Humane Shooting and Shot Placement

Humane shooting principles and proper shot placement

When hunting with firearms, there are two primary areas where a shot should be placed: the head kill zone and the chest kill zone. These areas accommodate vital organs and major blood vessels, which, when damaged by projectile impact, achieve a rapid humane death.

Projectiles from firearms kill in a numbers of ways. Projectile impact causes direct physical damage to bone and soft tissue. Projectile impact disrupts blood flow to vital organs such as the brain and also transmits damaging concussive kinetic energy into the targeted animal. It is accepted that the concussive energy released on projectile impact into the head kill zone will instantly render an animal unconscious while achieving fatal tissue and bone damage, and severe bleeding. This produces no pain and suffering to the animal, thus achieving a very humane rapid death.

Projectile impact into the chest kill zone will render the animal unconscious immediately or shortly after. Hydrostatic shock waves created by the kinetic energy released at the time of projectile impact have the ability to cause an instant fatal stroke. This is due to a massive surge in blood pressure that damages sensitive blood vessels inside the brain. Death is mainly achieved through massive systemic blood loss, which rapidly deprives the brain of blood, causing rapid unconsciousness and insensibility and this too achieves a rapid humane death.

In most situations, the preferred shot placement is the chest kill zone. The chest kill zone provides a much larger target area than the head kill zone, which reduces the likelihood of wounding. Animal movement is unpredictable and any sudden head movement coinciding with the time of trigger pull may cause an undesirable result, such as a severe facial injury, which may lead to a slow painful death if the animal is unable to be located and killed with a quick follow-up shot.

The Chest Kill Zone

  • Side view: When you are positioned to take a shot from side-on, the key aiming point for the chest kill zone area is located in the middle of the chest just behind the shoulder joint of the animal. This area is large and contains vital organs such as the lungs and heart.
  • Front view: When you are positioned to take a shot from front-on, the key aiming point is found in the area at the base of the neck central to the legs.
  • Quartering: When you are positioned diagonally behind an animal, your aiming point should be positioned where shot placement transects the heart and the animal’s far shoulder.

The Head Kill Zone

  • Side view: When you are positioned to take a shot from side-on, the key aiming point for shot placement into the head kill zone is the base of the ear.
  • Front view: When you are positioned to take a shot from front-on, shot placement depends on the angle of the animal’s head. Where the animals head is angled down towards the ground, the key point of aim is located at the intersection point of two imaginary lines drawn from each eye to the opposite ear.
  • When you are positioned to take a shot at an animal looking directly in your direction, the point of aim should be just above the centre of the nostrils.

Illustrations displaying the kill zone areas on these pest species

Wounded animals

Ethical hunters must ensure that any unintentionally wounded animal is quickly located and all efforts are made to follow up the initial shot with a quick kill shot to minimise any pain and suffering.

If an animal is unintentionally wounded and remains conscious, after either collapsing on the spot or running a short distance prior to collapse, it is the responsibility of the hunter to follow up the failed attempt by promptly placing a second shot into the head kill zone. A quick second shot reduces any likelihood of further stress to the animal.

If an animal is unintentionally wounded and has run off, it is the responsibility of the hunter to follow up the failed attempt by locating and promptly placing a further shot or shots into the chest kill zone to sufficiently kill the animal outright.

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