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Want to try a Whitetail hunt

02 Feb 2016
@ 04:12 pm (GMT)

Paul Leverman

The plan for this coming season, is to try and bag a whitetail deer. They are getting more and more common here, some people say they are pushing the mulies out, but I kind of doubt that. Anyway, a buddy gave us a whitetail roast and it was put in the top four of all time favourite meats.
I've been hunting moose for almost all my life and from what I've seen/heard/read there are some major differences in the hunting techniques. So here's a couple of questions or statements that I would appreciate your opinions on:
Whitetail tend to run at the shot. Whether they know they are hit or not, I can't tell in the videos. Moose on the other hand, really don't know or care that they've been plugged. My thoughts are that it is a "size of prey" scenario. Where as not too many predators will attack a full grown, healthy moose, deer seem to be an easy plentiful target. Faster for sure, so is speed their ultimate defense and their initial response to a threat?
Should I take out the lungs? It works great on any mammal, but how far will these critters go before they go down? Moose just wander over and look for a comfortable safe place to lie down, so you wait fifteen minutes and go find them. Will this work with whitetail? Or do they just keep running?
These are my first concerns. Up to the shot, most hunting is the same, but this is a new experience, and I don't want to waste an animal by not knowing at least the basics.
Thanks for your input.


02 Feb 2016
@ 07:00 pm (GMT)

mark korte

Re: Want to try a Whitetail hunt
Hi Paul -
Whitetails are probably my favorite large animal to hunt. I have shot many and my experience so far is that they don't go far - most of the ones I have shot have dropped almost immediately. I use a 7x57, so its not like I'm taking them out with a cannon. I have generally tried for the heart-lung area because as you mention, they are delicious. I may have to change that shot placement because I am now shooting monolithic bullets and I am led to believe by those on this site that kill far more deer than I do that breaking the animal down is the way to go with these bullets. My past experience was with standard soft point bullets. We'll see. My other observation concerning whitetails is that hunting them (at least big ones where I live) is pretty different than chasing other big game I'm familiar with like elk and mule deer. Its a sitting game. Your skill is measured in your ability to find the right spot and sit quietly longer than you thought you would ever have the patience for and then stay sitting till dark:30. Its a broad statement, but if you hunt them by hiking/creeping/glassing you will see some deer, but they will likely have seen you as well. That may have something to do with successfully doing the bang-flop on them. It seems to me that animals are generally easier to drop quickly when the bullet catches them unawares as opposed to keyed up and ready to bolt. That kind of sedentary hunting drives some of my friends crazy but I find it addictive and productive. What could be better than that?
02 Feb 2016
@ 08:57 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Want to try a Whitetail hunt
Very good points Mark. Shot placement versus bullet design, spooked versus settled animals, each are factors that will effect the speed of coma / killing.

If you can, go back through the game killing section on this website. I am in the process of editing and updating this however the basic info will suffice. If you want to skip some of the test, thats fine- but do pay attention to the fast killing section and relevant info.

Depending on species, terrain, age and health, adrenalin and more, any of the mid sized deer and antelope can run up to as much as 500 yards with the likes of heart or rear lung shots if internal damage is insufficient. 500 yards is obviously quite the extreme however it serves as food for thought.

One trap to avoid is the mindset that shot placement is everything. I quite often hear folk state that "well if he had shot it in the right place, it would not have run". But we cannot always guarantee this. This is the same as saying, "well if he was perfect like me and never made mistakes, the animal would not have run" which is obviousness ludicrous. We have to take reality into account. And so we work on both factors, shot placement and cartridge / projectile choice. And we have to go through the process as Mark has done, of being realistic with regards to expectations.

Mark's self talk may go a bit like this:

I may have to aim to break bone to get the most of this bullet. Guess I am going to lose some meat, OK, I can live with that and this bullet should allow me to recover meat around and close to the wound.

If I hit too far back, the animal may run some distance. The terrain here is not so bad for tracking so I guess I can live with that too. Yep, thats all my bases covered- aim forwards where possible, expect a possible dead run if I hit too far back with this bullet, especially out at X range. Can't shoot too long with this bullet but thats OK too, the shots here are no more than X yards.

I'll need to shoot, then watch closely and see how this bullet goes.


I have to be honest, the 7x57 with a homogenous bullet is one of my least favorite set ups but again, the way Mark has set about this, he will more than likely see excellent results in a consistent manner. I spend so much time studying what can go wrong and trying to take into account worst case scenarios, that it can at times cause me to be excessively cautious.

02 Feb 2016
@ 09:55 pm (GMT)

David Gray

Re: Want to try a Whitetail hunt
White tails are not particularly hard to kill. Like anything else you just have to hit them right. Which comes from knowing anatomy, a little bit, and having your rifle shoot where you aim.

I'll admit that in my youth I was pretty lucky. We used to make man drives and I shot a bunch of deer moving, some running, and never lost one. Have seen a couple lost though. But later on most of my hunts have been still hunting or stand hunting.

I used mostly a .308 Winchester with a 4X Nikon and 150 gr. Nosler Ballistic tips. Longest shot I've taken here in Central Alabama was about 200 yds. Most all were 100 yds or less. Pretty much all bang flops with shots in the forward lung/heart area. Only ones I've had run much were heart shots with no heavy bone hit. And they only ran about 50 yds. BE SURE that you watch which way your deer runs because they may not show signs of being hit!

One more thing. Of the deer I've had to help track for friends....Not good hits. The wounded deer didn't run more than a quarter mile before laying down. When jumped back up they ran until.....well, until we couldnt' find them. So, be careful not to "bump" a wounded deer. My rule of thumb is track them about 50 yds from where you last saw them. If you can't find them by then then give them at least 2 hrs. Best to just take a good shot and not have to worry about that!

Anyway. Know your limitations. And have respect for the animal.
03 Feb 2016
@ 04:09 pm (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Want to try a Whitetail hunt
Good Morning Paul,
I've killed a lot of whitetail deer, but no moose. I'm dying to hunt moose. Whitetails, as David pointed out, are generally not as hard to kill as some other game animals. There are outliers though. I have made some poor shots on whitetails but I have lost two deer after well placed shots. Both times I pushed the animal too soon after the shot. Once was due to 15 year old boy impatience, the other time was because I had a blizzard bearing down on me and my blood trail was going to be covered up. So I would endorse David's 50 yard principle on wounded deer. Makes good sense to me.

The deer I lost when I was 15 was a pass-through arrow hit and left the heaviest blood trail I've ever seen for 150 yards. We found the deer 5 days later, nearly a half mile from where it'd been hit and verified that the arrow had passed through the rib cage in what appeared to be ideal location. The deer stunk badly enough by then that I was not willing to autopsy and see exactly what had and had not been hit. The blizzard deer I hit with a 30 caliber Remington Core Lokt bullet at 280 yards. It was a pass through shot. That deer covered almost 300 yards before it bedded down and I jumped it before the blizzard hit. I did not find it afterward. Incidentally, that was the night I learned what the beginning stage of hypothermia feels like. I hope to never experience that again.

As I say, those are outliers. I have had deer drop in 10 yards from an arrow wound and had many go down immediately or within a few yards from bullet wounds. My current approach is that I always look for a shot that will drop them in their tracks, high neck being my first choice. But if a deer is on the move or far enough out that I am not confident taking the neck shot I will shoot for the chest and be prepared to track. If I have to track I would again echo David's thoughts - if you don't find the deer in short range of where you hit it, give it ample time to die.

This approach drives my bullet selection. I am learning different bullets and this site has been my best resource aside from the range. It's very easy to find a bullet that will kill when place just below the back of a deer's jaw. So keeping in mind that I will look for that shot inside 200 yards, I then consider what bullets will do what I need them to do if I do take an extended range shot through the chest or a running shot. To plagiarize David one more time - "Know your limitations." I would add, know your bullet's limitations.
03 Feb 2016
@ 04:12 pm (GMT)

Paul Leverman

Re: Want to try a Whitetail hunt
That is all really good information. Exactly what I was looking for, thank you. I think what had me most concerned was that I was falling prey to the "Master" hunter video producer, you know, the Hollywood Hunter. Dramatic videos, exciting music, 5.8million magnum from 3200 yds.
Mark, I also prefer your method. I like sitting there watching and waiting. There is so much going on out there that if you don't take the time to sit and look, you will never see it. My own personal gauge of patience is when the whiskyjacks land on the stump next to you, or you have to flick a finger or foot to keep the weasel from running up your leg. (My all time favourite was when my wife and I were sitting waiting for a bull to show up and a lynx walked by on the trail. A little unnerving at about four feet, but she wasn't hunting us, so all was good.) And yes, it also drives my buddies crazy. Too dark to shoot? Not if it's close enough. I once asked the CO about this "one hour after sunset" regulation, and he told me that if you can see it in your scope, it's legal. Good enough for me. Dark:30 it is.
I like your opening statement, David. That's exactly what I tell people about moose. There aren't too many animals that can live long with an open wound through their lungs. The rig you use is probably one of the most perfect combinations for hunting up here, as well. Short, sweet and to the point (of aim). Good tip on the waiting period, thank you. We have jumped a bull before he was done, and it took my nephew quite a while to finally put him down. It was a succession of track, spot, wait; move forward, wait, over and over. And each time the bull would get up and go another 40 or 50 yards. When we opened him up, he had one small crescent shaped portion at the very upper rear of his left lung that wasn't filled with blood. He just wasn't ready to quit. (There's way more to this autopsy, but I would have to hijack my own thread, so maybe another time).
I've only used bullets, or more proper, projectiles, other than Hornady's twice. The latest was the slug on the black bear, the other was factory ammo loaded with a Speer bullet, on a calf elk. There is no doubt it did its job. A broadside shot from about thirty yards, right in the ribs. Not sure if it was the bullet or a combination of bullet and ribs, but you couldn't have covered the exit wound with a dinner plate. It didn't take the CSI crew with luminol to find that high velocity splatter. That calf ran for 100+ yards, then turned around and came back, and went past us for another fifty. We found out then the difference between a sedentary target and one that was adrenalized. (It also prompted some research that turned up a paper written by Col. Frank T. Chamberlin, US Med Corps, Ret. that is well worth the read.)
At the time, I was both impressed and skeptical about the efficacy of Speer bullets. If they did this a close range, what would happen at a distance? A very long time later, enter TBR, and I find out that this is exactly what they were designed to do. Deliver everything they had to the target, and open it up. I still don't like them and I still don't use them, but that's just me being stubborn.
I'm still trying to get my head around this quick kill strategy. Maybe I'm overthinking it, I don't know. There are so many variables that come into a shot that I think I hedge my bets, go for the biggest target area, aim small, a quick prayer to the animal's spirit, and pull. Not even sure if I was shooting off a rest, at an unsuspecting target, would I aim for the plexus. What if I was out by 1"? This is probably due to lack of experience, but I would hate to experiment and lose a wounded animal.
Sorry for being so long winded, it's been a long winter with not much to talk about, so unfortunately you all have to take the brunt of it.
03 Feb 2016
@ 05:29 pm (GMT)

David Gray

Re: Want to try a Whitetail hunt
Nathan has a bunch of info here on game wounding and what causes the preferred "bang flop". Basically you cut off the info to the brain with a spine shot or shock, brain shot or hydrostatic shock that causes the nervous system to shut down.

Whitetails are thin skinned and around here a pretty big buck would run about 200 lbs on the hoof. The Ballistic tips I use seem to be pretty good about dumping most of their energy inside the deer on a front chest shot. Early Ballistic tips seemed to be much "softer" than later ones. Kills were very dramatic! No pass through. When I would shoot one it was like you hit them with a hammer. The newer ones, over the last 15 years or so(?), you will get pass though at my normal ranges. Deer are still dead, just not as impressive.

Years ago we were running dogs and I was using my new 7mm mag with 175 gr core lokts. Nice buck came trotting up the hill through the brush at about 50 yds. Got off what felt like a good shot. He kept coming, never acted like he was hit. "How could I have missed?" Ran on and stopped past me and to the left about 30 yds. Picked him up in the scope. He was in brush and had to let him step forward to get a good shot. He was staring straight at me. While I was waiting he started shaking. Like I would if I were really cold. Took one step and fell at the shot. When I got to him he had 2 shots within an inch right behind the shoulder. When I opened him up the insides just basically fell out.

Pretty much the scenario Nathan talked about earlier.
04 Feb 2016
@ 05:11 am (GMT)

Mike Davis

Re: Want to try a Whitetail hunt
Iv'e said it before and will say it again
"you cant drive a car with no front wheels"
break one or preferable both shoulders and your roast dinner isn't going anywhere.
I eat right up to bullet holes,thats what a mincer was made for...the shot up bits go into the mince bucket and go into sausages or patties or rissotto
with .270 its only far side that is really messy and using barnes in .223 its the other way around, either way at worst I loose a portion of one front quarter which lets face it,isnt the best quality meat on beast anyway.
04 Feb 2016
@ 07:09 pm (GMT)

David Gray

Re: Want to try a Whitetail hunt
"you cant drive a car with no front wheels"

That's definitely true. Just can't make myself do it. Years ago when I first started deer hunting(1972) there were not very many premium bullets available. Nosler partitions but in my part of the woods nobody had ever heard of Nosler. We were taught to stay away from the shoulder cause to do so would cause the bullet to "blow up" and you would lose your deer.

Plus, I think you have a little more margin for error shooting behind the shoulder. Maybe. Maybe not.

I am going to start hunting with my .223/5.56 AR. Just to try something different. Rifles sure are handy. Using .64 gr. Gold Dot right now. Should penetrate the shoulder fine? Max range 150 yds?
05 Feb 2016
@ 05:19 am (GMT)

Mike Davis

Re: Want to try a Whitetail hunt
David........I have shot 2 or 3 deer with my .223 and my teenage son has taken 2 with it as well
if I dont count the first one ( mature red stag at 200) as I was barrel stretching using cup n core projectile
or the last one (head shot at 75ish)
the rest were taken with 50 grn barnes TTSX trundling along somewhere 3100ish fps
all went down with no fuss and we ate right up to bullet holes,Ive sent Nathan photos of the results via email
the damage was to me the opposite of what I normally see with .270 using 130grn loads at nt fast speeds and I wont hesitate to continue using this load.
I went 50 grn to keep the speed up so they expand properly.
150ish yards is about where Im comfy with the wee .223 and I pick my shot.
Ive shot a couple of porky pigs with this load too,again went down no fuss.
if you aim for mid/front shoulder and err sideways you got neck one way and rear lung the other....if you are already BEHIND the leg you have good shot one way and bloody awful mess the other,with a tracking job a probability.
08 Feb 2016
@ 04:41 pm (GMT)

Paul Leverman

Re: Want to try a Whitetail hunt
Thanks for all the tips, guys. Very helpful. Again, so many variables, but that's hunting. If it was easy, it would be called shooting. Obviously, shot placement is critical. But plan A doesn't always present itself, so plan B and C must be ready to roll out. Fortunately, with the bullets we have today, most will handle most shots, and for me anyway, if there is any doubt about the bullet doing its job, I don't have to pull. There will always be another chance.

Looking through the KB and google images of anatomy, I think I've figured out where the autonomic plexus is. Please correct me if I am wrong. With the animal (deer/moose) full broadside, the horizontal cross-hair is at the point (in silhouette) where the brisket curves into the chest area. The vertical cross-hair is in line with the front of the leg. Not sure about deer, but on a moose, this would put the bullet about a foot back into the chest and about 8-10" high of the sternum. I am thinking that on a deer, it would probably be the same relative area, but different measurements of course. Is this right? And if you are within an inch or two, would it still drop the animal? What about a greater degree of error? Say two or three inches? How much margin is there for a "miss"?
08 Feb 2016
@ 07:40 pm (GMT)

Bob Mavin

Re: Want to try a Whitetail hunt
Hi Paul
Your on the ball mate. I aim 1 third down, a bit above half way and level with the front of the leg. Yes you have a fair margin of error, 6" target on a moose.


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