Hunting deer with a crossbow is different than using guns. Rifles are designed to kill immediately. The shock from a bullet can knock a buck on its side, and it will never get up again. Most often that doesn’t happen when a deer is shot with a crossbow. Instead, when an carbon arrow enters a deer’s body, it’s the hemorrhage that occurs that kills the animal. But there’s more to it than that. You also have to consider distance, anatomy, and what type of shot presents itself.


Another big difference between hunting with a crossbow in comparison to a rifle is distance. Crossbows use arrows. Where the hunter needs to aim the arrow to kill a buck depends greatly on distance. At 20 yards, the aim needs to be lower because the hunting arrow has an upward trajectory. At 30 yards, the arrow points directly at the middle or lower end of the body. At 40 yards, the aim should be high. The higher aim makes up for downward trajectory. It will take a bit of practice to know exactly where you need to aim, but eventually you’ll get it down to a science.


One way to make sure your arrow does the most damage is to get a better understanding of a deer’s anatomy. The best way to knock a deer down with a crossbow on the first shot is to aim for the animal’s heart and lung area. It’s a traditional shot, and it produces the greatest kill percentages.

​Where to Shoot a Deer With a Crossbow?

Deer shooting

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Quartering Away​

A hunter that is very comfortable with their bow will be happy to take a quartering away shot. With this shot, the aiming point is very clear. To take this shot, it’s important to place the pin on the deer’s opposite shoulder. You’ll want to make sure your aiming point lines up with the leg about halfway up the body. Doing this gives you the biggest kill zone and a great shot opportunity.

Most hunter’s favorite heart/lung shot is a quartering away shot. With this shot, the deer is angled away from the hunter. At this angle, the hunter can take a good look at the deer and take his best guess as to where the heart and lungs are.​

Quartering Towards​

Quartering towards the hunter sounds similar to quartering away and it is, but it’s a completely different shot and much more difficult. In fact, quartering towards shots are often controversial and some hunters think they’re simply unethical. A slight difference in angle can be the difference between hitting both lungs with one arrow or just hitting one lung. Hitting one lung is still a good shot, and it might take the deer out eventually, but it’s not an instant kill shot. It means the deer is probably going to run off and you’re going to have to look for a blood trail and track it.

Even worse, a quartering towards shot has a high rate of missed shots. At this angle, it is possible for the arrow to miss any vital organs and simply deflect off the shoulder blade. With a shoulder wound, the deer will take off as fast as he can. Unless the wound becomes infected and the deer gets ill, it will live on to taunt you another day. Another shot that bow hunters should avoid at all costs is the “Texas heart shot.”

A Texas heart shot requires a hunter to shoot the deer’s arteries located in the rear of a deer. If this shot is executed perfectly, the deer could die from this type of shot, but it’s not a great shot option. There’s too much room for error. In fact, it’s just a lousy shot that should be avoided at all costs.​


The most ideal shot to take with a crossbow is broadside. In fact, a broadside shot is what bowhunters dream of. It’s the deadliest and the most ethical shot a bowhunter can take. If you can take a shot at a deer broadside, you’ll likely have meat in your freezer sooner rather than later. A broadside angle gives hunters an unobstructed view of the animal’s body. With this view, hunters can easily achieve a double lung penetration.

There’s always going to be some hunters that only want to take head and neck shots because it can result in an instant kill. However, the risk of a head and neck shot is that the arrow could just bounce off the skull. Head shots are usually reserved for rifle hunters.​

To make a deadly broadside shot, you need to take “string jump” into account. To do this, aim about 4” above the armpit of the deer. Put your pin right on the heart in the deer’s lower chest. What this does is accounts for the deer crouching when it hears the shot. If this happens, the arrow will still hit the deer in the mid-chest cavity. Even with a mid-chest cavity arrow shot, you’ll probably hit the lungs and take the deer out. However, it’s important to remember that you need to be accurate. If your accuracy is off at all, you could hit leg or shoulder bone.


If you make a kill shot, you shouldn’t have to track your deer as far or as often. To increase the odds of tracking your deer, you can add a string to your crossbow’s arrow. However, adding a string to your bow’s arrow could affect its flying ability in distance situations. At this point, it’s important to remember that deer that have been shot with an arrow die from hemorrhage. If you can achieve a double lung shot, the deer might drop in an instant. If you don’t hit the lungs, how fast the deer drops will depend on the penetration of the arrow.

In general, if the deer has suffered a mortal wound, it won’t run more than 250 yards. To make sure the deer doesn’t go any further than that, it’s important to stay quiet. Give the deer about 15 to 30 minutes to die while you sit quietly in the woods. Once you’re sure the deer has died go look for it and claim your prize.​

Get comfortable with your crossbow, know the anatomy of the animals you’re hunting, and you’ll be making great, ethical shots in no time.​