Where To Shoot A Deer With A Bow (Place To Aim For Killshot)

By Andy Ryan


Updated at
deer's body parts

Hunting for deer with a bow is an art – one that requires patience, skill, and accuracy. Here we provide you the best spot to shoot a deer for that kill shot.

The five most effective places to shoot a Deer are:  

  1. The Brain  
  2. The Neck  
  3. The Heart  
  4. The Lungs  
  5. The Shoulder 


Getting Started



One of the things hunters are careful about is to shoot and kill the prey as quickly and painlessly as possible. It is a common philosophy among hunters to respect their prey and make sure it stuffers as little as possible before it dies.  

The goal is to kill the prey in a single shot. This requires you to know what places to shoot in order to kill the prey quickly.  

When hunting a deer, hunters are taught to aim for the heart and lungs. But are these the most effective areas you should be aiming for?  

Let’s discuss the five targets you should shoot at to bring down a deer easily and painlessly.  


1. The Brain




A perfect shot that penetrates into the brain will definitely kill a deer instantly. An arrow or a bullet through the brain discontinues all life functions, leaving the deer unconscious instantly and painlessly. Since a gunshot through the body results in some wastage of meat, shooting the brain is a popular method to kill a deer among hunters. (1)

However, the brain is a very small target as compared to others. Missing the brain might result in injuring the deer. Particularly for bow hunters, a brain shot should not be attempted unless the shooter is exceptionally skilled.  


  • The deer dies instantly when shot in the brain.  
  • The deer dies painlessly when shot in the brain, which makes it good from an ethical standpoint.  
  • There is no meat lost because of the shot.  


  • The brain is too small a target. You might miss or hit some unwanted place.  


2. The Neck



The spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. If the spinal cord is severed, the result is quite similar to the Brian shot. A shot on the spinal cord would immediately make a deer unconscious and kill it, causing as little pain as possible. A shot on the spinal cord also does minimal damage to the meat. (2

However, it may be tricky to get this shot right for most hunters. If the shot misses and hits the deer somewhere else, you would greatly injure the deer without killing it. You might need to shoot the deer another time to kill it, making it a messy kill. The size of this target area makes the neck a good target for experienced rifle hunters, not so much for bow hunters. In fact, the spinal cord is a smaller and less identifiable target than the brain. Even expert bow hunters do not aim for the spine.  


  • A shot on the spinal cord can kill a deer in a single shot. 
  • There is not a lot of meat lost because of this shot. 


  • The lethal area is very small and difficult to hit.  
  • The spinal cord is not easy to identify. 
  • Sometimes this shot will only paralyze the deer. A second shot will be needed to kill it.  
  • A shot slightly blow the spinal cord would painfully injure the deer, but it will still run away leaving you with little chance for recovery.


3. The Heart



The heart is a relatively large target compared to the previous two targets. When a deer is shot in the heart, the bullet or the arrow usually goes through both of the lungs as well. Although a shot in the heart does not make a deer unconscious instantly like the previous two entries, it still ensures the kill and brings down the deer quite rapidly. Even if the deer does not go down and runs instead, it will leave a trail of blood that can lead you to it.

Because the heart isn’t as small as the brain or the spine in size, even if you don’t hit exactly where you intended to, you might still hit the heart and kill the target. Whether you’re using a rifle or a bow, the heart should be your primary aim unless you’re extremely confident in your accuracy.  

A shot in the heart would damage the meat where the shot hits. This is a bigger problem for rifle hunters than for bow hunters.  


  • The heart is a bigger target and easier to hit.  
  • A deer shot in the heart dies fairly quickly and painlessly as compared to other places except for the nervous system.  
  • Even if you miss the heart, it might hit the lungs, which would also kill the deer quickly.  
  • A deer hit in the heart leaves a lot of blood, making it easier to track it.  


  • The kill is not as clean or quick as hitting in the brain or the spine.  
  • Hitting the heart damages some meat.  
  • The deer do not die instantly and suffer for a bit.  


4. The Lungs



The lungs are the largest lethal area you could aim for. When lungs are shot with a bullet, the bullet passes through, making it hard to track. Arrows do not have this problem, however. When lungs are shot with an arrow, the arrows stay in place, making it easier to track the deer. A shot in the lungs is almost as effective as a shot in the heart.  

Like heart shots, a lung shot also damages some of the meat. But this is not as big a problem for bow hunters as it is for rifle hunters.  


  • Lungs are the largest target to kill the dear quickly.  
  • The deer would leave a lot of blood, making it easier to track it.  


  • Although a shot in the lungs kills the deer more quickly and painlessly than hitting in nonlethal places like the gut, it is still not as clean as the heart or the nervous system shots.  
  • If you’re only able to hit a single lung, the deer might recover, and you would have to track it.  
  • Light bullets sometimes careen off of ribs making this shot non-lethal.  


5. The Shoulder



A shot in the shoulder, when executed correctly, can kill the deer quite effectively. If the rifle has high enough power, the shock from the shot will severe the nervous system and break the spinal cord. This would result in the deer dropping unconscious instantly and dying painlessly. However, a shot in the shoulder is sure to damage the meat around the shoulder.  


  • Delivers a huge shock immobilizing the deer if the bullet hits the spine.  
  • A quick and painless kill.  


  • You might miss the spine while shooting.  
  • You need a high-caliber bullet to reach the spine.  
  • This shot damages a lot of meat.  


Don’t Shoot



There are some shots that you should not take, mainly because they are extremely unethical and make a messy kill. These are the shots that you should not take.  

High Chest Shot  


A shot between the lungs and a spine would injure a deer, but not enough to kill it. The deer will run at its full speed; it may run for 200 or more yards before it stops.  

There will be a blood trail initially, but it will peter out likely within the first 90 yards.  

In order to kill the deer, you will definitely need a second shot.  


Paunch Shot  


A shot in the gut is lethal but not as lethal as in some of the best areas to shoot a deer. A deer shot in the gut will experience a lot of pain and run for about 100 yards before it can’t anymore.  

This shot is highly painful. As a rule of thumb, you should not aim for any place on the rare half of a deer.  


Ham Shot  


The butt is one of the worst places to hit a deer. A deer shot in the ham will have trouble running, but it’s not going to kill the deer anytime soon. The deer will be in pain and may go as far as 200 yards. 


Lever Shot  


A deer shot in the level runs away immediately and can go as far as 200 yards. Unlike the stomach shot, a lever shot does not leave blood trails after 20 yards. Like other entries in this list, this area is extremely painful and should not be hit.  


Distant Shot  


The distance can have a huge impact on accuracy. However, a distant shot is defined differently for bow hunters than it is for rifle hunters. In any case, if you think you might miss, it’s better not to shoot and risk injuring the deer.  




There may not be a single best place to shoot a deer since the suitable target area depends on your hunting weapon, your skill, your position with respect to the deer, and your priorities. But now you know in some detail some of the best places to hit depending on your specifications and whether you’re hunting with a firearm or a bow. Having this information allows you to work out for yourself which area suits you best.  


(1) wastage of meat – https://www.colorado.edu/ecenter/2021/03/04/waste-meat-industry
(2) spinal cord – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326984