12 Unethical Shots You Shouldn’t Take on Deer

Have You Ever Tried One of These Shot Angles?

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap
Running Shot

Image 1 of 12

1 | Running Shot

Some people believe the running shot is an ethical one to take. I don’t think it's easy — no matter how good of a shot you are. There are too many variables in play. The deer is moving for one. Two, their running motions are never constant and are always changing. There’s just too much that can go wrong. Wounding a deer isn’t worth it.

Ethical Shot with a Bow: No

Ethical Shot with a Gun: No

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Tom Reichner

Image 1 of 12

Long Shots

Image 2 of 12

2 | Long Shots

This all depends on skill, weapon and conditions. If you have the skill to take a “longer” shot, do so. But make sure the conditions are good and your weapon is capable. Those things make the distinction on whether or not the shot you take is considered ethical or not.

Ethical Shot with a Bow: Varies

Ethical Shot with a Gun: Varies

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Tony Campbell

Image 2 of 12

Head Shots

Image 3 of 12

3 | Head Shots

Under no circumstance should you ever take a head shot on a deer — with gun or bow. I oftentimes hear people tout how they head-shot a deer and dropped it instantly. Well, sure, if you hit the brain the deer is dead, no doubt. But you’re aiming at a baseball-sized object. And that leaves a lot of room for error. Miss the brain and the result is a deer with a long road of pain and suffering.

Ethical Shot with a Bow: No

Ethical Shot with a Gun: No

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Tom Reichner

Image 3 of 12

Neck Shots

Image 4 of 12

4 | Neck Shots

Neck shots also leave room for error, but under the right circumstances, are considered to be ethical shot opportunities with a rifle. Never take that shot with a bow, though. It can lead to a wounded and unrecoverable deer.

Ethical Shot with a Bow: No

Ethical Shot with a Gun: Yes

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Critterbiz

Image 4 of 12

Gut Shots

Image 5 of 12

5 | Gut Shots

I don’t know why anyone would ever advocate taking a gut shot, but I’ve seen it done. Simply put, don’t do it. Aim for the heart and lung region — not the paunch. This is a recipe for disaster. Sure, if you accidentally hit it — which you will if you hunt long enough — it is a lethal hit. But it typically results in eight to 10 hours of suffering for a deer that may or may not leave a blood trail.

Ethical Shot with a Bow: No

Ethical Shot with a Gun: No

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Tony Campbell

Image 5 of 12

Straight-On Shots

Image 6 of 12

6 | Straight-On Shots

Straight-on shots are often taken by gun hunters. I personally prefer not to take this shot with a gun or bow. I’d rather wait for a broadside or quartering-shot opportunity. That said, for those hunting with a large-caliber gun, it is a lethal shot. Again, there’s just a lot of room for error. Best to wait for a better opportunity.

Ethical Shot with a Bow: No

Ethical Shot with a Gun: Varies

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Jim Cumming

Image 6 of 12

Quartering-To Shots

Image 7 of 12

7 | Quartering-To Shots

This is another iffy one. Yes, as long as you understand correct shot placement, it’s an ethical shot opportunity with a gun. I’d advise against this with a bow, though. The shoulder prevents too much of a problem to bowhunters to risk taking it.

Ethical Shot with a Bow: No

Ethical Shot with a Gun: Yes

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Jim Cumming

Image 7 of 12

Straight Away Shots

Image 8 of 12

8 | Straight Away Shots

No Texas heart shots here. Don’t take this shot. I don’t care if you’re using a gun, bow, cannon or slingshot. Don’t take it. This shot is unethical and completely irresponsible. Just don’t do it.

Ethical Shot with a Bow: No

Ethical Shot with a Gun: No

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Critterbiz

Image 8 of 12

Straight-Down Shots

Image 9 of 12

9 | Straight-Down Shots

This one can be deceiving. You might think it’s ethical — but it isn’t. It’s extremely difficult to double-lung a deer from this angle and aiming for the heart and lungs from above can be harder than you think. People frequently hit further back than they intend to.

Ethical Shot with a Bow: No

Ethical Shot with a Gun: No

Photo credit: Shutterstock / BG Smith

Image 9 of 12

Bedded Deer Shots

Image 10 of 12

10 | Bedded Deer Shots

I’m not a fan of taking shots on bedded deer. Others are, though. In my opinion, the vitals get misplaced and are situated slightly differently than with a standing deer. So, for those who are unfamiliar with this, taking a shot on a bedded deer can be tough. That said, I’m not going to say taking a shot on a bedded broadside deer is unethical. It isn’t. You just need to practice and educate yourself before doing so.

Ethical Shot with a Bow: Varies

Ethical Shot with a Gun: Varies

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Tony Campbell

Image 10 of 12

Sky-Lined Shots

Image 11 of 12

11 | Sky-Lined Shots

This is a shot you should never take. Always have a safe backdrop behind your target. It doesn’t matter what weapon you use. If the deer is on the horizon with no solid ground behind it, don’t take the shot.

Ethical Shot with a Bow: No

Ethical Shot with a Gun: No

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Tom Reichner

Image 11 of 12

Stacked Shots

Image 12 of 12

12 | Stacked Shots

And never take the shot when there are other deer is beyond the one that’s in your sights. It’s too easy for your bullet or projectile to pass through the intended target and strike another. Wait until all deer have cleared in the background before pulling the trigger.

Ethical Shot with a Bow: No

Ethical Shot with a Gun: No

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Kevin M. McCarthy

Don’t Miss: 20 Deer Hunting Lies Your Granddaddy Told You

Are you a deer hunter wanting to learn how to accomplish your goals? Check out our stories, videos and hard-hitting how-to's on deer hunting.

Follow us on Facebook.

Image 12 of 12

Wait for him to stop. Let him turn broadside. Are you steady? Are you on him? Don’t take the shot unless you feel completely comfortable.

These are all questions and statements I heard from my mentors when I first got into hunting. And I’ve said the same to those who I’ve mentored since then. But why is it so important to maintain safe, ethical habits while afield? It’s simple. The game you pursue — the white-tailed deer — deserves it. And you’ll give it the ethics the most-loved big game animal in America (or anything you hunt) deserves.

Ethics is a big part of deer hunting — perhaps the biggest. To be blunt, an unethical hunter isn’t a hunter at all. They’re someone who shows hunting in a bad light. That’s something we don’t need. It’s that simple.

Some might say that ethics are relative to the individual. I agree with that . . . to a degree. What might be an ethical shot distance for one person isn’t for another. But that’s in relation to shot distances — not angles. With only minor exceptions for a couple of these, I’m a firm believer that the following 12 scenarios should be instances where the shot isn’t taken — with a bow. Some of the following situations are okay when holding a capable firearm in-hand. But more on that momentarily.