Deer Liver Shot: Here’s What to do

It’s a dreaded feeling and one none of us like to think about, but it happens. You think you hit the liver. 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. While a liver shot may not be what you were going for, it is still within the kill zone.

The important part is, are you sure it’s a liver shot, and what to do next.

What is a Deer Liver Shot?

As the name suggests, a deer liver shot is a deer you hit in the liver. It happens more often than you might think.

Due to the deers’ anatomy, the liver sits within what is known as the kill zone

The liver runs just behind the lungs on a perfect broadside deer and is almost the same length from top to bottom.

In this scenario, your shot would have to be a little far back to hit the liver. But this changes depending on the position of the deer. 

A quartering to or away deer will put the liver in different positions in relation to your shot.

Identifying a Deer Liver Shot

Deer Liver Shot: Here's What to do

The first thing to do if you think you hit the liver is to run through a few checks to double-check. It’s important not to skip this step. 

Ideally, you should run through this for all of your shots unless the deer drops in front of you.

Tracking a deer with a liver shot is likely to push him far beyond what you can track.

Position

Not all of us record our hunts, but something like a Go Pro is a handy tool to have. 

Not only can you assess your hunt, but in times like this, you can also see where your arrow landed.

If you feel your arrow hit near the center of the deer, towards the back of the ribcage, then it is likely you hit the liver.

Judging by the ribcage is the best indicator of whether you hit the liver or not. 

As I mentioned above, the position of the deer changes your arrow penetration angle a lot. So what might look like a perfect lung shot on a quartering away deer may actually be a liver shot.

Field Dressing
Pocket Guide

This is a handy pocket guide you can bring with you to the field. It will take you step by step on how to field dress big game animals

Best Rifles for Petite Women

Sound

Sound is a difficult method of judging shots, but if you are paying attention, it can really be useful.

Often in the heat of the moment, we don’t pay attention to the sound of the impact.

However, it can tell a lot about a shot. 

A liver shot makes quite a thud, and if you hear it, you will know exactly what it means.

It’s almost like a hollow sound but with some substance behind it, like a smack.

Deer Reaction

Often a liver shot deer is identifiable by the deers’ reaction alone. However, this does vary from deer to deer.

In most cases, a liver shot deer will start to run but stop after about 100 yards. They proceed to walk after this or even come to a standstill.

Some deer will bed down after about 200 yards, and some can make it out to 500 plus yards before bedding down.

Blood Trail

The best tell-tale sign of all is the blood trail. However, the downside of this is with a liver shot.

Often liver shots produce little or spotty blood.

If it was indeed a liver shot, the blood would be very dark and as mentioned, potentially very sparse with only a few drops here and there.

The blood will usually have a thick consistency and disappear very fast. 

What to do after a Deer Liver Shot

Deer Liver Shot: Here's What to do

This is where things get tricky. Assuming you read all of the above and are certain of a liver shot then you are fine, because I can tell you to wait 4-9 hours, and you are sure of a recovery.

However, where things go wrong for people after a liver shot is A; they are not sure it was a liver shot or B; they didn’t care to check and went after the deer too soon.

A liver shot will always prove fatal for a deer, but many liver shot deer are not recovered.

This is not because they didn’t die, but because an eager hunter didn’t wait. 

The deer still died, but probably 3 counties over or in cover so thick you wouldn’t think it was possible to get into it.

If in doubt, hang back. You will find most liver-shot deer within 500 yards of where you shot him if you wait.

This will allow the deer to bed down, which they usually quickly do after a liver shot.

Come back in 5 or 6 hours, and you’re sure to find your deer just outside the blood trail.

If the weather isn’t favorable, you could start tracking him earlier, but I would at least wait four hours.

I would only wait less than four hours on a suspected liver shot if I saw the deer fall in front of me.

Although in this scenario, it’s likely you’ve clipped one lung alongside the liver.

Final Thoughts

Most hunters are going for that sweet spot, heart – double lung, but it doesn’t always work out like that.

A liver shot isn’t a bad shot, it may not be your greatest, but it’s still a kill shot.

If you suspect a liver shot, back off and wait for at least four hours before tracking, and if you do, it’s likely your deer will be less than 500 yards from where you hit him.

string(8) "big-game"
Scroll to Top