How To Humanely Kill A Wounded Deer

How To Humanely Kill A Wounded Deer

It’s every hunter’s worst nightmare: shooting a deer but not making a kill. There’s nothing worse than wounding an animal and causing it to suffer unnecessarily. It can also be a stressful situation because the wounded deer can take off, running into the wild.

If you’ve wounded a deer during a hunt, you must humanely kill it to end its suffering, as long as you’re able to track it safely.

Before you go ahead, there are some important things you need to know. We’ll explain how to humanely kill a wounded deer so that you kill it instantly, don’t put your life in danger, and don’t cause it to remain wounded.


Take Your Time Before Approaching A Shot Deer

Take Your Time Before Approaching A Shot Deer

One of the most important things to do if you’ve wounded a deer is to be very careful when you approach it. Even wounded, a deer can still move around.

A deer that’s been shot in a lung can even take off with speed and you don’t want to end up in its adrenaline-fueled way, as this could cause you great injuries or even death.

Even if the deer isn’t moving, for your own safety it’s essential to be careful when you approach it. It might look unconscious or dead, but it could be alive and move at any second.

Here are some tips on how to safely approach a shot deer: 

  • Move a bit closer to the deer and wait a few minutes to see if it moves. Try making a sound to see if there’s any reaction. 
  • If the deer is still alive, you will have to deliver a shot to kill it. You should do this quickly. 
  • If you want to mount the deer’s head, it’s better to shoot it in the heart area so you leave its face and head intact. 
  • If you’re not mounting the deer head, you can shoot a bullet into any part of its head, the base of the ear is ideal. This will kill it instantly. 
  • If you’re hunting the deer with a bow rather than a gun, you’ll have to shoot the arrow into the heart-lung area as quickly as possible to deliver a swift kill. 

Shooting A Deer In The Head: What You Should Know 

Shooting A Deer In The Head: What You Should Know 

If you’ve experienced the situation of wounding a deer instead of killing it and then having to deliver a second shot to end its life quickly, you’ll want to ensure that you follow better shooting practices the next time you go deer hunting.

Here are some important things to consider:

  • You might think that aiming for the deer’s head when it’s within shot is best practice, but this actually isn’t ideal. It’s too precarious and you risk wounding the deer instead of killing it.
  • If you’re aiming for the deer’s head, you can easily shoot too low, striking its face, or a little too high and miss altogether. The latter is dangerous if there are other hunters in the area.
  • Shooting the deer’s head causes a lot of damage to the deer but it might not kill it if your shot isn’t perfect. For example, if you shoot the deer’s lower jaw and the deer bolts, it will end up living for a long time in horrendous pain. 

So, where should you try to shoot a deer?

Instead of trying to down a deer by shooting it in the head, here’s a much more effective strategy. It’s called the boiler-room shot. This is when you aim for the deer’s heart-lung area.

The benefit of opting for this shot is that even if you don’t strike your target exactly where you want to, you’ll likely still hit vital organs.

Other ways to strike the heart-lung area of the deer include:

  • Performing a high-shoulder shot. 
  • Aiming for the middle of the chest. 

You’ve probably heard seasoned hunters talking about shooting a deer broadside. This is also effective. It means that you aim your gun at the deer when it’s perpendicular to you, so you have easy access to striking its heart and both of its lungs.

To help you achieve this shot, you should look at a deer when it’s broadside and visually separate its chest area into three horizontal, equal sections.

Imagine a vertical line that runs from the front leg of the deer, noting where it intersects with the bottom horizontal line. This spot is the ideal kill zone. 

What To Do With A Trophy Deer

What To Do With A Trophy Deer

Earlier, we mentioned that you need to be careful when shooting a deer so that you not only humanely kill it but you also ensure it can be a trophy animal.

Basically, this means that you shouldn’t try to shoot the deer in the head. After all, the deer head is the most valuable part of the animal to display!

There are other ways to ensure that you don’t cause damage to a trophy deer after killing it, such as the following:

  • Don’t slit the deer’s throat, it isn’t necessary as it won’t bleed out of its neck. 
  • Don’t drag the deer across the ground, this will damage and remove its hair. 
  • Don’t put any part of the deer in a plastic bag, instead, hang it up so that you encourage air circulation to remove heat from the body.
  • Make sure that you clean away any blood before you bring it to your taxidermist, it’s easier to do this when the blood is still moist. 

Related Questions 

Below are some common questions deer hunters often ask themselves.

Should you aim for the deer’s neck?

Should you aim for the deer’s neck?

Aiming at a deer’s neck is risky. If you do choose to do this, a good method is to aim when the deer is facing away from you and target the base of its neck. This will ensure you can strike its spine. 

How can you ensure that a deer is dead?

You should check the deer’s eye reflex to be sure that you’ve effectively killed it. Touch the deer’s eye. If there aren’t any reflexes, the deer could be unconscious or dead. Its eyes should be open and look glassy. If the deer’s eyes are closed, it could still be alive. 


Whenever you go deer hunting, you want to reduce your risk of injuring a deer instead of killing it right away.

In this article, we’ve highlighted some important tips for you to bear in mind the next time you go hunting, from where on the deer to aim to how to humanely kill a wounded deer.


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