Brisket Shot Deer: Here’s What to do

Shot placement is something every hunter obsesses over, and rightly so. We owe it to the animal and ourselves to give our best attempt to make a clean, quick, and ethical kill.

However, every once in a while, we will make a poor shot placement; it happens.

One poor shot placement is a brisket shot. However, it’s not always easy to identify and how you should proceed varies.

What is a Brisket Shot

Brisket Shot Deer: Here's What to do

A brisket shot deer is a deer that has been shot in the lower chest area. This area is known as a brisket due to the name given to meat cuts from that area.

This area is outside of the vital area and is not part of a deer’s Kill zone. However, due to its proximity to the kill zone, it sometimes happens that a misplaced shot lands in the brisket, giving the hunter a brisket shot.

This often happens due to a deer’s reaction to the sound of a shot or the noise of an arrow approach. At first, the deer will crunch down only to launch themselves higher, leaving the projectile to hit the brisket area.

Other times its just hunter error. 

What Did You Make a Brisket Shot With?

Rifles and bows work very differently for hunting. While a bullet kills an animal by impact, an arrow kills an animal by cutting.

This means a misplaced shot with a rifle still has a chance of killing the animal. However, a misplaced shot with a bow leaves you with little hope of recovering that animal.


Unlike with a bow, a brisket shot with a rifle has a much higher chance of dispatching a deer. The bullet will damage a lot of the area around the entry and exit of the bullet.

Identify the shot

Blood Trail

The blood trail for a brisket shot with a rifle and a bow is not much different. The only major advantage of a bow is you can read the arrow. Unfortunately, with a rifle, there is nothing to read, so you’re straight to the blood trail.

A brisket shot will have a lot of bright red blood at the start of the trail, but it will begin to dry up very fast once it starts coagulating.

There may be some signs of short white hair. All of these will indicate a high probability of a brisket shot.

Track or Not

While deer have an uncanny ability to survive the nastiest of injuries, a brisket shot with a rifle is likely to lead a deer to suffer.

Because of the high impact of a bullet and the position of the brisket, there is a number of things that can go wrong.

  • Infection
  • Unable to clot
  • Other areas of damage

What you don’t want to do here is push the deer too hard. Give it an hour or two if you feel you have brisket shot the deer. It’s not likely for the blood to coagulate with a rifle, so there is no fear of losing the deer.

You are more likely to lose him if you push him too hard.


Brisket Shot Deer: Here's What to do

As mentioned above, an arrow works very differently than a bullet and doesn’t deliver near the same impact. Even extremely high FOC arrows cannot get close to the impact of a bullet.

For this reason, an arrow must depend on dispatching the animal by cutting alone.

So while a brisket shot with a rifle may still dispatch the deer, a brisket shot with an arrow is more likely to leave the deer wounded.

Identify the shot

The first thing you want to do is determine whether or not the shot was indeed a brisket shot.

Some of the signs will overlap with a rifle brisket shot, but some of them are unique to a bow shot.

Check the Arrow

Signs of a brisket shot on arrow:

  • Bright red blood – hitting the muscle of the deer will cause bright red blood, almost similar to a heart shot. The difference is there will be a lot more of it but it will stop quickly.

  • May be traces of tallow- the brisket area of a deer is covered by a lot of fat or tallow, signs of this on the arrow are another indication of a misplaced shot.

  • May be pieces of meat – signs of meat are also an indication of a brisket shot. The brisket is a meaty area, and as the arrow passes through it’s very probable to slice off chunks of meat.

  • Signs of hair – The hair from the brisket area will be short and lighter than hair from higher up
Blood Trail 

An arrow blood trail from a brisket shot is fairly easy to spot. 

Once you get after the blood trail of a brisket shot deer, you may be alarmed at the sight of blood.

The blood trail starts out very heavy with copious amounts of blood, but it will quickly dry up and disappear. This is a sure indication that it was a brisket shot deer.

Track or Not

It’s difficult to know when to track or not track a deer, especially when you feel you may have a misplaced shot.

However, it’s better to hang back and give it time for a brisket shot deer. There is some school of thought that it’s best to put the pressure on straight away to prevent the deer from bedding up and allowing the wound to clot.

But on the other hand, if you start pushing a brisket shot deer, he might end up three counties over and worse for wear.

Nobody wants to wound a deer and not get to bring home the meat, but in a case like this, I say it’s better to let him recover and hunt him again another day.

Deer are remarkable creatures, and the likelihood of a brisket shot deer surviving is high

The only caveat to all of this is if there is a blood trail, follow it. With a brisket shot, the blood trail will dry up quickly, so if you are still finding blood on the trail after a hundred yards, then stick on it.

It’s probable you may have hit an artery, and the deer will bleed out.

Final Thoughts

It’s difficult to think that you may have brisket shot and deer. It’s also difficult to know what to do, should you track or leave the deer.

There is no real answer to that question. For the most part, brisket shot deer will heal well. Instead of pushing the deer, it’s best to give it a day and get out with the dogs.

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