By Dempsey White
The forward portion of a deers rib cage, containing the largest concentration of vital organs, is the favorite target of both bow and gun hunters. A shot just behind the shoulder, one-third to halfway up the body from the lower chest line, will damage the lungs and probably the heart. A shot farther back may hit the liver, which is very vital, but it may hit the paunch, which usually results in a long trailing job.
Hunting arrows kill by hemorrhage, so the heart/lung area works well for bowhunters. Rifle bullets kill by massive tissue destruction and shock. Shoulder shots work well with bullets but heavy bone interferes with arrow penetration.
Neck shots with bullets kill instantly, or at least knock the deer down. With arrows, unless the spine or jugular vein is hit, neck shots dont work as well. Head shots should be avoided by all; unless the brain is hit, a head wound, while serious and often fatal, usually allows the otherwise uninjured animal to escape.
Deer do not always fall or even give an indication of being hit at the shot. Some very vital hits can go unnoticed. Always go to the spot the deer was standing and look for hair and blood sign. Also notice the direction the deer runs so that you can search in the right area.
A heart-shot deer usually makes a mad dash of 50 to 75 yards. A lung-shot deer may run 200 yards. A hit through the heart/lung area produces pink, frothy blood. Muscle blood is bright red. Dark, brownish blood indicates a hit in the liver and/or paunch area. A liver hit kills quickly. Hits in the paunch, however, take some time to bring the deer down. Wait a while before taking up the trail.
Mark the blood trail with tissue paper so that you can easily return to the last sign found. If the blood trail stops, circle and search the area thoroughly before concluding that your shot wasn't fatal.
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