. That means one shot, one quick kill. However, you aren’t always presented with the perfect opportunity and then you have to judge whether or not it’s worth taking the shot.
That being said, the best place to aim at deer for example is the thoracic (chest) cavity. A broadside shot to the deer’s thoracic cavity is the best shot you can take, and I’m willing to bet that most hunters know this. Because I want you to know all the facts that go into the decision-making process, I’m going to cover all the possibilities so that when the time comes, you are prepared.
Shot types – explained
Because the most popular prey for hunters who use tree stands is the deer, I will use it as a reference for this post. However, because most animals have the same basic physiology, you can also use the information on this post for other animals.
Straight-on shots are probably among the most difficult shots to make because of the deer’s narrow silhouette, and the very high chance that you will only manage a glancing hit. All things considered, this is a very low percentage shot and should be avoided at all times.
As hunters, we must be patient because the deer will eventually move which will give us more shot options.
These types of shots are usually very tempting because most of the time the deer is literally beneath you, and it looks like a very easy shot. But in this case, looks are deceiving, because while the shot itself is easy to make, making a clean kill is not. Usually, the most common result of a top-down shot is a pierced lung, which although will usually kill the deer it won’t do it fast. And because of that, there is a high chance that you will lose the deer as it sprints away.
Also, don’t try straight down spine shots because that is such a small target that you are extremely likely to miss. The spinal cord is roughly only three-quarters of an inch wide, so missing it and getting a poor penetrating shot because of all the bone and muscle around there is highly likely.
The only decent shot you can potentially take is to the liver and the diaphragm. That is a vital zone, and injuring it will produce a humane kill. The only problem is that this is a high-difficulty shot, and it requires very good aim and a very good knowledge of anatomy. For most hunters, I would recommend that they refrain from taking low-quality shots because if they are patient a great shot will come around.
Just like the straight-on case, being patient is the best move you can make. Eventually, the deer will move and that will give you a better shot.
The best option here is to be a bit patient because a quartering towards deer will transform into a broadside shot when the deer passes your tree stand.
You can make this shot even when the deer are still quartered towards you, but only when you have a slight angle. Otherwise, just pass on this shot and wait for the broadside.
Now, this is a good shooting position, not as good as the broadside but second best.
Be careful with aiming too far forward, ideally, the exit hole of this shot is the offside front leg. The idea is that you should try to get the proper exit hole, and while doing this you will also generate the optimum entry point. So, focus on the exit point and not the entry point.
The broadside shot is the best possible shot that you can take, but you still have to take into consideration your elevation and the distance to the target.
The perfect aiming point, in my opinion, is the point where you consider that the arrow will pass right through the center of the deer’s thoracic cavity. That specific aiming point depends on elevation, angle, distance, and accuracy. As long as you manage to pull that shot off, then you will have a successful hunt on your hands.
While a proper headshot to the brain will produce an almost instant kill, the chances of making such a shot are slim because the target is small. Not to mention that deer move their heads constantly, so getting a proper shot is difficult.
I would say that this is not an ethical shot because of the low odds of making such a shot, and that again the best course of action here is to simply be patient.
In short, I think we can split all the possible shot options into two big categories:
- Take: Here we find the broadside and the quartering-away. These are the best shot options that you have, and you should always wait for them. It’s just not worth taking low-quality shots, so be patient because they will come.
- Don’t take: Here we find the straight on, straight down, quartering-towards, and headshots. All these types of shots have variable degrees of success, but the vast majority of shots will be low quality. I highly suggest that you resist the urge to take these shots, and wait for better opportunities.
All in all, if I would summarize everything in a few words, I would say that you should always be patient, take high-quality shots, and always strive for an ethical kill. Happy hunting!