The Gut Shot - Shot Placement on Deer
- Wednesday, 12 March 2014
Professional Deer Stalker Peter Jones considers Shot Placement on Deer and looks at the consequences of a poorly placed Gut Shot.
The aim of any outing hunting deer is a clean, humane kill, and perhaps the most dreaded result of any outing and the cause of most apprehension amongst those new to hunting, is a wounded animal.
The vast majority of hunters, professional and recreational, are not cruel and take no pleasure in seeing an animal suffer and so if it is not likely that a shot will be clean then most will rightly decline to take it.
(Above: The correct shot placement for a heart/lung shot)
Many lines have been written providing hunters with guidance on where to find the ‘sweet spot’ and in the UK this is traditionally the heart/lung broadside shot. also known as a 'cavity shot'. To find this ideal shot placement, I always recommend to beginners that on a broadside deer the hunter should draw their vertical cross hair up the fore leg and place the horizontal cross hair half way up the body, along with a diagram such as the one above, this will usually suffice.
Just occasionally however, things go wrong and in the worst case scenarios this can result in a gut-shot. On a broadside animal this is usually when a shot has been placed too far back toward the hind quarters and too low. If too far back and high the spine will be severed and recovery will not be too difficult due to the animals collapse. However with a low shot the beast will not bleed out and will receive no damage to the nervous system, instead all the trauma will be absorbed by the gut.
Typically the reaction to a gut shot will see the deer hunch up and move off slowly. A similar reaction as might be expected if we were to receive a blow to the stomach! With a gut shot death is more or less inevitable however, it will not be a swift one. Instead the animal will lay up where possible, before succumbing to toxic poisoning and starvation many hours or even days later.
(Above: The tragic consequences of a Gut Shot)
Tragically whilst out deer stalking recently we came across one such victim. Having been struck by a wayward shot from ‘hunter unknown’, the deer had undoubtedly run with the herd for some time before succumbing to the wound.
Clearly if you stalk deer for long enough accidents will happen and shot’s will be placed imperfectly. In my experience these shots will usually be the result of shooting in poor light and at extended ranges.
If I were to speculate as to the reason for this, I would suggest that when the image of the deer is less clear in the rifle scope the shooters concentration is drawn to the larger more identifiable mass of the body, the aim will usually follow suit and in so doing, it will draw the bullet toward the gut.
Lessons? Well my advice would be to avoid long distance shots beyond your capability. Avoid shooting in very poor light, and keep your shot placement forward. Even if you just clip the front of the neck you will get a strong bleed, or else you will get a clean miss. Too far back however and your chances of recovery diminish rapidly.
Should things go wrong, your attention should focus on putting the animal out of it’s misery as soon as practicable, this will usually involve enlisting the aid of a well trained deer dog.
Don’t let the type of image shown above be the result of your having stretched your ability, no self respecting deer stalker wants this type of thing on their conscience.