High lung shot on a fallow deer

A heart shot, lung shot or shoulder shot for deer?

Q: When they shoot a deer behind the shoulder most of my mates call it a heart shot, yet when the animal is dressed, the heart is undamaged.

How do you account for this? Also, what is your opinion of the shoulder shot?

Walter Craig

A: A lot of hunters don’t know much about the vital areas of deer. When asked the location of the heart, the greenest of them will locate the heart somewhere near the middle of the lungs.

And they also think the lungs run the full length of the upper half of the deer, from just behind the shoulder to just ahead of the paunch.

Finally, the most inexperienced of these tyros think a shoulder shot beats all others.

It’s true that the shoulder shot, high, low or in the middle, will rapidly immobilise game. If that shot is very low in the shoulder area it may hit the heart, as well as breaking one or both lower legs.

If the shot hits high in the shoulder it may break both upper leg bones and, if high enough, may even sever the spinal cord.

But that shot isn’t going to hit either heart or lungs. It will certainly wreck a helluva lot of edible venison, because modern high-velocity bullets make mincemeat out of the flesh and bone areas.

Few experienced hunters actually aim low on the deer’s brisket trying for a heart shot, preferring instead the high lung shot (pictured above) which usually drops the deer dead on the spot and spoils very little eating meat.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.