Official Montana Hunting Safety Course Link to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Hello, hunter! Montana's online hunting course has moved. Click here to go to the latest version of the Today's Hunter in Montana course—the official hunting safety course of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

The following course material is for reference only. Please go to the new course to complete your Montana certification.

Picking Your Shot

At some point, you’ll have to choose: to shoot or not to shoot. This is one of the most important decisions you will make in the field because once you pull the trigger, there is absolutely no way for you to call back the shot.

Before you shoot, ask yourself:

  • Is the shot safe—do you know your target and what lies beyond it?
  • Is the animal within your personal effective shooting range (the range at which you can shoot accurately)?
  • Is the animal turned in such a way that you can get a good killing shot?

Your goal is to make one-shot kills every time. The shot you choose plays a large part in deciding whether or not you are successful in getting an animal.

Where Should You Aim?

To make a one-shot kill (a shot that kills an animal at once so you do not need to shoot again), one of the things you need to know is where to aim. Even when you know how far away an animal is, and you know you can hit a target at that distance, you still have to place your shot correctly to get a clean and immediate kill. A poorly placed shot will wound an animal and inflict unnecessary suffering. The animal may run off or fly away and you may not be able to find it. It may die from its wounds and is wasted. It is illegal to intentionally waste game in Montana.

Good hunters can hit what they are aiming at and they know where to aim to kill an animal quickly and effectively. They know, in effect, how to place a killing shot.

The most effective shot is one delivered to an animal’s vital organs—heart, lungs, and liver—located in the body cavity inside the rib cage behind the shoulder. A shot placed in this area, referred to as the vital area, is fatal and produces considerable bleeding since the area also contains major blood vessels. Bleeding is essential in case tracking is necessary. Do not attempt to place a shot in the head or neck since they offer very small targets and may result in an animal being wounded. If you can’t make a killing shot, don’t shoot at all.

There are three different positions that make a killing shot more likely. To make a clean shot, wait for an animal to turn broadside or to be quartering-away or forward.

Montana Fish, Wildlife,
& Parks
White-tailed deer tracks
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Official hunting safety course for Montana hunters last modified: November 16, 2011
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