Shot Placement Tips for Whitetail: Quartering-To

Dec 29, 2020 | Whitetail Hunting | 0 comments

Most of us have experienced this scenario before. You finally get to full draw on that buck you’ve been watching on your trail camera, only for it to raise its head and lock eyes with you.

Your muscles ache as they continue to hold at full draw, but that buck never blinks, or turns to give you that proper broadside shot.

The quartered-to, or quartered-at, shot can be a heavily debated shot to take. You may even notice that hunter safety manuals warn prospective hunters to not take this shot. However, a skilled marksman, who is calm under pressure can find a lethal lane for their arrow.

Continuing BaseMap’s series on the ethics and lethality of shot placement, we now look into the lethality of the quartering-to shot.

The issues of the quartering-to shot stem from large bones like the scapula and sternum, large sections of muscle like the brisket, and the difficulty in puncturing both lungs at this angle.

Different angle extremes can dictate if a shot is available, or not, and how much wiggle room you can get away with when it comes to accuracy. Follow the breakdown below for shot-by-shot analysis of what to expect with some of these placements.

Scenario 1. The Mild Quartering-To Angle

This is a tough angle, but there are still options. You still have some space to place an arrow, or bullet with clear shots of vitals, but you also have large bones and muscles that will affect your shot.

C2 – C3

The only real issue with this shot is the need to hug the front shoulder, because of the less leeway you get than with a quartering-away shot.

When the animal is quartering away, you are more focused on where the arrow is exiting, because there are more vitals exposed. These two, however, must take into mind the lack of vitals in the lower cavity. Your arrow, or bullet will be pointing away from vitals like the heart and opposite lung.

The liver is still very much in play for this shot, however, and combined with one lung should provide enough damage for a short tracking job. This angle will make a heart shot incredibly difficult, however, leaving the organ almost out of play.

What To Expect With C2 – C3

If you can keep your shot tight against the shoulder, you will make quick work of your prey. Hugging tight against the shoulder will almost assuredly pass through both lungs, leaving you an obvious blood trail. If the arrow doesn’t get both lungs there is still a large chance of it striking one lung and the liver. 

Patience is key if you think your shot slipped toward the hindquarters and got shallow penetration.  Whitetail deer, generally, often don’t go very far on a single hit lung and will bed down soon after taking the hit. They will not always die quick, however. Waiting several hours is always good practice in this case. Look for smaller patches of frothy-pink blood

Dark blood mixed in the frothy pink blood may indicate the liver was also hit, which is a good sign. A liver hit animal and a single lung hit animal take a long time to die, but if both are struck it should speed up the process. That being said, you should always approach this situation as a worst case scenario, giving the animal hours to die.

D2 – D3

These shots are going to be too far back and have strong chances of missing both lungs.
Your best hope is striking the liver, but the shot could stray into the digestive cavity.
Neither of these are ideal and will involve over five hours of waiting, before starting to blood trail. A dark, crimson trail will indicate a liver hit and green, foul smelling drops in the blood, mixed with digested grass mean a stomach hit.

Neither shot is ideal, but a little patience and some due diligence can lead to a recovered animal.

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A3 – B3

(It needs to be stated, that before any shot is taken the deer needs to move his head.)
Now you are dealing with shot placement only a few degrees away from frontal. Your window for success shrinks immensely. The front shoulder is blocking much of the vitals and the large neck and brisket muscles make an arrow shot risky at best. 3A and 3B offer an opening, however, but there is no room for error.

Aiming just medial (toward the center) and slightly high will grant an opening from the large shoulder blade, just above the thick brisket, below the neck and also avoiding the sternum bone.

What To Expect With This Shot

If your nerves hold up and your shot flies true, this shot will do some serious damage. Lungs, trachea and the heart are all in play for this shot. The liver can even be in play on this shot as an arrow can encounter little resistance in the cavity and travel deeper toward the diaphragm.

An arrow will travel through the body cavity damaging all organs in its path. A bullet will do even more damage as the bullet expands, causing cavitation damage to all organs.

A proper shot with either weapon is going to result in a very short blood trail. There are no guarantees when it comes to blood trailing, but as this shot bores straight into the chest cavity, it should cause tremendous damage, resulting in massive amounts of blood.

There is even a great chance of you witnessing the animal drop in its tracks, particularly for rifle hunters with extra force of the bullet.

A4 – B4

Archery hunters, there’s a good chance you will not find this animal. The shoulder blade, brisket, and the sternum are oftentimes arrow stoppers. These obstacles will all, most likely, result in the animal getting away. Blood trails will result in specs of blood mixed with tufts of fur and, in a rifle hunter’s case, shards of bone (depending on the distance of course).

If you walk up to the spot of this shot to find these signs, your heart may rightfully sink into your stomach. That is precisely why this frontal shot should not be taken lightly, at least for archery hunters.

Bonus Square: E3

If you really pull your shot and send it flying toward 3E, your only hope will be if you were lucky enough to cut the femoral artery. Dark blood, indicating a muscular wound. The trail may be in spurts due to the artery being severed. You will still need to wait around four, or five, hours before starting your blood trail, but the blood loss should lead to your prey.

BaseMap Tip: Utilize BaseMap Weather Center

Let BaseMap’s full suite of weather tools assist you in planning your next hunt. Access temperature, barometric pressure, moon phase, sunrise/sunset times, wind speed and wind direction – all crucial elements to a hunt.

In Conclusion

The quartering-to shot is a tricky situation. Most seasoned hunters would recommend waiting for a better shot to open up. With that being said, experience and practice can be a devastating combination if conditions are right for this shot. It’s also very important to take in mind the anatomical differences of your game species. Lethal shot placement on a whitetail doesn’t always translate to elk, moose, or even bear.

There is no definitive guidebook on when it’s ok to take a shot and when you should pass. These decisions can only be made with experience. The only absolute rule in shot placement is, when in doubt, wait it out.

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