About the Study Guide

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Every hunter wants to bring home the game he or she is seeking; true sportsmen strive to do it by inflicting a minimal amount of suffering. To achieve these twin goals, it’s essential that you understand the anatomy of the game you’re after and learn how to place a shot for a quick, clean kill.

Cavities of a deer
Big game animals have two distinct body cavities: the abdominal cavity and the chest cavity. The two cavities are separated by the diaphragm muscle.

The most effective shots are delivered to an animal’s vital organs—heart and lungs. In large game animals, these organs lie in the chest cavity behind the front shoulder. A lung shot is the most effective shot for big game.

The area of the vital organs also contains major blood vessels and arteries. A shot in this area causes considerable bleeding. If the animal doesn’t die immediately and tries to flee, it will leave a blood trail that’s easy to track.

Aside from being a good marksman, the key to a clean kill is patience. Hunters should limit shots to the vital organs only. If you do not have clear shot to the vital organs, wait until the animal presents the best possible shot.

Know the Primary Aiming Zone of Game

You need to learn the primary aiming zone of each big game animal you hunt. For example, the area just behind the front leg of a white-tailed deer—approximately the size of a paper plate—is the primary aiming zone. When shooting, you should focus on an aiming spot—about the size of a quarter—in the center of the aiming zone. This provides a bull's-eye over the vital organs.