Frontal Shots on Whitetail Deer Explained: Go For It or Stay Patient?

Frontal Shots on Whitetail Deer Explained: Go For It or Stay Patient?

Shot placement on whitetails is something that has been talked about and taught since man first began launching projectiles. In the modern day, as a whole we as bowhunters have gotten much more aggressive with shot opportunities....whether it's right or wrong. While the debate usually starts around the capabilities of your bow and arrow setup, there's much more to it... Understanding anatomy, shot angles, and your personal capabilities have equal input to your shot's outcome.

There's always been a lot of controversy about taking a frontal shot on a white-tailed deer. I mean, it's a small space. There's a lot that can go wrong but it can also be deadly. 


I really think it's important to know the anatomy when it comes to a whitetail for any shot, but especially if you're going to consider a frontal shot. You really need to know what you're getting into and how small your margin of error really is. While it can be deadly, there really isn't much room for error.

Out of the gate I will say, a younger deer will have a smaller window due to the rib cage not fully expanded and developed. However, keep in mind, as bucks mature and have expanded rib cages that offer a bigger frontal window, their bone structure becomes more dense. So there are definitely pros and cons to both mature and immature skeletal structures. 

With the age and skeletal structure variables in mind, the "kill zone" on a frontal shot is only 4"x 4" area. With the spinal column dipping at the base of a whitetail's neck, it is approximately half way up on the deer's chest, which surprises most hunters. Slip an arrow into that "kill zone" and you just took out the carotid artery, esophagus, trachea, and likely entered the lungs and heart.

Shot Angle

Not all angles are equal. I'll say it again because it is that important. NOT ALL SHOT ANGLES ARE CREATED EQUAL. It's vitally important to understand the angle of your arrow's flight. Where it enters, where it leaves, and what it goes through in the body cavity on that path. 

In regards to frontal shots, the steeper the shot angle the more difficult it becomes. In fact, any elevated frontal shot at close distances becomes extremely difficult to pull off. As the shot angle becomes steeper the less likely you are to enter the lung and heart area. This is why most bowhunters who are willing to take frontal shots typically do so on the ground or from lower elevated sets. 

Outside of vertical shot angles, slightly quartering too or quartering away also diminishes the size of the frontal kill zone and alters the optimal path of your arrow through the body cavity. The goal is always two well placed holes. With frontal quartering shots exit holes become difficult due to the opposite leg and shoulder bones. 

The ideal frontal shot angle, if you are able to execute, is a ground level straight on shot. 


This one isn't rocket science. At what distance can you consistently hit a 4" circle? Now, add in some antlers and an elevated heart rate and your effective range just shrank. 

Also keep in mind with head on ground level encounters the deer is likely going to have eyes on you. How is that deer going to react to your shot? Reading a whitetail's body language becomes ultra important.

Bow and Arrow

This boils down to how much kinetic energy and momentum your bow and arrow setup is producing. Do you have enough momentum and energy to drive an arrow through the length of a whitetail? While there are so many variables and each scenario is different, I personally know bowhunters with moderate setups that have accomplished this... A bow setup at 65lbs of draw weight, 28" draw length and 450 grain arrows. Again, there are a lot of variables so control as much as you can. Be sure you have a tough sharp broadhead on your arrow, make sure you have enough K.E. and make sure you have enough momentum to do the job. Also keep in mind, the odds of encounter some type of bone is high with frontal shots, whether that's on the entrance, exit, or somewhere in between. 


At the end of the day, a frontal shot can be extremely lethal but only from those who can handle close encounters at ground level. Just because you see someone on Youtube flinging 700 grain arrows through a whitetail's chest doesn't mean it's applicable to you. Have self awareness of not only your hunting setup but also your skill level in executing a high stress shot because once an arrow is released there is no taking it back. 


Author: Chris Creed, Afflictor Broadheads