Shot Placement On Plains Game

by Steve Robinson

With the exception of giraffe, the ideal shot placement areas on all plains game species are similar and I'll deal with the exceptions at the bottom of this article.

  • With all shot placement to the heart and engine room area, it's a good idea not to use external features of the body as reference points because so often, the animal will be at an obtuse angle to you. Always try to imagine the external surfaces of the animal to be a glass case enclosing the vital areas, and if you can imagine exactly where those vital areas are and hit them, you won't go far wrong.
  • For the purposes of this article, we need to start with our target animal at set angle to us and when in the field, one has to apply the overriding 'glass case' rule if the animal is at a different angle to those discussed here.
  • With the animal standing at right angles to you, divide the animal in half (horizontally) and in half again and then imagine a perpendicular line up the back of the foreleg and where the perpendicular line and the lowermost horizontal line cross, you'll find the top of the heart. If you shoot slightly back or slightly high, you might miss the heart but you'll find the lungs. Shoot slightly low and you'll hit the centre of the heart. If you're slightly in front of the heart, you may well still find the lungs, (any shot in front of the heart is risky though and not to be recommended) but the heart is the place you need to shoot for.
  • If the animal is facing you with it's head down, you may be able to take a spine shot where the top of the neck leaves the body. If he's looking at you, use the 'glass case' rule and factor in the 'right angle rule' and you'll hit the heart. Alternatively, imagine where the spine is and take a low frontal neck shot. (Note however, that a lot of PHs might frown on this unless you've already proved to him that you're a really good shot).

  • Although I don't recommend a head shot for a variety of reasons, not least, the fact that you'll do a lot of damage to the trophy. If you do need to know where the brain is, just draw a line between the eye and the base of the opposite ear and then do the same on the other eye and ear and where those two lines cross, you'll find the brain. Always remember that the angle of the head is a factor in this but it doesn't take much working out.
  • If the animal is standing directly away from you, the Texas heart shot is a very effective shot indeed. Aim for the root of the tail where it leaves the body and if you get it right, the animal will just collapse. Admittedly, this shot is considered beyond the pale with a lot of British and European hunters, but it is extremely effective.
  • Giraffe Shot Placement: These animals are different to the rest and it should be borne in mind that everything behind the shoulder is stomach. The heart lies in the mid third of the body and in line with the centre of the foreleg and the top of the heart is about where the bottom of the neck leaves the body.
  • Calibres and Bullets: With the exception of giraffe, eland and perhaps kudu, a calibre of something in the region of .30 is perfectly acceptable and any premium expanding bullet such as A Frame, Barnes X or GS Custom HV is fine. For the very small antelopes such as the duikers, you might like to consider using a solid or perhaps even a 12 gauge loaded with buckshot to reduce damage to the skin.
  • For the larger species, .375 H&H or similar is more suitable.

Steve Robinson

Shot Placement Recommended Reading

The Perfect Shot: Shot Placement For African Big Game

The Perfect Shot: Shot Placement For African Big Game by Kevin Robertson (2000). Africa has more varieties of big game than any other continent and almost all these animals have very different 'kill zones'. Each animal is shown in a colour field picture as well as a colour 'ghost view' that illustrates the shoulder bones, heart, lungs and brain so you will know precisely where to place your shot.

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