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The most effective shots are delivered to an animal’s vital organs—the heart and lungs. In large game animals, these organs lie in the forward body cavity behind the front shoulder.

A lung shot is the most effective shot for big game.

The brain is not considered a vital organ when hunting big game because it occupies a small, hard-to-hit area. All too often, hunters aiming for the brain do not hit their target. Animals injured due to a misplaced shot to the brain often escape the hunter and suffer a lingering death. The area of the vital organs 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.

An exception to the no-head-shot rule occurs while turkey hunting with a shotgun. For more information, see the Turkey Hunting section on the next page.

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 a clear shot to the vital organs, wait until the animal presents the best possible shot.

Best shot for larger game such as the elk, is broadside
Best shot for larger game such as the bear, is broadside