With archery deer hunting season just around the corner, I think this is a great time to talk about shot placement on white-tailed deer with your crossbow. I hope that you find the following do’s and don’ts helpful in the field in your pursuit of whitetails this fall. By choosing your crossbow shot placement carefully, you will greatly increase your chances for a harvest and successful recovery.
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Do Choose Broadside Shots Over All Other Shot Angles, When Possible
The broadside shot is the best because you have the widest view of the deer’s vitals when the deer is standing sideways to you. If your shot is slightly off by an inch or two in any direction, your crossbow arrow will still hit in the vitals area and inflict lethal damage. Shooting a deer in this position means that there’s a VERY good chance that you will damage the heart and possibly both lungs which will result in a very quick kill. The faster the deer expires, the shorter the distance your tracking will be.
Do Choose a Quartering Away Shot When a Broadside Shot is Not Likely
The quartering away shot is second best for crossbow hunters next to the broadside shot, because this angle still gives you access to a large area of the deer’s vitals and allows you to inflict maximum heart and possibly double-lung damage. However, if you are considering a quartering away shot, you should know that the window for you to shoot into the vitals area shrinks as the deer’s angle away from you increases. If the deer’s angle is greater than 45 degrees from you, the chance for a lethal shot decreases because your shot window becomes significantly smaller. Also, the chance that you will take a glancing shot that could result in a wounded, unrecovered deer increases.
Do Choose a Quartering Toward Shot ONLY If You Are Confident You Have the Experience to Identify the Proper Spot to Place Your Shot
The quartering toward shot can yield lethal results, but your shot window is A LOT smaller. This shot should only be taken if conditions are right and if you feel confident that you can shoot with extreme accuracy. When a deer is quartering to you, the near-side shoulder blade blocks some of the vitals, and, if your shot is not perfectly placed, it can prevent your arrow from penetrating the chest altogether and the crossbow bolt can deflect into a non-vital area of the deer’s body. This crossbow shot should only be attempted if the deer’s angle to you is slight, as your shot window and the chances for hitting vital organs significantly decrease when the deer’s angle is less acute. When taking this shot, you also risk hitting the sternum, which can result in poor penetration, or you might hit the deer in the brisket, which will not damage any vital organs and will only result in a wounded deer. You should only attempt a quartering toward shot if you are left with no other options and if you do not think the deer will move to present you with a broadside or quartering away shot.
Don’t Choose a Head Shot with Your Crossbow
The spot on a deer’s head that you must hit with your crossbow bolt is extremely small and the chance that you will miss this spot, even by an inch, is extremely high and can result in the bolt piercing the deer’s head and remaining there without causing death. This is a low probability shot to choose when being patient will give the deer more time to present you with a better shot. You’re always better off to pass on a head shot with a crossbow (or any other archery equipment for that matter) on a whitetail.
Don’t Take a Shot at a Deer If You Think It Will Require a Second Shot to Kill the Animal
The greatest piece of advice I can give you when choosing your crossbow shot placement is not to take the shot if you do not feel confident that it will result in lethal damage to the vital organs with a single shot. Attempting to “disable” a deer by shooting it in the shoulder, spine, or one of its hind quarters with the plan to track the deer down and shoot it with another arrow to “finish it off” is a terrible idea and one that will likely result in a wounded and unrecovered animal. Be patient and wait for the deer to move into a position that presents a better shot angle so that a single shot is all you need. After all you have done to prepare for crossbow hunting season, you owe it to yourself and the deer to take the shot that yields the highest chances for success.
Don’t Overestimate the Damage a Crossbow Bolt Will Do
Remember, you’re shooting a crossbow that shoots bolts, not a rifle that shoots bullets. Be careful not to overestimate the amount of damage that a crossbow bolt will do to the animal, even if you are shooting a high-performance crossbow that launches crossbow bolts at extreme speeds and higher levels of kinetic energy. Even crossbow bolts have a limit as to how much shock they can take upon impact and still maintain their integrity as lethal projectiles. Modern carbon arrow shafts are very strong, but that doesn’t mean that they are indestructible, especially if your crossbow bolt strikes a thick, solid bone directly.