Shoot To kill

| Last Updated September 24, 2020

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“A deer has no bulls eye, you must know its anatomy, while a laser range finder helps.”

I have killed a deer at every possible angle you can imagine, except The Texas Heart Shot, not that I haven't tried. In actuality when I did try, I hit the deer in the back of the head, oh well. 3

The shot was at about 10 feet with a load of buckshot and only one pellet hit, while the rest went high. The deer ran up to me and almost kissed me, then turned and ran as I shot. I went back, put up my shotgun and told everyone I shot the deer right between the eyes with my 30-30. The legend continues. 

Come to think of it I did that shot twice, the second time was with a 10 gauge and all 18 pellets hit the deer in the back of the head, I couldn't get away with claiming a rifle shot that time.

I've learned a few things since then on how to kill a deer with various weapons. We all know the perfect shot has been written about and illustrated many times. But there is a difference in shooting a deer through the lungs and watching him run, or shooting directly through the shoulder and dropping him right there, as we like to say here Dead Right There. I have written enough on terminal ballistics to teach the new hunter anything they want to know, all instantly available at the Foremost Hunting reference library. That is all scientific, this deals with the philosophy of taking the shot.

Now have a good look at the Glen Jackson Buck in the photo. There he is 300 pounds and 43 points. That photo puts him at about 25 yards. This doesn't matter, he will look about the same at 300 yards if you have a 9 power scope and almost everybody has one on their deer rifle. This simple formula will work with most standard high powered rifles used for deer hunting out to the rare 300 yard shot.

If you zero for 50 yards dead on you will find you are right on at 100 yards with most standard deer rifles. I'll use the 30-06 with 165 grain bullets as a norm, but the 7mm/08 with 140 grain bullets, the 270 with 150 grain bullets and the 325 WSM with 220 grain bullets all do about the same thing. The target area is about the size of a paper plate or a sheet of typing paper, smaller than the 18 X 18 inch kill zone told by most experts. The old saying “Aim small, miss small,” is a better idea in this case.

Follow the leg straight up until you reach the center of the shoulder. You can hold dead on all the way out to 150 yards with nothing to worry about. From 175 to 250 yards aim at the upper quadrant of the animal or just under the hump. At three hundred yards aim for the hairline of the back on the same vertical line and you should get a high heart shot. All of this will break bone too and shock the brain, thus causing the knock out, DRT. This is shooting to kill.

Never ask a bowhunter how to shoot a deer with a rifle, it is completely different. A bowhunter needs to avoid the shoulder shot, while any high powered rifle bullet with a little more punch than a 30-30 will go right through the biggest deer in the woods broad side shoulder or not. If it doesn't you will kill the deer any way.

I have only recovered 2 rifle bullets out of 135 deer, a 150 grain Power Point, the first shot at 200 yards from a 284 Winchester at a steep broadside almost facing away. The bullet struck behind the last rib and was recovered under the hide after breaking the opposite shoulder, DRT. The other was a straight on shot with the deer's head down with a 350 Remington Magnum 200 grain Corloct. The bullet hit center at 200 yards went just under the spine, missing the back strap thank goodness, hit the hip and went down and was found under the hide of the left knee still weighing 180 grains.

Now take a look at that buck again. Do you really care if you mess up a little shoulder meat. He is going to be tough as nails anyway so this is a trophy shot. If he runs it might be across a property line or right to another hunter who will claim that deer right or wrong. If you do get your deer back that guy will go around for the next 40 years claiming he killed it and you took it away from him. Obsessions over trophy deer do in fact go that far. This is why I say shoot to kill.

Many think blood trailing an animal is some sort of a challenge. This is a necessary part of bowhunting with a different philosophy. However looking at this from the gun hunter's perspective, having to blood trail a gun shot deer is an aggravation more associated with poor marksmanship or bad bullet performance. Simply, if you are going to gun hunt, shoot to kill.

On the deer meat situation, I have two options I can butcher the deer at home or go four blocks away and have the meat processing shop do it. Either way I don't see a lot of meat wasted due to one clean gun shot, nor will I pass up a lethal knock down shot, fooling around with saving about a pound of hamburger.

In my case I could care less about a trophy or if I do in fact kill any legal deer. That takes the pressure off keeping up with the fantasy ego trip and all this obsession hype. An old style deer hunter gets a deer every year because he does everything right, but doesn't worry about it. If anything the obsession should be with preserving the right to go deer hunting, letting the trophies come as they may.

In most reality hunting situations, contrary to the fantasies seen on the Outdoor Channel, you only have a 5 second window of opportunity to take a shot, so it is a good idea to visualize the shot before hand. See the shot through in your minds eye, imagining how you want the deer to be standing and get the range of the shot down before hand. A laser range finder will eliminate the guess work, but use it to set up a field of fire around your stand, not waiting until you see a deer to range it as it will probably be too late. Subsequently, you prepare your mind to shoot to kill before hand.

Now to check all the things I just said for yourself, go to the new online free Winchester Ballistic Calculator and see for yourself about the 50 yard zero as opposed to the 100 yards zero mostly recommended. Although hardly noticeable, you will get about an inch of flat trajectory. This is the best in my opinion for precise shooting on whitetails to include the elusive 300 yards shot. I see no reason to attempt a shot past this distance unless you have the skill and equipment to do so.

Therefore shooting to kill means take the prime shot that puts the deer down DRT. To do this you must prepare the mind, as well as the equipment, before the shot.

My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.