Through years of bowhunting, there have been many successes and failures. The collective wisdom from these bowhunting experiences have helped formed “Bowhunter Ethics” as we know them.

Being brought up before the days of compounds, releases, and peep sights…I was always told that any quartering in or frontal shot was “taboo”. It was considered common sense to wait for a quartering away or broadside shot, thus opening up a large target for your broadhead to enter the heart and lung area (or “boiler room” as I like to call it).

Technology has certainly changed the game. The ability to look through a peep sight, put a pin on a small spot, and squeeze a trigger has almost equated bowhunting with rifle hunting, the main difference being less of an effective range with archery tackle.

Making a frontal or quartering in shot lethal depends on a couple of main factors:

1) Thorough knowledge of the anatomy your intended target
2) Knowing your effective range

shot anatomy

Deer Anatomy showing the location of heart and lungs in the chest

One would think that as the animal gets larger, so does the target, so longer shots would be taken on larger game.   Personally, experience has taught me the opposite.  I find that my bow setup has enough punch to easily bust through shoulder bone on deer (or antelope), so I am comfortable taking this shot out to 30 yards on a decent sized buck.

Elk are another story.  I have seen frontal and quartering in shots gone bad on elk.  Even with the kinetic energy of a modern compound, there is a very good chance that slight miss into the shoulder bone will allow inadequate penetration to make an effective kill.  For this reason,  and due to the fact that I do not shoot sights, I will only take a frontal shot at very close range on elk.

quartering in

"quartering in" deer courtesy of

The above diagram when applied to elk illustrates the narrow windows of entry to get past shoulder bone and/or sternum.  Many would make the mistake of trying to angle as close the the back end of the shoulder as possible on a steeper quartering in angle.  The problem with this shot is the possibility of only getting the near lung, and liver or diaphragm.  This will make for a long and tough track job, and the animal may or may not be recovered.

quarter in

quartering in shot placement (photo courtesy of Bill Allard)


Shooting  just in front of the shoulder on a quartering in shot can be devastating.  The nontypical  bull in the following image was shot in this manner by Cory Gabrielson at about 10 yards, he was coming in agressively to a decoy, and only made it about 60 yards before going down for good.


Colorado Nontypical bull killed quartering in (Photo by Cory Gabrielson)

With all this in mind, another question becomes apparent:  can you pull off this shot with a ticked off 800 pound bull elk screaming in your face, and looking to put a serious hurt on you?

By my estimates, a direct frontal shot will give you a target about the size of  a Texas Grapefruit, and the above scenario is enough to get anyone’s heart pumping out of control.  If you are one of those guys that has ice in your veins when it comes to those situations, by all means, take the shot at your effective range.  Personally, I am going to wait until that bull is 15 yards or less…because I know I will have excess adrenaline flowing that can affect the shot.

In summary, always know your quarry,  and make your shot decisions with your abilities in mind.   If anything feels wrong or uncertain, pass on the shot or wait for a better opportunity.


Filed under: Hunting

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