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Thread: Number of shots to down a deer

  1. #1
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Number of shots to down a deer

    I have been a member at a hunt club for a few years. Everyone uses commercial ammunition and I use jacketed bullets. Calibers range from .243 to .30/06 and shots are at 50-275 yards. All were shot from a blind except one buck that was gut shot at 80 yards with a .30/06

    All have been one shot kills and we have not lost an animal. Nearly lost the gut shot buck.

    What has been your experience?
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    My experience has been that any time the bullet is actually placed on target (meaning right where you were aiming and were supposed to be aiming) the deer dies. I read a comment on here not too long ago where someone said they were tired of chasing and losing deer shot through the heart and lungs because they didn’t have enough gun. Does anyone really believe this person was losing lung/heart shot deer because he wasn’t using enough gun? I’ll call BS on that any day. I spent one forty year stretch of my hunting career (sixty years this last season) hunting all gun season with handguns. As puny as they are, I shot over fifty deer with .357mag revolvers and another twenty or so with .44mag, 30-30, and 7 tcu. The only deer I lost in that forty year stretch was with a 44mag full power load. A bad hit is a bad shot and it can cost you a lost deer. I was walking/stalking with that shot and the deer moved as I was shooting. If you hunt long enough and get enough opportunities, you can and probably will make a bad hit. It’s incumbent on any hunter to make a good shot and if that means using sticks, rests, limiting distance, etc then they should be doing it. It sounds like your hunt club has their act together in that regard. Sometimes you just have to pass on a shot if everything isn’t coming together to insure a good hit.
    Note: your post got me thinking about something. I’ve shot over two hundred deer in my life (hunting four states gives you a lot of opportunities and age just adds to it). I’ve only shot three deer that I can remember where I used a bolt action centerfire rifle. All three were back in the 1970’s.

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master


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    I've never had to shoot a whitetail more than once to put it on the ground. I have had to do a finish shot at close range with a pistol. I, however, am very careful and picky about the shots and have passed up many because they were not right
    I Am Descended From Men Who Would Not Be Ruled

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  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Few have ever gone more than a few yards shot either with my muzzleloaders or modern rifle except one nice buck taken during our rut two years ago with a muzzleloader. He had his harem of six does on the clearcut when I shot from 75 yards. When the smoke cleared, no deer were to be seen so I waited about ten minutes. The does re-emerged with the buck harrying them so I fired again and he went down instantly from a neck shot. When I field dressed him, I found that the first ball went right where it had been aimed and destroyed the heart. He had completely bled out inside the body cavity. He went for ten minutes operating on pure testosterone with no blood left. I would have never found him if those does had not brought him back out from the thick stuff.

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy badguybuster's Avatar
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    I dont know anyone who has required mutliple shots but then again, we are all lifelong hunters. Its rare here in WV to get a shot past 100 yards so distance isnt really a factor

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Shawlerbrook's Avatar
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    Back in the days when this area was shotgun only and before rifled barrels and sabots, multiple shot were more common. These days with scoped rifles, most are one shots kills or clean misses.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    NSB, one of the best replies I've read in a very long time!

    Dick

  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master


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    What is a hunt club?

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    I shot a bunch of whitetails in my life using round patched ball and my custom PA flintlock longrifles!
    Never lost one or had to chase one. The longest run after hit was 40 yards! 3 were shot between 75 and 100 yards
    Never felt I was under gunned for Heart or Lung shot!
    " Associate with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation: for it is better to be alone than in bad company. " George Washington

  10. #10
    Boolit Master


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    I also have deer hunted since probably 1969 and have taken several whitetail doe and buck without an issue. I have "not done my part" in making a good clean shot a couple of times which resulted in a long tracking job. However most have been 1 shot kills with several different calibers and probably half with jacketed and half with cast using .243, 7mm Mauser, 7mag, 307 Winchester, 308, 30/06, 357mag(rifle), 35 Rem, 35 Whelen, 375 H&H, 444Marlin,45/70, and several muzzleloaders thrown in. You get the idea. I have seen big bucks that were shot improperly with big rifles having trouble dying (not a good sight). I believe shot placement is the key and if an improperly placed shot is from any firearm it will probably result in a wounded animal. Possibly a lost animal. I do also believe that proper alloy is important when choosing to hunt with cast. I settled it in my mind long ago that a mix of 50/50 wheel weight/pure lead + 3% tin is a good mix.
    Mark 5:34 And He said to her (Jesus speaking), "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction."

  11. #11
    Boolit Grand Master


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    NSB nailed the essence of my question. I hear about deer being lost after taking supposedly “good” hits and I do not buy it. None of the guys at deer camp are expert marksmen, but they all get the job done and we have never lost a deer.

    I do not have a lot of hunting experience so I started wondering what reality is. I cannot imagine a deer shot in the boiler room running over 100 yards as some have reported. I am a shooter, not a hunter. Every shot is taken only if I am confident it will be a kill shot. And so far I have been “lucky”.
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by dverna View Post
    NSB nailed the essence of my question. I hear about deer being lost after taking supposedly “good” hits and I do not buy it. None of the guys at deer camp are expert marksmen, but they all get the job done and we have never lost a deer.

    I do not have a lot of hunting experience so I started wondering what reality is. I cannot imagine a deer shot in the boiler room running over 100 yards as some have reported. I am a shooter, not a hunter. Every shot is taken only if I am confident it will be a kill shot. And so far I have been “lucky”.
    If shot “through the heart” you will see that bucking bull high kick and the deer will run 100-125 yards (approximately). If a tracker is not very skilled he can walk right by one in the bush. They will go under the worst brush you ever saw. I had one shot at about 75 yards that went away from me but was found under brush that was 35 yards from where I was standing when I fired by another hunter that I had recruited to help search. On the other hand, if you shoot them in the arteries at the top of the heart, they are dead right there. It has worked for me 100% of the time. So, learn to visualize that shot and it will work for you.
    USMC 6638

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    I have shot several deer multiple times mostly because they were standing there and not falling down. I shot a very large mule deer at 330 yards 4 times in the chest with a very fast 6mm. He stood there and took it every hit was lethal.

    Shot an average mule deer buck with a 25-06AI 3 times in the chest before he fell over lungs were gone part of his heart was missing he wasn't going anywhere but I kept shooting him until he wasn't on his feet.

    One and done is nice but I shoot the fight out of them after the first shot.

    I also shot an elk this year with a 6.8spc and she fell over before I could get another shot it her. Depends on the animal but I always plan on shooting at least twice.
    Last edited by dk17hmr; 01-17-2022 at 11:18 PM.
    Doug
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  14. #14
    Boolit Man
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    It is all shot placement, that involves knowing your limitations and your guns limitations.

    I grew up in Wyoming and Montana, I heard that more deer were poached with a 22 than any other caliber, they were one shot kills. On the other hand it was not uncommon for us to take 300 yard shots, with a lager caliber rife, across canyons or on the flats. It did require a good rest, a stationary animal, and plenty of time. The greatest majority of the time when we did hit the animal, it went down. If it did not, we generally had a good enough field of view to take a second shot. Very few times did we have to trail one.

    Once watched a fellow "shoot" an elk by running the bolt and ejecting live rounds, with out pulling the trigger. When done, he walked off amazed that he had hit the critter every time, but it still did not fall down. He went to look for a blood trail. When we tried to tell him what happened, he did not believe us. We had to take him beck to where he shot from and he picked up the loaded ammo off the ground.

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master



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    I have killed over 225 deer with a firearm. The only time I have every had issues with needing more than one shot is when I used bullets designed for much heavier game. They acted like solids. I failed to recover one deer with the firearm.
    2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

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  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    There are so many deer here in Maryland I never feel the need to rush anything. If it's not a standing broadside, I just wait. Won't be long for that "perfect" target to show up. As a consequence, mine are "almost" always one shot drop deals. By far, most of my shots are 25 yards or so. Some closer, some farther.

  17. #17
    Boolit Bub
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    I notice that a lot of and maybe even MOST deer hunters consider it a shameful thing to have to pull the trigger more than once for a deer. I've never been like that myself. No matter how good the deer is hit, I shoot it again and again if it looks like it may get away or even if it looks like it will live more than a few seconds after the 1st hit. I consider putting the animal out of it's suffering to be way more important than my pride.

    I have also seen some deer display astounding toughness on a few occasions. One was a doe that took 3 hits from my 460 Weatherby to keep it down. I was shooting the original Barnes 300 grain spitzer bullet with a max load of IMR 4350. I don't recall chronographing the load but it was supposed to be above 2,900 ft/sec. The range was about 125 yards and the doe was trotting. I didn't lead enough and hit it at the rear of the ribs. At bullet impact I saw a doulbe handful of guts drop out of the doe and she spun 180 degrees and headed out across an open field. I shot again with more lead and hit right behind the shoulder in the classic spot. The deer dropped like a wet rag but came back up immediately. I raced the bolt again and whacked her one more time in the same spot. Dropped like a wet rag again but incredibly started struggling to her feet again. I was working furiously to put another cartridge in the chamber and was raising the rifle when she dropped again for the final time. Two of those bullets exited and one stuck right under the for side hide. Expansion was perfect and obviously the energy left nothing to be desired. Of course the problem was adrenaline from the bad first shot. In spite of that it's hard to comprehend a deer absorbing that much and staying on it's feet. The whole thing was probably over in 15 seconds though so they don't have to live long to go a good distance.

    I had another instance with a real long shot where I didn't estimate the wind drift properly and hit too far back again. The deer rand about 100 yards and stopped with it's head down. Thankfully it was out in a huge field so I could get another shot. The second shot was right behind the shoulder and it didn't do anything but make the buck run another 100 yards and stop. You could see a wide streak of blood running down his chest from a perfect hit on the 2nd shot. It took another hit to drop him. Again, once they are wounded from a bad hit, it can take a lot to drop them.

    Also I've had deer that went down from good hits but still had their heads up and there was a good chance they were going to suffer longer than I was willing to tolerate so I shot again.

    I hunted from the mid 1970's to 2019 before I lost a deer though. I lost 2 that year and it sort of shook me up. One of them I still don't understand. It was a nice 8 point using my 50 caliber muzzle loader and two 50 grain 777 pellets with the Lee 310 grain .429 bullet. I cast it from 50/50 CoWW/pure Lead with just a little tin added. Range was 90 to 100 yards and the buck was quartering towards me with it's head down. At the shot it dropped straight down. When the little puff of smoke cleared the buck was on it's belly still very much alive with it's neck stretched straight out in front with head wobbling side to side. If I'd had a cartridge gun I could have easily shot it again. All I could do with the muzzle loader was work as fast as I could to reload but I wasn't even close to being ready when I looked up and the buck was gone. No blood trail no nothing.

  18. #18
    Boolit Bub
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    Remembered another doe taken with the 460 Weatherby. This time I was using the Hornady 350 grain round nose bullet which is a tougher bullet intended more for game larger than deer in a 458 Winchester. I had loaded it around 2,900 ft/sec also. I was slow walking a dirt road in the woods when I saw a doe looking at me from under some low hanging brush about 115 yards away. I took my time and did an off hand shot and the deer flipped and landed on it's back with feet straight up in the air. Since it's head was down with the neck in line with the spine when I shot I hit it in the throat right behind the jaw. The bullet traveled all the way down the neck through the entire body and exited right beside the tail. When I got to it, it was laying there very much alive but unable to move. I shot it again. Ammo is cheap.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    Very few people “do the math” on taking a shot at a deer moving at any speed. Fact is, most people don’t really “lead” on a shot. They get in front to some extent and just like a lot of skeet and sporting clays shooters they stop the gun while they pull the trigger. This happens very quickly and they don’t realize what they’re actually doing. Also, the micro-second in time is enough for a deer to move a foot or even feet before the bullet actually gets there. I’m not telling anyone not to shoot, that’s their business. I’m simply saying that a moving deer and lead usually don’t add up very well. The further away they are the worse it is. The shooter leads, stops the gun, and pulls the trigger….add the trigger pull and lock time into the equation. If you want to see how this works here’s a fun thing to do: Get some sporting clays rabbit targets and just roll them down a chute and have the shooter with a rifle (I’d suggest a .22lr for safety) call for the rabbit. That should help, right? Try it at just 20 or 25 yards and see what your hit percentage is and watch how far behind the target you hit. My advice is to consider all of this when shooting at moving deer and not having a rest of some sort.
    Note: I went to a shoot one time where they shot a full sized steel deer target hanging on a cable with a motor pulling it at 75 yards. It wasn’t going that fast, but only the experienced guys at the club were getting any hits at all and most of their shots were misses. Everyone else just missed. They also shot the rolling rabbit targets. It was fun and eye opening.

  20. #20
    Boolit Bub
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    Yeah most rifle shooters are too concerned with precision and won't pull the trigger because they are waiting for a perfect shot or like you said they stop just as they fire. Truth is that there isn't one precise spot on a deer that is lethal but rather an area and you have to learn to pull the trigger when you are on that area or you won't ever shoot. I've killed a good number of running deer and coyotes but then I've spent a lot of time with shotguns over the years so moving targets are not such a strange thing.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check