This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: One of the most important things about being a deer hunter is understanding exactly where to aim.
GRANT: This time of year everyone is getting excited about deer season. I’m getting all kinds of emails and questions on Facebook and Instagram and YouTube. And one of the primary subjects right now is kind of a debate on where to aim. And that breaks down into a couple of categories – like with a rifle or with a bow.
HEATH: (Whispering) Yes. Yes.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah!
GRANT: Let’s talk about hunting with a firearm first. You know, there’s way more hunters throughout the whitetails’ range that use a firearm than archery equipment.
GRANT: A firearm causes a totally different type of wound than archery. Firearms are powerful. They’re moving really fast. They can break bone and they can cause mortality instantly if the bullet is placed appropriately.
GRANT: When I think about hunting with a firearm, I think about longer distances. 100, 200, 300 yards is a typical shot at a white-tailed deer, depending on the weapon you’re using and habitat type where you’re hunting.
GRANT: Oh, my goodness. He’s down right there – on the spot.
GRANT: Even at longer distances, a single shot can be extremely lethal. Or it can mean a long blood trail and, possibly, not even recovering the animal. It’s all about shot placement and the efficiency of the firearm or the bullet, in particular, you’re using.
CLAY: I’m pretty sure that right there means there’s some antlers laying over there on the other side of the field.
GRANT: The GrowingDeer Team has been using Deer Season XP ammo for several years now. It’s the only round I’m aware of that’s designed specifically for white-tailed deer.
GRANT: Whitetails are relatively thin-skinned animals, smaller bones, compared to maybe like an elk or African game. So, it’s not designed for maximum penetration – a long, skinny, tapered bullet. Rather, it maintains its diameter further out the bullet and then goes to a point.
GRANT: It’s extremely accurate but by maintaining that diameter, there’s more knockdown power when it hits the target.
PETE: She done her job.
DANIEL: Yep. Left all the energy in the deer.
GRANT: Even with great bullet design, you know, you hit the deer right at the edge of the toe, you’re not going to recover that deer. So, shot placement is critical.
GRANT: We all want that perfectly broadside, standing still shot. We pull right behind that front leg, about halfway up and down when we’re using a rifle between the top and the bottom. And that deer, gosh, it’s lucky if it makes it 50 or 70 yards. You’ve penetrated both lungs and may have clipped the bottom of the spine. And if you do that, the deer drops right there; walk up and put your tag on that critter.
GRANT: Unfortunately, a perfect broadside shot is relatively rare in the whitetail world. Deer just tend to come in quartering-to or quartering-away. If you think about, you know, a 360-degree compass, there’s only a couple of degrees where they’re going to be broadside. And the rest of the time they’re quartering-to or quartering-away.
ANNOUNCER: GrowingDeer is brought to you by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Also by Reconyx, Eagle Seed, Winchester, Avian-X Decoys, LaCrosse Footwear, Morrell Targets, Hooyman, Hook’s Custom Calls, Summit Treestands, RTP Outdoors, Yamaha, Fourth Arrow, onX Hunt, Scorpion Venom Archery, Case IH Tractors, Burris Optics, Bloodsport Arrows, Code Blue, D/Code, G5 Broadheads, Prime Bows, and Redneck Hunting Blinds.
GRANT: When using a rifle matched with the appropriate ammo, there’s no problem penetrating a white-tailed deer. So, if that deer comes in quartering-to, I’m sliding over to the front of the deer. I’m not aiming right behind the shoulder. Because if you think about that, the bullet is maybe going to get one lung, maybe liver, maybe the gut, depending on how strong that angle is coming to the hunter.
GRANT: So, let’s advance to deer season. You’ve sighted in, you’re practiced, you know your weapon well, and you see a deer and you determine it’s a safe shot. You know the background; you know where the bullet is going should it pass through the deer. And we always assume the bullet is going to pass through the deer.
GRANT: It’s broadside. We’ve talked about this earlier. I pull right behind the leg/shoulder, halfway between the top and the bottom and take the shot.
GRANT: But for every degree that deer is quartered-to me, facing me, I need to change my sight, my aiming point, just a tad. So, as it’s quartering-to me, I’m moving my point of aim forward.
GRANT: Let’s talk about that a bit more detail. We’ve talked about whitetails are relatively thin-skinned, small-boned animals. So, I’m not worried about punching through a shoulder with a firearm. I am with an arrow; I wouldn’t take that shot.
GRANT: But with a firearm, as it’s quartering-to me, I’m moving my point of aim more and more forward. And let’s say it comes in almost at 45 degrees; then I’m on the point of the closest shoulder to me. And think about it – as it travels through, it’s going to exit right behind that off-shoulder, taking out both lungs and whatever else is in the path.
GRANT: The same is true if a deer is passing by quartering-away. If it’s slightly quartering-away, I’m just going to back off right behind that shoulder a bit. But for every degree it’s quartered-away more, I need to come on back.
GRANT: Now how far do I want to come back? Well, I don’t like getting out of lungs on the entry. But the lungs go relatively far back. People think they’re just a few inches behind the shoulder, but that’s incorrect.
GRANT: As a matter of fact, last year Daniel shot a buck. Boy, it was a great buck, pretty excited. Hit it a little bit back and it was a double lung shot when we got in the deer. But all the viewers were thinking, “Oh, that’s a liver. That’s a gut.” But it was a double lung, clear as a bell. So, you learn about how many ribs lungs extend back behind that shoulder blade and that’s going to be your point of aim. Or an easier way is, I want to make sure my bullet is coming out in the off, or the far side shoulder.
GRANT: So, I really look almost through the deer or I look at the leg on the offside. Come up with my scope – I come right up that leg with the scope and that’s my point of entry because I know I’m going to take out both lungs if I go out the off-shoulder.
GRANT: I don’t like neck or head shots with a rifle. Yes, they can be extremely lethal. Often, they end up with a miss or, even worse, a wound.
GRANT: The neck, especially of a buck, boy, he’s rutting, he’s big, it’s great big, you’re already thinking about the taxidermy form, how big it’s going to be, but it’s easy to pass through the meat of a buck’s neck. And that buck just keeps on running. Unless you hit the carotid artery, when you go through the meat, that’s not going to be a wound that’s lethal, probably within tracking range.
GRANT: If you hit the spine, the deer is going down. And if you’re really skilled and you’ve practiced a lot – not just, “Oh”, you know, “I shot six shots at the range this year. I’m all tuned up.” I mean, you know your weapon. You’re dialed in. At range is far past where you would consider shooting a deer, you might take that shot. That’s kind of sniper skill. Most of us aren’t snipers.
GRANT: So, I avoid neck shots and I certainly avoid head shots. The brain of a deer is about the size of my fist or maybe even a tad bit smaller. Most people don’t aim correctly. I’ve seen this a lot working check stations. And they actually hit the bottom jaw back here. And that wounds the deer. It can’t survive. But they don’t recover and it’s a horrible death. So, avoid that shot. And again, unless you’re a sniper, you’re out there practicing all the time, avoid that shot.
GRANT: Frontal shots, boy, that’s a pretty big area. And it can be lethal, but if the bullet is traveling straight and, boy, it might be low and go through the heart, you’re not going to get both lungs, right? If it’s perfectly straight to you and you hit here, it’s very unlikely you can penetrate both lungs.
GRANT: A bigger factor is, the rumen is probably full of plant material – the stomach. And that stops bullets like that. So, a straight on shot, there’s rarely an exit wound and no blood trail.
GRANT: Now some people joke about the Texas heart shot. Shooting a deer going straight away from you. One, it’s very messy to clean. You’re going to waste some meat. You’re going to booger up some hams. And two, again, there’s a very small area where it’s lethal. Most likely, you’re going to be off just a little bit, wound an animal and none of us want to wound an animal.
GRANT: Bottom line is, when I’m using a firearm hunting deer, I want that broadside shot if possible.
GRANT: Quartering-to, I’m moving over so my bullet – the path of the bullet – is going to exit right behind the off-shoulder.
GRANT: Going away from me, I’m pulling back and I’m, hopefully, can see that off leg, the far leg, and I’m coming straight up from it. I’m going to go out that far shoulder and I’ll certainly take out both lungs.
GRANT: Bingo! Super buck!
GRANT: We’ll switch over to talking about shot placement using archery equipment.
GRANT: As I mentioned earlier, firearms terminate deer by impact and massive damage. That’s not true with archery equipment. Archery equipment terminates deer through hemorrhaging. So, right off the bat, I want to take a moment and explain how that happens.
GRANT: Broadheads are some of the most important gear for any archer and I can explain this with an easy illustration. Ever get a papercut? Gosh, you hardly feel it and you cannot stop it from bleeding. But mash your thumb with the hammer and it barely bleeds at all.
GRANT: And the reason is all mammals have a clotting hormone called thromboplastin. The clotting hormone is released when the body senses trauma.
GRANT: You mash your finger with a hammer, boy, that’s trauma, right? The body releases a bunch of it instantly and the blood clots – there’s hardly any bleeding. You get a papercut – it bleeds and bleeds because the body doesn’t sense there’s been trauma and it doesn’t release the clotting hormone.
GRANT: This is the reason broadheads and the condition of the broadhead is so critical for bow hunters.
GRANT: Let’s say a relatively new hunter decides to take up bow hunting. They find some old broadhead from their grandfather back in the day, screw them on an arrow. They get lucky and they get a shot at a deer; make a pretty good hit. A few drops of blood to start with and then no blood. It’s a very difficult trailing job.
GRANT: That’s most likely because that broadhead was dull. It’s actually pushing arteries out of the way instead of slicing them like a scalpel. The deer felt that little bit of trauma and so it releases a bunch of the clotting hormone and not much blood is spilled on the ground.
GRANT: Let’s take the same scenario, except our new hunter went to the store, or sharpened the old broadheads he found and is now hunting with razor-sharp broadheads.
GRANT: Makes a pretty good shot. All excited. Gets down. Boy, there’s a paintbrush trail. 50 yards later, he comes upon fresh venison.
GRANT: When you cut with a scalpel, boy, it just cuts right through there and the arteries bleed freely. When you cut with a razor-sharp – a scalpel-sharp I like to say – broadhead, well it penetrates the same way. And arteries don’t roll up and over, out of the way. They’re cleanly sliced and you get maximum blood flow. And it’s a big blood trail – easy to recover the animal.
GRANT: Want to do a little test? Get what we call a postal rubber band. Those big, ½” rubber bands. Slide your broadhead across there with it just a little taunt – it should pop just like that. If it’s kind of rolling up and over, that broadhead, well, it’s dull and it’s going to have the same result when it’s cutting a deer with arteries – kind of rolling up and out of the way instead of being sliced instantly.
GRANT: You’ve got a razor-sharp broadhead on the end of the arrow; you’re out here; you’ve scouted; you’ve got a good location; here comes a deer. The next decision is going to be, “What’s my shot placement? How is this deer going to be standing when it’s in my effective shot range?”
GRANT: Hopefully, you’ve been practicing this during the off season; not just shooting at a broadside target. And if you have, you probably realize the effective kill zone of a deer when using archery equipment is quite a bit smaller than when using a firearm.
GRANT: When you’re using a firearm and that deer is coming in quartering-to like we talked about earlier, gosh, you just punch through that shoulder and come out behind the off-shoulder.
GRANT: But that’s not the case with archery equipment. Boy, if you’re shooting a lighter poundage bow, you’ve got a shorter draw length or it’s a great big deer coming in, that arrow may not punch through that front shoulder. It may hit it and not penetrate, only penetrate a little, or glance off and just run down the side of the deer.
GRANT: That eliminates several inches of a quartering-to or quartering-away shot when using archery equipment.
GRANT: As I go through some of the explanations, we’ll show you clips from past hunts. But remember, the cameraman is always off a foot, two, three, four feet from the hunter and even that small amount can make the angle look different.
GRANT: When using archery equipment, we can maybe take that 45-degree shot with a gun and penetrate through there. Now, we’ve got to slide that on around so we can slide through right behind the shoulder. And make sure the angle is mild enough, we come out in the lung on the opposite side.
GRANT: Same with the quartering-away shot. We’re pulling back just like with the rifle. But we’re not looking at that leg as our exit area; right? We don’t want that broadhead stopping right there. That would limit the blood trail we would find – the amount of blood exiting the animal.
GRANT: Now we’re imagining behind the shoulder. Our arrow wants to exit right behind the shoulder. And that really decreases the angle that we can have an effective shot using archery equipment.
GRANT: Another really strong consideration, even if the deer is perfectly broadside, is that deer often react to the sound of the bow or a crossbow being shot.
GRANT: That reaction usually results in the deer squatting like a sprinter getting into the starting blocks. They’re getting way down, especially on their front shoulders, to load those big rear leg muscles so they can sprint, take out of there and get the heck out of Dallas.
GRANT: Knowing that if a deer does react and that front, the kill zone right behind the shoulder, is going to drop a lot more. Gosh, we’ve got video of deer dropping eight inches or more. Well, that greatly reduces the effective size of the kill zone.
GRANT: Let’s say the deer comes in and it’s broadside. Boy, it looks like a perfect shot. And you’ve probably been taught your whole life, if you can hit a pie plate at 20 yards, you can go deer hunting. And I’m here to tell you, that may or may not be true.
GRANT: If you hunt in an area where there’s a lot of hunting pressure like here at The Proving Grounds – boy, the whole GrowingDeer Team hunts. We have some guests that hunt. My family hunts. There’s a lot of hunting pressure here and there has been for many years.
GRANT: When a bow goes off, most of the deer here react strongly. Now, they’re not saying, “Boy, we just heard Grant or Daniel take a shot.” They’re hearing something different and they’re alert.
GRANT: And white-tailed deer use escaping the area as their predator defense. When they drop and load those muscles, the front drops more. Think about the front shoulders of a sprinter being way down.
GRANT: And the kill zone being right behind that front shoulder, boy, it can be just a few inches off the ground. That pie plate size kill zone just shrunk to about the size of my fist.
GRANT: If you hunt in an area where you know deer are likely to react to the sound of a bow or a crossbow being fired, you need to aim right where that white belly hair laps up and meets the brown body hair. At that area, you’re right at the bottom of the kill zone, but you’re in the kill zone. You’re going to have a very effective shot.
GRANT: But if the deer reacts to the sound of the shot and it drops an inch, two, three, five inches, you’re still well within the kill zone and it’s an easy recovery.
GRANT: If you were aiming in the very center of the kill zone, the center of that pie plate many of us were taught to aim at early on, the deer drops three, four, or five inches, you’re very high in the kill zone or maybe even in the spine or above the spine.
GRANT: Oftentimes, folks that aren’t videoing take the shot. They know it was perfect when they made the release, but the deer react quicker than our eyes can comprehend, and they don’t understand why it’s a difficult trail to follow.
GRANT: I’m confident they probably made a good shot, but the deer reacted so much the arrow hit in an area that doesn’t result in a lethal wound.
GRANT: When I’m practicing, I don’t just pull back and settle my pin right behind the shoulder in the center of that big kill zone on my target. I’m aiming low. I want my mindset, I want my mental image to be put that pin low on the deer every time.
GRANT: The GrowingDeer Team almost never sees video footage of an archer that missed low. And when we do, it’s because someone was poking out there 40, 50 yards; it’s windy. The deer doesn’t know the archer is in the world, it doesn’t react at all and the arrow drops harmlessly below there. But I’ve seen a bunch of video with arrows catching deer too high and producing a non-lethal hit.
GRANT: There are many, many reasons, based on years of experience and watching bunches of hunts in slow motion to aim at the bottom of the kill zone, and very few to aim middle and none that would cause me to aim high with archery equipment.
GRANT: There is one exception to this. Let’s say a deer comes in close. Five yards from the stand. Which I got to tell you, everyone would say, “Oh, man, a chip shot.” But when you’re up 20 feet or so and a deer is in there very close, you think about the angle. It’s very difficult to get both lungs. And we all know a one lunger, boy, that deer can run a long way.
GRANT: If you opt to take a shot at a deer feeding very close to the base of an elevated stand, you need to be very careful when you’re making that shot selection. We should only take a shot that we’re 100 percent confident we can recover the deer. But you’ve been practicing, you’ve been practicing specifically from an elevated position for this shot.
GRANT: Well, here is your aim point. You want to pull just off the spine – just barely off the spine closest to you. You need the deer almost broadside to you. You don’t want it really funky or this won’t work.
GRANT: You need it broadside and you aim just barely off the spine closest to you – right behind the shoulder. And that way, you’re going to take out the top of the closest lung and as that arrow is going through at a pretty steep angle, it will take out the bottom of the far lung.
GRANT: If you happen to get too far one way or the other and only get a one lunger, recovering that deer may be difficult.
GRANT: The biggest mistake I see folks make in this shot angle is pulling too far over. They’re aiming at the very top of the kill zone like they were shooting a level shot because that’s what they’ve been practicing. They haven’t practiced from an elevated location.
GRANT: Well, if they pull over, that’s going to go in at an angle, but it’s still coming out in the same lung where it entered. It’s a one lunger and you may, or may not, recover that deer.
GRANT: If the deer is out there a way from your stand or blind, maybe you’re hunting in a ground blind, there’s a big advantage to aiming lower. Because a deer’s body is teardrop shaped. It’s not a rectangle like some targets are. It’s teardrop.
GRANT: And there’s fewer inches. If you hit a deer, you know, two or three inches up in the kill zone, it goes through, takes a lung, maybe the heart and the other lung, it’s a great blood trail, but your arrow had fewer inches to pass through to get all the way through the deer.
GRANT: Now, let’s say you were up three quarters in the kill zone, that can be several more inches the arrow has to penetrate.
GRANT: In summary, it’s pretty simple. You need to know your equipment. You need to know your effective range.
GRANT: I have to tell you – right now, I’m practicing out to 50 yards, even 60. But I’m not going to shoot at a whitetail, here at my place, where I know they’re pretty skittish, more than 30. Because there’s a big chance they would move a lot before my arrow reaches them and that might cause a miss or a wound.
GRANT: In addition to practicing, my gear is in top-notch shape. My bow is as quiet as it can be and my broadheads are scalpel sharp.
GRANT: You want to really know your equipment before season starts. When I say know it, you’re knowing it from using it. You’ve practiced with it, you’ve cleaned it, you’ve tuned it. Whatever it is, you know your equipment.
GRANT: So, when you’re out there and there is an opportunity to provide some venison for your family, you’re confident that once you fire that weapon, just a short time later, you’re dragging a deer back home.
GRANT: If you would like to learn more about how the GrowingDeer Team is preparing for deer season, check us out on social media.
GRANT: Practicing and hunting are both great ways to get outside and enjoy Creation. But make sure that pinpoint focus is on your life. And that means knowing the Creator and seeking His will for our lives daily.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.