Where to Shoot a Deer to Drop It In Its Tracks

Where to Shoot a Deer to Drop it in its Tracks

Written By: Ian @ World Deer

Your greatest responsibility as a deer hunter is to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering for the animal. The worst case scenario is causing a painful injury to the deer and then the animal escaping, preventing you from ending its distress. Deer are resilient and determined animals, and many hunters have been shocked to see deer suddenly jump up and run off after being shot. You must shoot deer in the right places and in the right way to know you’re hunting in a responsible way. Today we’ll share where to shoot a deer to drop it in its tracks, including the very best shot placements for deer in different positions relative to your blind or tree stand.

Always keep your skill level in mind. Of course, a highly skilled marksman and hunter will be able to make targets that beginners cannot.

How Do You Instantly Drop a Deer?

Dropping a deer means that you will (at minimum) incapacitate it with the first shot. Ideally, you want to kill it with one shot so that it dies quickly and humanely.

How Do You Instantly Drop a Deer?

At the very least, though, you need to make sure it cannot get up and escape. To instantly drop a deer, you have to shoot it in an appropriate part of its body.

As we’ll discuss later, there are certain parts of the deer’s body that are most likely to result in a one-shot kill. Even if you don’t get a one-shot kill, your goal should be to instantly drop the animal.

To make sure you will drop the deer with the first shot, find a way to target the animal’s central nervous system.

Theoretically (note that word), the most reliable place to shoot a deer that will cause it to instantly fall is in the brain. But there’s a major catch.

Most hunters won’t be able to hit a target that tiny. Not only that, they shouldn’t try. Why? Well, shooting a deer in the head and missing the brain can end in shattered jaws and terrible injuries that you have no excuse causing.

You have to take many variables into account when deciding on how to instantly drop a deer. It depends on the kind of weapon you’re using, your level of skill and experience, and other conditions.

We will discuss this in greater detail below. Depending on the circumstances, specific parts of the shoulder and the heart area may instantly drop a deer.

Why Dropping a Deer Where it Stands is Important

There are several reasons why you should always make your best effort to drop a deer where it stands. Of course, that means knocking a deer over and immobilizing it (at minimum) with the first shot. After this, shoot again to make sure the animal is dead.

How to Drop a Deer in its Tracks

One obvious reason for the importance of dropping a deer where it stands are considerations of humane treatment of animals. You never want a deer to suffer unnecessarily. When deer hunting, take great pains to ensure a quick death.

Also, if you fail to drop a deer where it stands, you risk losing the deer if it runs away. This could mean that you lose out on your prize. Not only that, but the deer may suffer for a long period of time before it dies.

Another scenario in which it’s especially important to drop a deer where it stands is when the deer may escape from your reach. An example may be if it escapes to adjacent private property that you cannot enter.

Best Shot Placements for a One-Shot Kill

To drop a deer in its tracks with one shot you should aim for the:

  • Brachial Plexus,
  • Head,
  • Heart / Lungs, or
  • Neck.

Let’s explore the benefits of each of these shots and how they can help you achieve a clean, humane one-shot kill.

What Shot Drops a Deer?

Brachial Plexus

Many experienced hunters agree the best place to shoot a deer for a one-shot kill is in the brachial plexus. This is a complex group of nerves, veins, muscles, and tendons in the shoulder and shoulder blade (otherwise known as scapula) area.

One drawback of targeting the shoulder, however, is that you may end up wasting meat. If you’re like most other hunters and you plan on enjoying some venison meals, you might want to keep this in mind.

Specifically, you might miss out on the famous backstrap. However, a quality bullet shouldn’t shatter. As long as it stays in one piece you shouldn’t lose too much delicious venison. The concern is fragmentation.

When you shoot a deer through its shoulder blade (the high shoulder), it should create catastrophic damage to the brachial plexus.

This is an integral part of the central nervous system for deer. That is why shooting a deer here is the best place for dropping a deer where it stands. The deer, at the very least, should be paralyzed.

Another useful feature about this target is how it provides a relatively large amount of latitude (if you’re a good shot, that is). You have to get your shot within a 3-inch circumference. If you think you would have trouble doing this, you need to practice before trying to go deer hunting.


Of course, different hunters have varying opinions on the best place to shoot a deer for a one-shot kill. The most reliable area of the body for immediately killing a deer is the brain. However, this is a tiny target.

If you’re a regular hunter and don’t have access to sophisticated equipment such as infrared optics, this probably won’t be realistic. However, when this is possible, a shot to the deer’s brain will cause death almost immediately.

Heart and Lungs or Neck

There are other areas of the body that hunters often have success with when it comes to one-shot deer hunting kills. One if the heart and lung area. Hunters may also target the deer’s neck.

Where do You Shoot a Deer with an Arrow?

It’s always easier and more effective to hunt deer with a gun. Arrows are tricky and a misguided shot can lead to unnecessary pain and suffering for the animal, as well as greater chance the animal will escape.

Where to Shoot a Deer to Drop it in its Tracks with a Bow and Arrow

This is partly because arrows used by a bowhunter aren’t able to break bones like bullets can. You may not realize it, but the ability to break bones is one of the abilities that make firearms so deadly and effective.

If you’re determined to be a bowhunter, you’ll need to learn how to do it correctly first. Using a bow is a difficult process, and getting the aim right is a challenge.

When hunting with a bow and arrows, you should aim for the deer’s ribcage. You need to target the animal’s vital organs. This gives you the best chance of dropping and killing the deer.

What Caliber Will Drop a Deer?

The caliber of gun you use has a major effect on your hunting efforts. Be aware of the quality of bullet you’re using. Bullets that have a smaller caliber or lower-level energy will be relatively limited in capacity.

Examples include shotgun slugs and a .223 bullet. These kinds of bullets have limited knockdown power. They also don’t have the capacity for bone-breaking that more powerful caliber and higher energy bullets feature.

If you use a low caliber gun or low-energy bullet, you should be patient and strive for an excellent shot of the deer’s ribcage. Even better would be a head shot, targeting the brain.

Deer Hunters

A 30-06 caliber rifle with higher energy that uses large grain bullets provides more margin for error. Of course, you must still aim for the appropriate places, but it’ll be easier to get the right shot.

As a higher caliber gun will have more bone-breaking ability, you may have the option of shooting the front quarters or the neck.

With a larger caliber gun, you’ll have strong knockdown power. If you’ve ever hunted, you know how important that is.

What to Do if You Miss Your Shot

If you accidentally shoot the deer in an area that doesn’t quickly kill it, your responsibility is to end the animal’s suffering as swiftly as possible.

Picture of By: Ian from World Deer

By: Ian from World Deer

A passionate writer for WorldDeer using the most recent data on all animals with a keen focus on deer species.

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