After spending months scouting you have finally narrowed down where a big buck is spending his time.  Hours, days, even weeks have been spent hunting, waiting for that one good shot opportunity.  Without warning the massive buck you have been waiting for shows up and shows himself.  It is now or never.  Do you know how to make the shot?


I would recommend you not shooting at a deer that is at a full run.  If you do happen to hit him the risk is too great that you will not deliver an ethical hit.  Follow the deer in your sights in case he does present a shot by either stopping altogether or at least slows down.  Try yelling or whitening to make him stop.  If he does stop be ready to shoot, he probably will not be still for long.  If he does not stop or slow, do not shoot.


I have had this shot more times than I can remember.  I have had the most success leading the animal much like I do when I am pheasant hunting.  There is no exact way to determine how far to lead a deer.  If you have to choose between aiming too far ahead or too far behind I would choose the former.  A hunter will either miss the animal completely or hit the vitals.  If you aim too far behind you are likely to hit him in the paunch.

Another method is to wait for the buck to pass through a spot and shoot as soon as he is in it.  In order to be successful this way you have to time your shot perfect.  Aim on the front third of the shoulder.  But remember deer are fast animals.  They can travel further than you think in the time it takes for you to squeeze the trigger and till the slug arrives at the animal.


Do not get flustered when a deer is close enough that you could jump on it’s back.  The mistake hunters mostly make is that they point and shoot rather than aim and shoot.

Take the time to line up your sights on his vitals, relax and gently squeeze the trigger.


Hunting the big timber states in the Midwest normally will not allow for long shots.  But if you are hunting the brush country of Texas, Eastern Montana or any other area that requires that you hunt in the wide-open spaces you have two choices.  The first one is to take a long shot.  The second choice is to keep sneaking up for a closer shot and risk the chance of sending the deer to the next county.  The recommended choice is to shoot from afar and have it all planned out in advance.

The first thing that must be done is to decide where the deer is eventually going to show himself.  Next, find an area 200 to 300 yards downwind that will allow you to get a good shot off.  Get in your chosen area about 1 hour before the deer have been arriving.  Have it all planned out in your mind how high you should aim and have a sturdy rest available.  Do not waste time.  When you get the first good shot take it.  Big bucks know better than to remain in the open for any length of time.


The best shot will be at the center of his neck just about where it connects to the body.  A properly placed bullet will usually result in immediate death.  If not, will not be hard for a finishing shot.

Do not aim for his vent (butt) and expect the bullet to pass through his guts and into his vitals.  This is not an ethical shot and there is no guarantee your bullet will ever reach his vitals.  All you might end up with is a gut shot deer.


Normally you will have a chance to put a bullet into his vitals, but when a deer is directly below and his vitals are not exposed put your sights in the middle of his back right between the front shoulder blades.  If the buck is facing away and a few yards away aim for the top third of his back right between the shoulder blades.  If he is facing you with his head up send a bullet to the base of his neck.  Aim between the shoulder blades if his head is down.


I recommend purchasing a rangefinder that has true ballistic range capabilities.  Whether you are shooting uphill or downhill a bullet is going to fly high.  A rangefinder with true bullet ballistic range readings will take into consideration the angle you are firing into and give you the correct range every time.

If you do not want to spend a weeks paycheck on a rangefinder, aim low.  Aim low on both uphill and downhill shots.  It is hard to say how low to aim.  A lot of it depends on the distance to the deer and how fast your bullet is moving.  The mistake most hunters make is aiming too low.  The best advice I can give you is never hold so low that you are not seeing hair in your crosshairs.


I have slowly still hunted a lot of my hunting life.  Nothing scares the holy crap out of me like when a whitetail fires out of hiding spot when I am only feet away unless it is a pheasant taking flight right before I am about to step on the hidden bird.

In order to make a shot on a deer hanging out in cover begins with your stalking techniques.  Walk very slow and use your binoculars often.  Look for the sun reflecting off an antler tip, a nose, an eye, or an ear flicker.  By finding these features of a deer’s head you should be able to get a good understanding as to where the rest of the deer is.  When you have decided where his vitals are located you than have to find a small opening that you can put a bullet through.

This is a shot that has to be taken at close range (100 yards or less) and only with a good rest that will enable you to hold rock steady.


Do not make this shot tougher than it has to be.  The best advice I can give you is to buy a rangefinder.  An animal will look further away than what it actually is in the wide open.

Do not compensate for the wind.  Unless there are gale force winds and you are over 300 yards from the deer the wind will not have that much of an impact on the path of your bullet.  Aim for the vitals and squeeze the trigger.


No matter the situation that you find yourself in, whether it is a very close shot or a shot at a deer walking away, do not take a shot unless you are 100 percent confident in it.  An ethical hunter will pass op an iffy shot before he takes a shot he is not sure of.  It does not hurt a thing to wait a few seconds for the deer to position itself for a shot.  If it does not you can be proud of yourself for doing the right thing.

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Jason Houser
Jason Houser is an avid traditional bowhunter from Central Illinois who killed his first deer when he was nine years old. A full-time freelance writer since 2008, he has written for numerous national hunting magazines. Jason has hunted big game in 12 states with his bow, but his love will always be white-tailed deer and turkeys. He considers himself lucky to have a job he loves and a family who shares his passion for the outdoors. Jason writes full time and is on the pro staff of two archery companies; in his free time, he fishes and traps as much as possible.