Why I do not like head shooting deer…

I was out a couple of weeks ago just to have walk as weather improved a lot and it really started to look like spring time. It was a bit windy, good conditions for a stalk. I always prefer stalk to ambush, but on this forestry ground it is impossible to walk silently and with no wind it really makes no sense to stalk. However, when it is windy it is much easier to get closer to deer. This morning I wanted to have a long walk.
I covered a lot of ground and saw absolutely nothing and decided to go back to the track and to the car when I spotted a single roe on the ride in front of me. It was 300m away from me, so I watched it for a while and tried to get closer. I could see using my Zeiss 8×56 binoculars that there was something wrong with this deer, but I could not figure out what. The roe was either facing away from me or was hidden in a dip, but there was definitely something wrong.

I managed to get to within 100m, but the deer was hidden in a dip and I did not want to risk getting any closer so I lay down on the heather. I put my Harkila roe sack on the ground and rifle on top of it. I also turned on my camera, but unfortunately there was no time to use a tripod… I was down there for about 10 minutes and thought maybe the deer moved away to the forestry and was tempted to stand up and have a look when the roe kid appeared from the dip on the ride. There was not much time to think about and it conveniently paused broadside. As soon as it paused I squeezed the trigger. It jumped high and I could see the .223 bullet strike behind the shoulder. I knew it was hit, and thought it was down there dead on the spot, but after waiting a few minutes I approached, but to my surprise it was not anywhere to be seen…

I soon found the place where the roe was when I pulled the trigger and there was some lung tissue, so not too bad. It took me a while to find the trace as the deer run different way I expected and was well hidden under the spruce branches.

Now I could see what happened. The roe kid had a fresh head shot wound. It was dry, but not infected, I think it was only a few days old. The deer must been suffering a lot, but its bottom jaw was in fact intact and it was trying to feed. It was a head shot side on when the bullet smashed the top of the head. On further inspection the kid was a bit thin, but with empty stomach and weight only 7kg.

I suspect this is a result of poaching as no one had been shooting this ground for a while or the deer was shot on neighboring ground.

Head shooting deer

I was never a fan of head shooting deer. I must admit I have done it once or twice on wounded deer to dispatch it, but never head shot a healthy one. I am just not convinced it is the best place to put the bullet and am not confident enough in my shooting abilities. I have shot a few wild boar aiming just behind ear, but this is much bigger target than deer’s head and bigger margin for error. If you miss 3-4″ each direction it is still dead wild boar with a bullet hitting neck or middle of the head. In case of deer, it is not so. There is a good article of last BDS’s Deer magazine where Charles Smith-Jones writes about two recent cases where two poor head shots resulted in deer suffering and dying. One case was of a deer shot side on with damaged jaw, but the second case was a bit more unusual. When you ask people favoring head shooting you might sometimes get a reply “I only shoot when deer are facing me or away and it is always dead deer or miss”. However, Charles Smith-Jones shows photos of a deer that was found dead with a bullet that went on the back of deer’s head and out, but not expanded enough to case an instant death. This shows that this kind of shots (as any other shot….) can go wrong.

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