Shot Placement Tips For Whitetail: Quartering Away
The Most Effective Shot Placements
Shot placement, bullet grain, bullet type, caliber, broadhead type, and arrow weight are all heavily argued over when it comes to effectively killing big game. The one that rises above all other arguments, however, is shot placement.
Proper shot placement will put down most animals quickly, but your shot placement is always dictated by your quarrie’s position.
A broadside shot is often the most popular when it comes to game position, but the most forgiving and deadly is the quartering away shot.
Quartering away allows archers and rifle hunters wiggle room when it comes to a shot being a little back and it also decreases the chance of hitting a shoulder bone directly. The position also exposes a wider range of vital organs for maximum killing potential.
With that being said, not every shot made quartering away is solid and bad shots can still be made.
Below is a shot grid diagram of a quartered-away whitetail buck. Follow along as BaseMap breaks down the effects of each shot placement, what sort of blood trail to expect, tactics for tracking certain shot placements, and how likely you will be to recover your animal.
(Shots will be limited to the body cavity as other placements are fairly obvious when not a lethal kill)
B1 – C1 – D1
This is bad news. More often than not you will prefer to take a low shot over a high shot, but if you’re hitting in any of these squares, you’ve already hit too high. The two scenarios here are hitting the backstrap or the spine.
A backstrap will be obvious because the animal will run away immediately. The blood trail will start with a few drops, then gain some steam, giving you a false sense of confidence. Unfortunately, the blood often begins to dry up quickly. The blood will be a dark, deep, red color indicating a muscle shot and the animal will likely survive this hit assuming infection does not overtake.
A spine shot is your best-case scenario for this situation as it will drop the animal where it stands, but will not be fatal. Spine shots immobilize the animal but will require a follow-up shot.
You are still not quite in an ideal area for this shot. A little far forward and you risk hitting the shoulder and a little high and you might only get part of one lung. A dead center hit, however, is going to get lungs and the animal should be dispatched relatively quickly.
This unit will not drastically drop the animal’s blood pressure immediately, therefore, you can expect it to run.
Your blood trail should look pink and bubbly. This is a great hit and should be a cause of relief and excitement for any hunter. The highly oxygenated, bubbly blood indicates a lung hit. The amount of blood may help you determine if you’ve hit one, or both lungs.
If you wait an hour, or more, and follow the blood trail for several hundred yards, you may want to hang back and wait longer as an elongated blood trail could mean only one lung was hit. If you press the animal, you could risk bumping it and may be in for a very long day after that, as big game running on one lung and adrenaline can travel shockingly far.
The general rule of a quartering away shot is to aim with the opposite front leg as your backstop. This shot gets you close to that rule. The shot is still slightly high for a level shot, but the angle will do plenty of damage.
This shot is sure to get both lungs and there is a chance of doing damage to the liver as well.
Again, this shot will not drastically reduce the animal’s blood pressure reducing the chance that it immediately drops in place, but odds are it won’t travel far.
The blood trail is going to be obvious. If you’re lucky enough to make this shot with snow on the ground, the trail may as well be illuminated with neon lights.
You still must practice patience, of course, as you should with most all shots, but the initial blood will leave you waiting confident that you are finding that animal.
Another general rule for quartering away is; the more the animal is facing away, the farther back you want to make your shot. This angle, however, is not extreme enough for a far back shot. The shot will most likely hit the liver, which is a fatal blow, but is going to take more time than one would like.
Your initial blood trail may not be strong and the color will be a dark crimson. When you find blood like this, you should back off immediately. Your wait should be closer to three, or four hours (or more) and you may want help tracking as the trail may require some hands and knees searching. Take solace, though, in knowing that a liver hit is fatal and perseverance will lead you to your animal. Ideally, if one makes this shot, keeping eyes on your quarry if possible is key.
B3 – B4
Depending on the angle of the animal, if your shot is a little forward here you risk hitting the shoulder.
But, if you hug a little back at this angle, you are golden and placed a just about perfect shot. From here you are hitting lungs and most likely the heart as it sits on the left side of the animal’s body. B4 is going to be a little better shot and will most likely drop the animal’s blood pressure drastically. This could leave the animal dead in its tracks, or just a few yards away from the shot.
Blood is going to be obvious, with a mixture of heart and lungs being hit.
Congratulations on a great shot and filling your tag!
You are looking at a double lung shot here. Blood will be plentiful, pink, and frothy. The entirety of this shot is better than the best-case scenario of the C2 slot.
Give the deer an hour, or so, and start tracking. At the end of the trail, pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
This shot is getting into the “too low” territory for how far back it is. At the lower level of the shot you risk hitting the gut and might possibly miss both lungs. At a higher level, however, you are more likely to hit the left lung and pass through the right lung as well.
Checking the arrow, if you can find it, will be key in figuring out where you hit. Try smelling the arrow for stomach contents and looking at the shaft for chewed forage. If this is the case, you’re going to have a long wait and need a little luck. Make sure and give the animal even more time than you would for the liver hit, even up to 8+ hours.
The animal is mortally wounded but will need a lot of time to bed and die.
If your hit is a little higher, however, you should be looking at a similar blood trail as C3.
Shot placement is a difficult skill to master and many variables can go into each shot. On top of that not every animal is built the same. The same placement on a whitetail may not have the same lethality on an elk and may be much different for a bear.
This series is designed to give a hard look at the best shot placements and the detective work that comes after each one.
Each shot scenario is different with weather, brush and the animal’s attention affecting your shot.
Plus you probably aren’t running into many bucks with grid patterns over their body.