Safety: shooting angles on the hunt

Published on 23 April 2019
Author: Peter Moore
We consider the ability to predict where your shot will go and its ramifications.

First reflexion about shooting angles

There’s an old saying: ‘once you’ve pulled the trigger you can’t call the bullet back.’ There’s the heart-stopping zing of a ricochet from a 22 rimfire bouncing or the realisation that the bullet from your centrefire has missed your quarry and is heading off into the unknown.

Or an animal presenting at an unusual angle, that requires you to re-think your aim point on the fly. All equally serious possibilities, so let’s consider what we need to know?

Know your ground

On any land, there will be ‘no shoot’ areas, due to the location of property, roads and boundaries.

In the UK you cannot shoot less than 100m from a road for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK unless it’s safe. One of my high seats is 300m from a road, but I consider the area to my left out to 45⁰ completely out of bounds, as a bullet even if it hits your quarry can exit and carry on. Always take bullet travel into account!

Equally important is a sky line shot; the quarry is silhouetted on a hill, do you shoot? No, as you have no idea what’s behind.

It’s best to walk your land with a map and see what the terrain offers in terms of shoot/no shoot areas and safe back stops. Equally distances to features and buildings.

Shooting from a high seat is safer as the bullet is going down into the ground, but nothing is certain! Simply put; you have to read the situation instantly and decide as to shoot or not! And the primary consideration is safety and a humane kill, not the size of the animal!

The bullet entry

Shooting the quarry, the ideal is the animal side-on (broadside), but that doesn’t always happen. More often than not it could present at an angle, or face or rump on. The angled shot requires you to think where the bullet will go!

The classic up the front leg heart/lung shot differs if the animal is angled to or away from you and will mean bringing the aim point more forward onto the shoulder so it will enter and pass through into the heart/lung intersection, or more behind if it’s facing away.

However, get it wrong and it will strike further back and hit the stomach and gut area and ruin the carcass, or further forward and wound it, and it will run regardless of injury. Shooting though the front or rear is also pointless as it will again ruin the beast.

The bullet exit

Finally, consider what the bullet does after it enters the animal! We always want a pass-through (bullet exits), which allows it to lose pressure and bleed out so die quicker, plus if it runs there’s a blood trail to follow.

Most bullets will to a degree break up in the body, some fragments can be big enough to exit, often with enough velocity and energy to wound or even kill others in close proximity. So, if you are shooting at a herd of deer, look at what’s behind or around your target before pulling the trigger.

So, understand your land as to shoot and no shoot areas, know your capabilities as a hunter and shooter. If in doubt don’t shoot!