Sunday, July 17, 2011

Buckshot shot placement on deer

Continuing with the theme of buckshot, lets look at proper shot placement with buckshot. At first it would seem simple. conventional wisdom indicates that the proper placement of any projectile, whether it be bullet, shot, or arrow, is in the lung area. However, shotguns provide a slightly different scenario.

The point of buckshot is to place the most shot possible in a vital area. With a single projectile like a rifle, you want to aim for the largest possible vital area and that is the lungs. When you have multiple projectiles your chances of hitting one of the smaller vitals like the spine or a major artery increases to fairly high. These smaller vital areas are usually "more" vital, like the spinal cord, brain, or heart. A hit will put a deer down almost instantly. Also, since buckshot is not particularly powerful, a lung hit may not do as much damage as a bullet from a rifle. So, there is some debate on what the proper shot placement with buckshot is.

You want as many pellets going into the red and pink areas as possible

There are three basic theories.
  • A head shot
  • Behind the shoulder
  • Where the neck meets the shoulder
A head shot is out of the question and ridiculous. When I took hunters safety many years ago they showed us a picture of a deer that had been shot in the muzzle. It died a slow painful death. Someone tried for a head shot and missed. A deers brain is little. Even a solid hit to the skull could result in a cripple.

Little brain, lots of non-vitals. It is humiliating that something with a brain this small can outwit me.
The traditional behind-the-shoulder shot has merit and makes a lot of sense. In my opinion, if the deer is standing still this will be the best bet. Treat your shotgun like a rifle, and pretend it is firing a single projectile. On the down side, if the deer is moving, even slowly, you run the risk of hitting too far back. Not only do you loose your chance at one of those "super vital" spots, you could have a gut shot deer on your hands. A deer gut shot with a rifle or bow is bad, with buckshot it is a nightmare. If you ever recover the deer much of its meat will be tainted, plus it will have suffered tremendously. Even one pellet in the intestine region will make gutting the deer especially unpleasant.

Many who hunt exclusively with buckshot recommend aiming where the neck meets the shoulder. This doesn't sound very smart at first, but think of this: If you are firing at any range, say 30 yards or more, you should have a decent shot spread. This is especially true if you are using one of the smaller buckshot pellet sizes. A neck shot will give you the opportunity to hit the spine, brain, windpipe, arteries, lungs, and possibly the heart. It also has the benefit of giving you some breathing room if the deer is moving. If you hit a little far back, you are still in the lung region.

It looks like when the deer is standing still at close range (less than 25 - 30 yards) a behind-the-shoulder lung shot is best. At longer ranges, or if the deer is moving, aiming for where the neck meets the shoulder seem like a better option.

Remember, just because you are using a shotgun does not mean you do not have to aim. I treat my shotgun like a powerful short range rifle. A simple way to do this is to add a scope. A scope will instantly slow you down and make you aim. Also remember that at close ranges you shot pattern may be very small. Potentially as small as a softball. Pattern your gun at multiple distances and know what it is capable of.

My dedicated buckshot \ turkey gun.
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