Professional Deer Stalker Peter Jones makes plain his feelings about head shooting.

Head Shot Film Still

(Look out for our November film which will be about the head shot)

Shot placement can be a controversial subject, we all know what best practice guidelines tell us, it is the ‘heart/lung, broadside shot’, or ‘cavity shot’ as the ‘yanks’ call it, that provides the greatest chance of success, maximises the chance of rapid death and minimises the likelihood of injury. However, despite the guidance, there are still those that are prepared to test their marksmanship skills on live quarry.

"I have been hunting and shooting my whole life and have worked as a full-time professional stalker now for over 10 years, the heart/lung shot is still the shot that I favour above all else and that should tell you something".

Of course, in differing circumstances some leeway must be afforded, for example the next most frequent shot will be the ‘quartering on’ or ‘quartering away’ shot which is simply a variant of the broadside shot. But none the less, even in these circumstances, albeit only slightly, the guidelines are being stretched.

Head Shot

Then of course there is the neck shot, which if placed correctly can have the dramatic effect of dropping the animal on the spot. Something which can be quite handy if for example, you cannot afford the possibility of a deer kicking its back legs out and disappearing into thick undergrowth at last light. Or when a Roebuck comes bounding in to the call, face on in a field of standing corn. However, the more our shot placement departs from the standard heart/lung shot the greater the propensity for injury and so the neck shot carries with it some associated risk, not least of which is the possibility that the shot, if not accurately placed, will result in only a temporary paralysis imparted by the shock of the bullet and not a mortal loss of blood or severed spine. I have seen this on a number of occasions and it requires that the shooter be ready and prepared to take a second shot the moment that the deer attempts to rise, which they have a nasty habit of doing.  

It is a simple equation, the further one departs from the standard heart/lung shot the greater the risk of injury. The two are directly proportionate to one another. This equation can be applied to neck and head shooting – i.e. The higher one places a shot toward the head the riskier things get. It stands to reason therefore that the head shot is the riskiest shot of all.  

In the aim

I have worked in deer parks where there is considerable pressure to maximise the financial returns from venison, as a professional deer manager I have therefore experienced head shooting. However, in this controlled environment, there is an opportunity to quickly recover the animal should it make off with an injury, despite this, do I enjoy it? In a word - ‘No’, it makes me feel uncomfortable each time I squeeze the trigger, and this is why.  

The actual kill area i.e. the brain on a deer, is very small, maybe no more than the size of a walnut and everything around that highly mobile walnut sized brain may result in a horrible injury that will lead to a protracted death. Now that’s all very well, if you can shoot a walnut sized group at 100yards, however the kicker is, that in the case of a brain, the walnut is highly mobile. Watch a deer and you will see, every time it goes to move, the head leads and the body follows. The head is therefore a highly mobile target, so mobile, that a deer can easily twitch its head whilst the shooter is in the trigger squeeze. You can be the best marksman in the world, but the simple truth is, every now and then that is what is going to happen.

As I say, in an enclosure, if it all goes wrong it is possible to follow up and dispatch the deer in quick order, however, in the wild, chances are you will never find that animal again and the result of, for example a broken jaw, will be starvation. Is it worth the risk? Are you so insecure that you need to demonstrate to yourself and others that you can pull off that one-off amazing shot? Are you so strapped for cash that you need to make an extra few pounds for each carcass?

Hooded Man

"To my mind, anyone that stalks deer should, first and foremost, have a love and respect for the animal that they hunt and if you love an animal, when it must be dispatched you want to do so as quickly and humanely as possible with as little chance of suffering".

On the 19th November CDS will be releasing a film on our ‘County Deer Stalking You tube channel’ entitled ‘Head shot with a .308’. During the course of the film I cull four deer in quick succession whilst in an enclosure, I start with a head shot. The reason being that I was first and foremost in an enclosure (I would not be doing it otherwise) and secondly because I wanted to cause as little stress to the remaining animals as possible. Had I shot the first animal in the chest, it would have catapulted off into the others, causing instant alarm and thereby making my job harder. However, you will notice, as soon as the first shot had been taken, a shot which was only at around 80 yards, I once again reverted to the heart/lung shot to dispatch the other deer as soon as I got out of my comfort zone.  

I hope that during the film and through this article, I have made my feelings clear. If not, let me spell it out one more time; there is no place for head shooting in the wild. I do not do it, and neither should any self-respecting stalker.

Butchers and those keen to monopolise on every last penny from each shot animal, with little thought to the consequence of their demands, may ask for it, however put simply, if no one agrees to do it, no one will expect it.

If you’d like to watch the film as soon as it premieres on Monday 19th November, or to set a reminder, simply use this link:

Alternatively, we will be sending the film out on the ‘Almanac’ at the end of the month. To subscribe to our monthly almanac, which provides monthly films, a simple, straight forward ‘what’s in season guide’ and a look ahead at the month to come, follow this link:



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