Proper Shot Placement for Humane Hunting

Understanding the anatomy of an animal will help to ensure that it does not experience unnecessary suffering from a misplaced shot.

| February 2016

Large buck

Proper shot placement basically means hitting your prey hard in a vital area in a way that creates a wound that will kill it as quickly as possible.

Photo by Fotolia/mbridger68

Wild meat, hunted in a responsible way, is one of the most healthful, sustainable foods possible. Depending on how it is done, hunting can be as local, intimate and humane as it gets. And aside from this, it demands the hunter enter a world of awareness, wildness, life and death that we have lost connection to as a culture.

The Compassionate Hunter's Guidebook (New Society Publishers, 2014) by Miles Olson is a guide for those that come to the act of hunting with pure intentions, motivated by a desire for healthy food that comes directly from the land where they live. This practical manual suggests that hunting is not a "sport" and the animals whose lives are taken are not "game." It combines a deep, philosophical exploration of the ethics of killing with detailed instructions on every step of the process. The following excerpt is from Chapter 6, "The Shot, and After."

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Compassionate Hunter's Guidebook.

Making the kill

Taking a shot at a living creature is a big deal. A poorly placed shot can result in serious suffering for your prey, and should be avoided to the greatest extent possible. You should honor the seriousness of taking a shot by preparing yourself and knowing your limits. Even extremely well-seasoned hunters will sometimes be overwhelmed by what is usually called “buck fever”: a surge of emotion that can make taking a steady shot difficult to impossible. There is a fine line between pushing yourself, which is something often necessary in order to accomplish any hunting, and knowing when to back down and wait. Navigating that fine line is a big part of hunting responsibly. To hunt successfully you need to be decisive, need to take the shot, but you also need to know when to pass, when to simply let things be.

Preparing yourself psychologically and emotionally

One of the things I emphasize whenever I am speaking to people about taking a life for food is the incredible importance of having a clear mind and clear energy before even thinking about trying to go out hunting. If you are filled with conflict, whether it be from the argument you and your partner are having, stress about bills or guilt about that awful thing you just did to someone, leave the gun or bow at home. Go out to the woods and clear your mind. If you are trying to hunt filled with turmoil and conflict, you run an elevated risk of harvesting turmoil and conflict. I speak from experience on this, but the stories are too personal and strange to share here. Suffice it to say that if your life is a mess, sometimes the laws of physics will actually bend in order to make your hunt a disaster. But even on a common sense level, heading into a hunt when you are upset can lead to bad decision-making. You’re more likely to forget to click the safety on, to swing your gun or razor-sharp broadhead around carelessly, so on and so forth. Heading into a hunt when you are off center is bad news.

So try to purify yourself.

mother earth news fair


More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!