By Montana Grant

Posted: August 30, 2020

We have all heard too many stories about elk and deer that were shot and lost. Many of the hunters never take any blame. Their shots were always perfect. The best shots for hunters to learn from are their worst shots.

Ethical hunters want to make a quick kill. We love the critters we hunt and do not want them to suffer. The best way to learn how to kill a critter is from experience. Embrace your mistakes, learn a lesson, and don’t do it again.

Most elk and deer cripple shots are too high or too far forward. A mature elk has a kill zone of 16-18 inches around. A deer is about half that size. Shoot too low and you hit brisket, sternum, or hide/muscle. Too high and you hit a non-lethal spine, muscle, thick hide, and bone. Too far forward and the leg, scapula, or more bone is impacted. Too far back and you hit liver and guts. Neither is a quick kill.

One hunter I met said he hit the critter exactly in the center of the chest, behind the leg. The problem was that the bull was angled. The arrow hit the ribs and skittered along the elk’s side and out the front. Lots of blood but not fatal. His mistake was that he did not think about where the arrow would exit the elk, after passing through it.

My best advice is to Aim at the Exit. Imagine a line from you to the exit hole. Does it go through the lungs or heart? The vitals of an elk are its lungs. These airbags are like 2 big balloons. Pop the balloons and you win a prize. The decompression of the lungs will bring on shock quickly. If you cow call immediately after arrowing or shooting the bull, they will often stop, look around at you, and flop over.

I never take a head shot or heart shot. I have made them and did put the critter down quickly. A frontal shot is also a low odds target. Most of my low odds shots were unintended. Now many shooters will disagree but, I also bet they have stories to tell about lost critters. The high odds shot is a broadside through the vitals.

The best kill shot is 3 inches above and 6 inches behind the elbow of the front leg. This will place your broadhead or bullet directly through both lungs. If you target the shoulder, to put the critter down, you will probably need a backup shot. If you are accurate enough to break the shoulders, you can certainly make one perfect kill shot.

Aim small, miss small!

Montana Grant

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