Bullet Placement

The selection of the target area for bullet placement is dependent on a number of factors:

  • The image or elevation presented by the animal,
  • The range from hunter to quarry,
  • The purpose for which the animal is being shot (trophy, headmount, hornmount,  meat, extermination or self protection),
  • The calibre and type of firearm being used,
  • The competence of the hunter as a shotist,
  • The accuracy of the firearm,
  • The time available in which to select the position of bullet placement.
  • The interference which may affect of deflect the bullet´s path e.g. brush or twigs, wind etc.
  • The type of terrain in which hunting is taking place; the factors which may influence the loading of game or following of game which does not drop dead immediately.
  • There are three basic areas for bullet placement if one intends to make an effective kill: the brain, the neck: the ?blad? (Heart/Lung/Shoulder region). 

1. Brain

An animal shot in the brain will fall dead in its tracks. The advantages of a brain shot are:

  • Humane and immediate death
  • No spoiling of the skin or pelt
  • No damage to meat
  • Facilitates proper bleeding of the animal
  • One can ascertain whether the position in which the quarry is standing is accessable for loading as the animal is not likely to move far (unless it tumbles)

The disadvantages are:

  • Because of the small target area, the risk of doing damage to nonvital organs (Non-vital from the point of view of immediate or near immediate death) and maiming the animal by perhaps shooting an ear or horn off, or breaking a jaw.
  • Risk of missing the small target altogether.
  • The disfiguration and shattering that may occur to the skull, which, for a head or horn mount, should be relatively unharmed.

The Brain shot should only be used when:

  • the margin for error is reduced by close range and good steady rest, and
  • the shotist confident of his rifle´s accuracy and his own competence with a rifle.

2. Neck

The effect of a neck shot is similar to that of the head shot i.e. the animal dropping immediately in its tracks.

The advantages are basically the same as well but a little damage may occur to the neck meat, especially if hit low and right through the bone. A ?graze? shot in the neck does not cause serious damage.

The disadvantages are:

  • The target is usually a vertical area allowing little for left or right direction of error; thus a miss may quite easily occur.
  • Some off-centre shots or deep grazes may cause temporary stunning or paralysis and, if one is not too sure of the effectiveness of the shot, a second shot is worthwhile, particularly when hunting the big, dangerous species; Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion etc.

3. Heart-Lung-Shoulder Area: The "Blad"

The advantages of a bullet placed in this area are:

  • The Target area is large and comprises three sections viz the heart, lungs and shoulders, all of which are vital from the point of view of escape or survival.
  • A shot placed too high will either miss or break the animal´s back.
  • A shot too far forward will miss.
  • A shot too law could break one or both of the animal´s legs, rendering it easy to track and dispatch.
  • The cape and head are undamaged for a head mount.


The disadvantages are contained in two points:

Firstly, a shot too far back will be a ?gut? shot which make tracking extremely difficult as the animal may run off a long way leaving no blood spoor and with no apparent ill-effect ? but will die a very slow and painful death due to peritonitis, and, Secondly, meat may be spoiled especially if the shoulder is struck by the bullet. Much internal bleeding may occur. The effect of a shot placed in each of these areas is as follows:

  • The Heart: A fatal shot, but the animal may not drop dead immediately. The animal may drop down immediately if the shoulder or legs are hit as well as the heart but, if, only the heart is hit, the amount of adrenalin in the animal´s system will dictate how far it runs off before dropping dead. An Impala may run a hundred yards with its heart pulped, especially if it was aware of approaching danger. This would activate the adrenalin glands and increase its ability to run off for some distance. The larger animals may run much further, Elephant and Buffalo having been known to travel up to a mile.
  • The Lungs: Like the heart, a fatal shot; the animal is dead on its feet but does not know it and may run off a considerable distance, depending on its size, before expiring. The larger the animal, the further it will probably run.
  • The Shoulder: Invariably a shot through the shoulder will also damage either the heart or the lungs. The animal will usually drop immediately. If only one shoulder is hit and the vital organs not damaged, it may get up again and make off, causing the hunter a considerable problem, but diligent tracking and following should bring it to ground. The shoulder shot is to be avoided from the front elevation, the vital areas exposed in this case being the heart, lungs, neck and brain. The inexperienced hunter should aim for point A which will be for a shoulder shot with probable heart or lung damage, however, the experienced pot hunter, not venturing for a neck or brain shot, may aim for B which shot placement will result in less meat damage. The margin for error is however not as great as in the case of position A.

General comments

When the rifle has been discharged, it should always be made ready for a follow up shot before breaking over. Frequently, if the bullet misses, the animal will be alarmed but unsure as to where the shot came from and the Hunter may be fortunate enough to have a second shot. If an animal has been wounded, and the Hunter remains unseen in cover, the animal may run towards him allowing him another shot, even if only a running shot can be had, and is necessary, to finish off the animal.

The reactions of an animal when hit may provide the Hunter with a clue as to where it was hit. With a gut shot, the animal may fall, stumble or jump and then get up and run off, sometimes rather erratically. If hit in the heart, the lung or the arteries surrounding both, it may stumble or jump and then run headlong until it collapses dead. It may also run off as if completely unhit, only to collapse some distance away. A point to remember when hunting dangerous game is that, if the animal falls immediately, it may not be dead, the bullet has perhaps caused temporary concussion. These animals should always be approached from the rear and another shot placed at the back of the head for good measure.

A charging Elephant or Rhino are best stopped by a shot in the shoulder or leg as a brain shot in these circumstances is very risky. It can then be dispatched as mentioned above.



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