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buffybr's picture
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Location: Montana, USA
Joined: 11/15/2007
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Shot placement

The largest lethal target on any animal is the heart and lungs.  An arrow or bullet shot through an animals heart and/or lungs will quickly kill that animal.  A bullet that also goes through the animals shoulder(s) may put him down quicker because he will loose the use of one or both front legs, but a bullet there will also ruin more edible meat. 

Last year was the first year that I hunted with the new .300 Weatherby that I built.  In January, some friends and I hunted in West Texas.  One of tha animals that I shot was an Aoudad.  My guide kept telling me how hard Aoudads were to kill, so when my ram turned broadside at about 100 yds, I put the 168 gr TSX bullet through both of his shoulders.  He ran about 30 yds using only his back legs.  Then in November I was doing a DIY elk hunt near my home in Montana.  Again I was hunting with my new .300 Wby and my 168 gr TSX handloads.  When the 5 pt bull that I was stalking stepped broadside into the open about 100 yds from me, I put the bullet into the crease behind his shoulder, about 1/3 up into his body.  At the shot, he reared up on his back legs, turned around, took two steps and fell dead.  Shoulder shots do not always mean the animal will fall quicker.

I generally prefer to aim at the crease behind the shoulder, about 1/3 up into the animals body.  Broadside shots are obviously the best, but if the only shot I have the animal is quartering away, I'll aim for the far shoulder.  If the animal is quartering to me, I'll aim just inside his near shoulder.

Head and neck shots can be instantly lethal only if the brain or vertebra is hit, but that target is much smaller than the heart/lung shot.  Over the years, I have hunted with several friends who swore they hit an animal in the head or neck and the animal ran away and was lost.  I even found a .35 caliber jacketed bullet lodged against a neck vertebra of a whitetail buck that I killed one year.  The wound had completely healed and I didn't know the bullet was there until I boned out the buck's neck.

WesternHunter's picture
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Surely

buffybr wrote:

I even found a .35 caliber jacketed bullet lodged against a neck vertebra of a whitetail buck that I killed one year.  The wound had completely healed and I didn't know the bullet was there until I boned out the buck's neck.

Surely if that .35 caliber bullet couldn't destroy the vertibra on that whitetail, then it's highly doubtful that same bullet would have even penetrated and reached the vitals on that whitetail had the previous hunter aimed for the heart/lungs on a broadside shot??  I'm just saying, that's all. WHo knows how much powder was behind that bullet or under what conditions that shot was even made by the previous shooter. A lot of variables could have resulted in an anemic and ineffective bullet.

I think whatever shot area placement you chose, the key is to make shots at reasonable distances within your capabilities and within the capabilities of the cartridge you're using.  One rule holds true for all cartridges too, that is shot placement is key, no matter what you chose to use. 

buffybr's picture
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Location: Montana, USA
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shot placement

WesternHunter wrote:

Surely if that .35 caliber bullet couldn't destroy the vertibra on that whitetail, then it's highly doubtful that same bullet would have even penetrated and reached the vitals on that whitetail had the previous hunter aimed for the heart/lungs on a broadside shot??  I'm just saying, that's all. WHo knows how much powder was behind that bullet or under what conditions that shot was even made by the previous shooter. A lot of variables could have resulted in an anemic and ineffective bullet.

I think whatever shot area placement you chose, the key is to make shots at reasonable distances within your capabilities and within the capabilities of the cartridge you're using.  One rule holds true for all cartridges too, that is shot placement is key, no matter what you chose to use. 

WesternHunter, I completely agree with you that shot placement is key and shots should be kept at reasonable distances. However, my point with that example was that I don't recommend neck shots. You were also right that we will never know under what conditions that shot was made, and that there are a lot of variables that affected that bullet's performance on that deer.

I shot that deer and found that bullet 34 or 35 years ago. After I removed that bullet I cleaned it and put it in my "recovered bullet" jar. I still have it. What I didn't mention in my original post was that the bullet's core had separated from the jacket, the base of the jacket measures 0.355" and the front of the bullet mushroomed to 0.761". I believe that bullet was ineffective, but that it was hardly anemic. The bullet had sufficient energy to mushroom to over twice it's original diameter and it penetrated some 3 to 4" of the buck's neck muscle, lodging against a neck vertabre. That is more penetration than is needed to reach the deer's lungs from a broadside, behind the shoulder shot. Even if it would have hit a rib bone, the ribs are not as thick and strong as the neck vertabre bones. There is also more "give" to a deer's neck that would deflect the impact of the bullet as opposed to the chest of the deer that would absorb the bullet's impact.

The heart/lung vitals inside a deer's chest are very vulnerable to a bullet from a broadside, behind the shoulder shot.

WesternHunter's picture
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for me

I'm not advising that other go for neck shots.  All I'm saying is that for me personally I've had much more clean kills using neck shots than I ever did when taking broadside shots.  I don't have to track em and it saves more meat and saves the heart.  Heart is good stuff.

Interesting add-on about that bullet you found under the neck.  Doesn't sound like any thing I've seen in a neck wound channel on an intended target.  I've never recovered a bullet from a neck shot, though I have found small shards of copper jacket a few times.  I'm just speculating here, but someone could theorise that the mushroomed bullet you found in the neck of that whitetail may not have actually been intended for that whitetail, but had likely passed through the vitals of another whitetail standing next to the whitetail that was hit in the neck.  I've had several softpoint mushrooming bullets pass right through and exit the broadside of deer or pronghorn before.  Those things will still have enough retained energy to penetrate under the skin of any animal standing real close by.  But again it's just my own educated guess which can be reagarded as pure speculation.....who knows??

buffybr's picture
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Location: Montana, USA
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bullets pass right through

WesternHunter wrote:

I've had several softpoint mushrooming bullets pass right through and exit the broadside of deer or pronghorn before.  Those things will still have enough retained energy to penetrate under the skin of any animal standing real close by. 

Very true.  I've often seen dust fly up many yards behind an animal that I had just shot.

When I shot my Canadian Mountain Caribou, he was standing broadside, 250 yards from my guide and I.  I shot him just behind his shoulder with a 117 gr Sierra GameKing bullet from my .275 Ackley.  We heard the bullet ricochet off the rocks over 100 yds behind the bull.

Last year I shot my elk with a 100 yd broadside, behind the shoulder shot with a 168 gr TSX bullet from my .300 Weatherby.  I knew the probability of the bullet passing through the bull, so I delibertly waited until I couldn't see any cows behind him before I took the shot.  I've only shot 4 animals with this bullet/rifle, and all the shots were complete pass throughs.

Most of the deer and antelope size animals that I've shot have resulted in the bullets completely passing through the animals.

arrowflipper's picture
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obvious

     At first glance, one would think your question is obvious.  Of course everyone wants a broadside or quartering away shot.  But with these two choices, where do you place your shot? 

For archery, we want to hit just in front of the shoulder on broadside and back a little on the quartering shot.  But what about with a rifle?  I always thought it was the same for all animals.  When I went to Africa a few years ago, my PH gave us a three hour course on how to shoot and shot placement.  Much to my surprise, we were instructed to hold a completely different pattern.

On African game, the heart and lungs tend to be a little farther forward and lower.  We were instructed to hold just behind the front shoulder but very low.  It did not come naturally for me.  When the moment of truth arrived, it's much easier to revert back to what you've done for the past 40 years.  I shot farther back and higher.  Luckily, it did the job but my PH made it clear that I needed to adjust.

OK, with both my bow and rifle, my first choice is a perfect broadside shot and I'd like to put my arrow or bullet in the same spot, directly behind the front shoulder about 1/3 of the way up.  Sure wish every shot I've taken would have hit there.

 

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