Trophy buck

Understanding the Anatomy of a Deer for Hunting

If you’re new to hunting, then it’s crucial to learn the anatomy of your prey. When it comes to the anatomy of a whitetail deer, there are some basics you should be aware of. 

First, you’ll want to understand all of the body parts of a deer. 

Then, you should understand shot placement relative to these body parts to ensure an ethical kill shot.

Both bowhunting and gun-hunting require you to gauge distance and angles to hit your intended target. 

With this blog post, we hope to provide some foundational knowledge regarding deer body parts as well as common shot types for each so that you can get started off on the right foot.

Why An Understanding of Deer Body Parts Matters

By understanding deer anatomy, you’re prepared to:

  • Make humane, quick, and effective kills
  • Reduce unnecessary pain and suffering
  • Age deer
  • Reduce wasted game
  • Maximize meat preservation 

The Anatomy & Physiology of a Deer

Want to understand the anatomy of a deer in under five minutes? Ryan Kirby Art provides a fantastic deer body part diagram as well as an explanation of different shot placement setups in his three-minute and forty-four second video “Whitetail Deer Anatomy & Shot Placement!!”. 

If you’re looking for information on how to estimate a deer’s age by its body, his video on field deer aging is another great resource).

But back to anatomy. The body of a deer is made up of the following:

  • Head and neck
  • Chest cavity
  • Abdominal cavity
  • Hind legs and pelvis

On the head and neck, you’ll find the antlers (for bucks). You’ll also find the eyes, which deer are known for. You may have heard the expression “Like A Deer in the Headlights”, but deer are known for having acute senses, including excellent vision, hearing, and sense of smell. 

The anatomy and makeup of the chest cavity and abdomen are important to understand from a hunting POV because to make a kill shot, you want to aim for vital organs, and most vital organs are in these regions:

  • Heart: Found about 4-6 inches from the surface, right behind the front leg.
  • Lungs: Located above and slightly behind the heart on either side. The most effective kill shot. 
  • Liver: Located under the diaphragm. A good secondary kill shot. 
  • Stomach: Not a vital target, although located in the abdomen.
  • Intestines: Also not a vital target, although located in the abdomen.

Shot Placement Relative to Deer Anatomy

Pelican Products recommends seven types of shots that are most often both effective and ethical when hunting deer:

  1. Lungs
  2. Shoulder
  3. Quartering away 
  4. Quartering toward
  5. Head on
  6. Straight away
  7. From above

We recommend cross-referencing Ryan Kirby Art’s video referenced earlier when choosing between different shot types, because it qualifies when to use which, and also recommends against certain shots in most scenarios due to their inherent riskiness (e.g. head-on).

Make Hunting Easier: Bring Deer to You

In addition to the ethical side of understanding deer anatomy, knowing where to shoot when bowhunting or gun hunting also makes hunting a whole lot easier while increasing your chances of filling your freezer.

Want to make hunting easier still? The Tectonic Daytime Deadfall Deer Feeder automates the feeding process while training deer to feed during the day and bringing them to you. You can setup your daytime deadfall feeder to where a deer will give you the best killshot angle when you are hunting from your tree stand or blind. Shop now at