Broadside shot opportunities such as that shown above don't get any more classic than shown here. I photographed this bull, and a number of other elk, just a week before this was written. Shot placement here is a "no brainer". Simply come up from the rear of the shoulder/leg line, about half way up the chest cavity, and squeeze off the shot. This dandy bull was just 60 yards away ... and just about any .50 caliber in-line rifle loaded with a 100- to 120-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 or Triple Seven and a saboted 300-grain bullet would take out both lungs. If the bullet just happens to be my overall favorite, the Harvester Muzzleloading saboted 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold ... I can tell you from experience it would most likely be a lump under the skin of the opposite side once you walked up to the downed bull ... or you would find an enlarged exit hole out the other side. Either way, both lungs would be destroyed ... and this dandy 8x8 bull would be down within a few yards.
But, in the real world of hunting, we're often faced with some shots that are far from being perfectly broadside, and that's what we will cover in this post - and whether to take the shot or not.
Click on the above left photo to enlarge. That mule deer buck on the left is a real dandy, photographed a day or so after the bull shown at the top of this post. Study it for a minute. Would you feel confident in taking a 150-yard shot on this wide and tall buck?
The facing away angled shot is actually one of my favorite. If I were taking the shot on this buck, and had the rifle and load printing about 1 1/2 inches high at 100 yards, I would hold a little above center to allow for 3 or so inches of additional drop at 150 yards - indicated by the red spot on the deer. Also, note that the hold is well to the rear of the shoulder. When making such an angled shot on game, try to imagine where the bullet would exit if it penetrated all the way through. A 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold impacting where the red spot above left is located is headed right for the front of the opposite shoulder ... and would catch both lungs. The only bone structure it should hit on the facing side might be a rib, or two - and by the time the well expanded slug would hit the opposite shoulder blade, from the inside, massive damage would be delivered to the lungs, and maybe even the liver.
Now, if the shot above right, say at around 100 yards, would be the only shot I'd likely get at the elk bull shown in the above right photo ... I'm sure I would pass. First of all, a saboted bullet would be plowing into a very muscular area, plus to get into the vital area of a 500 to 600 pound bull, it would likely have to bust through some significant bone structure ... which could fragment most copper skinned lead core bullets. The best bet would be to wait. This bull's cow is headed to the right, and he's looking to the left. Chances are, this elk will turn to the right as well ... offering a more broadside shot. The smart thing to do would be to have the crosshairs or sights on the bull ... ready to take the shot should that happen.
If the buck at right showed up within a hundred yards of my stand, I would have absolutely no problem taking this shot - and I have very effectively put down several good bucks by holding pretty much as indicated here. This puts the bullet just a bit forward of the facing shoulder blade. A good bullet, like the Scorpion PT Gold, has the structural integrity to punch through a forward rib. At this angle, the expanded bullet should catch some of the facing lung ... destroy the lung of the opposite side ... and still have the momentum to bust through a rib on the other side of the chest cavity - and either come to rest under the skin or punch out just to the rear of the opposite shoulder. So hit, with 1,600 to 1,800 foot pounds of energy (at the distance of the shot), this nice buck should go down quickly ... if not on the spot!
When taking a facing or going away shot, always try to determine just where the angled shot will exit the other side ... or should exit the opposite side if it is not deflected by heavy bone structure. If vital chest cavity organs are not in that path - my advice is to pass on the shot. Since first hunting with a prototype of the Scorpion PT Gold back in the fall of 2005, I have now taken 61 deer and a near 400-pound black bear with 62 shots. And the one buck, shot at 181 yards, that did not go down to one shot just stood there when hit by a 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold, allowing me to quickly reload and dump the deer with the second shot. Both of those bullets hit perfectly behind the shoulder ... less than 2 inches apart. Of the 60 other deer taken with these bullets, at least 40 were taken with the 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold, and 17 with the 260-grain version of the same bullet. Three were taken with the light 240-grain Scorpion PT Gold.
Reflecting back, I recall that at least 8 or 9 of the deer were either angled away or toward me at the shot. The buck shown at left is the one I remember best. It was the second afternoon/evening of a cold and snowy December muzzleloader hunt in Nebraska - the first year that scopes were allowed during that season.
The evening before, I had taken a dandy high and wide 8-pointer at just 120 yards, putting a 300-gain Scoprion PT Gold squarely through the rib cage ... thanks to a perfect broadside shot opportunity. And, I should have done the same with the buck shown here ... but it was too close.
I had gotten to my ground blind, made from cedar branches, early that afternoon. The temperatures were plummeting, and I felt the deer would move early as well. I settled into my Heater Body Suit, zipped up and settled back for the afternoon. Deer were moving almost immediately. Within 20 minutes of getting into the blind, a tall and heavy 4x4 offered an easy 50 yard shot. It was tempting, but I knew that a heavy horned 5x5 was also feeding regularly in the green winter wheat field I was watching.
An hour passed, and at least a hundred deer were in the field, feeding away. Suddenly, I heard the sound of running deer ... coming from behind and to my right. I knew they were close, but was still startled when the head of a big doe came around the cedar at my back ... and was barely 10 feet away. She looked back, then turned and trotted to the fence ... jumped it ... and joined the others in the field. A few seconds later, the buck shown in this photo slowly walked by in the same exact spot ... less than 10 feet away.
The heavy-horned 5x5 walked right up to the fence exactly where the doe crossed over, and jumped the top wire to join her. The deer was just 75 yards away, but a couple of other small cedars blocked the shot. The deer were walking out into the field at an angle to my left - and when they were back in the open the distance was right at 160 yards.
The buck offered a great angle for putting the bullet through the chest cavity to the opposite front shoulder. I held on where I figured the last left-side rib was located ... let the crosshairs drift up about 3 inches and squeezed off the shot. The buck dropped nearly to the ground ... caught itself ... and charged for the center of the several hundred acre open expanse. About 50 yards into that run, the heavy bodied whitetail crashed onto its side and rolled a couple of times. When I skinned the deer the next day, I found the expanded 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold shown above right just under the hide of the opposite front shoulder. The bullet had caught the rear left rib ... had passed through the left side of the liver ... caught the rear right side of the left lung ... had passed through the right lung ... and had punched through the front of the right shoulder blade. In all, the bullet shown here had passed through some 25 or 26 inches of the near 250-pound field dressed buck.
All muzzleloading hunters dream about getting a hundred yard broadside shot at a magnificent trophy like the caribou bull shown above. But ... in the real world of hunting ... the game being hunted all too often did not get a copy of the script. Don't be afraid to take those angling shots. Just be sure of where the bullet is headed (on the opposite side or end) ... and what's in between point of impact and the likely point of exit. Shooting a heavier bullet weight plays a vital role in getting the penetration needed for such shots, and that's exactly why I tend to hunt mostly with the 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold. - Toby Bridges
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