High Shoulder Shot question

Discussion in 'Long Range Hunting & Shooting' started by ShtrRdy, Nov 12, 2019.


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  1. bigngreen

    bigngreen Well-Known Member

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    A 338 with a 300 gr bullet is where I'm comfortable with a shoulder shot, they will clean an elks clock if you get lower into the heavier shoulder, they remove section of spine and work very well, not my everyday shooter though, the percentage of guys packing a large 338 with 300's as their all round elk rifle is small, very small.
    If your targeting the spine you might as well save meat and lessen the chance of wounding and pull up on the neck, target is basically the same size and it's a hit or miss deal, I've bunched up a good number just neck shooting them and they are dead before they hit the ground, no twitching or pulling themselves around with their front end.
    You have to direct hit the spine to have it work every time, I've seen so many close to the spine hits have a short term effect of awesomeness then your wondering where your elk is when you get there. A perfect killing high shoulder shot is a precision target with little error but I don't want to just knock something down then kill it later, I want an animal to tip over because there is no blood left to pump or a broken pump, that's not recoverable and they are always right where you see them tip.
    I really hate to mess up that much awesome meat, average shoulder shot elk will cost about 16 lbs of meat, I'm not pulling the trigger to throw meat away, I've personally lost more lbs of meat thinking the shoulder shot was thee shot and after observing a lot of elk shot in fields then helping guys recover them the only reason I'll do it any more is to try to stop an elk that is wounded, maybe one just to test a bullet but other than that it's just such a waste and a lower percentage shot.
     
  2. DrillDog

    DrillDog Well-Known Member LRH Team Member

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    So then the bullet had to have impacted back behind the shoulder and low below the spine. I was mistaken and thinking you only meant hitting low below the spine but still centered on the shoulder.

    However, that same errant shot can easily be made while aiming behind the shoulder. If a shot flies too high, it's gonna hit the same area.

    A bad shot is a bad shot I guess. Not good when a bullet misses its mark whether aiming in the traditional vital area or high shoulder.
     
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  3. bearcat2

    bearcat2 Well-Known Member

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    Shoulder shots on elk are a good shot if you are using a good quality bullet that won't grenade. I've seen several elk shoulder shot with ballistic tips (SSTs seem particularly bad for this) where the bullet blew up on the shoulder and did not penetrate to the vitals or the opposite shoulder. Even if it breaks the close shoulder but doesn't penetrate farther, an elk can travel fairly well on three legs. That being said if a shoulder shot is being taken I prefer a midshoulder hold to high shoulder. If the elk is broadside and you have a good bullet that holds together it will bust both shoulders and they MIGHT wheelbarrow down hill a bit, but they aren't going too far, even if you don't manage to hit the vitals on the way through, quartering on you will get that near shoulder and then hit the vitals behind it. There is a big bundle of nerves on the front point of the shoulder and I have never hit an elk there in a quartering on shot that didn't dump it like a ton of bricks. Needless to say anybody who takes a shoulder shot intentionally on a quartering away animal is an idiot.
    Personally I always aim for vitals, (if a shoulder is in the way and I am comfortable with my bullet I don't worry about it, but I don't aim for the shoulder)unless there is some reason you need the animal to drop RIGHT THERE, in which case a head or spine would be preferable but a double shoulder shot will work fine.

    I had a client shoot a mule deer a couple weeks ago with a high shoulder shot, dumped it right there. 300 Win Mag shooting 200 grain Partitions (I think 200 grain if I remember correctly, I know we discussed bullets and he was using Partitions). I thought it was dead and it was across the canyon beside a fourwheeler road, so we jumped on the fourwheeler and drove around to get it. For whatever reason he didn't bring his rifle. We got over there and the deer was paralyzed from the neck down but still alive and he had to finish it with my 44 mag. With the amount of blood on the ground and the size of the chunk of lead he was throwing I was amazed it was still alive, but it was. The spine was obviously hinged where he hit it and more often than not such severe spine damage will result in a quick death but not always.

    He wasn't actually aiming for high shoulder, he said he was aiming for the boiler room, but that is where he hit. 250 yards was about his comfort zone and is a fairly long shot for a guy from New York.
     
  4. lancetkenyon

    lancetkenyon Well-Known Member

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    Yep, it was definitely high from where it was supposed to go.
     
  5. LSHopper

    LSHopper Active Member

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    I didn't read any of the posts after the first 3-4. What happened is that the bullet went through all the nerves coming out of the spine to the heart, lung , liver, etc. and literally shocked the elk to death. I have been using that shot for 25+ years on whitetails and the result is always the same. The animal fall on its feet. On 1-2 occasions it incapacitated the animal without killing it, and no, I didn't hit the spine, and had to shoot it again. I truly believe it was the medical definition of shock that killed those animals, because only the small part of the front lobe of the lungs were hit. 50+ deer killed that way can't be a coincidence.
     
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  6. bigngreen

    bigngreen Well-Known Member

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    Killing a deer like a lightning bolt with a shoulder shot and doing it to an elk are two completely different things!!
     
  7. greenejc

    greenejc Well-Known Member

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    I don't disagree. I don't aim for the shoulder either. A hit there is usually because of wind or the elk stopping just as I shot. But jrock was just asking what was effected by his shot. I don't think he intended to hit high in the shoulder. But 700 yards is a pretty long shot, and bullets can stray a few inches at that distance.
     
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  8. DrillDog

    DrillDog Well-Known Member LRH Team Member

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    No its not. A severed spine has the same effect on ANY animal.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2019
  9. 257RobertsMan

    257RobertsMan Active Member

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    I'm relatively new to the forum here and mostly in the shadows and keep from showing my lack of knowledge on long range shooting/hunting by keeping my mouth shut. However, I've taken unknown numbers of critters and more deer than most have probably seen. Not bragging, just was born and raised in a state with a liberal buck limit of one per day from mid October thru the end of January. Dog hunting was allowed and deer that has ran any distance at all have lots of adrenalin and are not easily taken, just like a poorly hit animal in any other part of the world that is not being pushed by dogs, but is in it's wounded/flight response. Once this has happened, wounded or ran/pushed for a distance, it takes more than your typical shot to anchor any animal. That being said, we purposely shot sholders in some instances to put animals on the ground and most (not all) required a quick second follow up shot. This was done with rifles with med to heavy for caliber bullets or shotgun slugs that hit like a freight train.

    I said all that to clarify this, the correctly placed mid to slightly high shoulder hit is a deadly and awesome sight to see, a poorly placed shot in the shoulder is a disaster (as well as a poorly placed shot anywhere else). While I've seen animals lost with poorly placed shoulder shots and yes poorly placed neck shots, I've never seen an animal go far that had a hole in it's heart or heart & lungs even from a 22LR, much less a centerfire with a properly constructed bullet. If you shoot for shoulders you best have the gun and bullet combo that will destroy shoulders, big bones and continue thru the opposite shoulder and even then be prepared to follow up with a boiler room shot if the junction of the shoulder & neck/spine is not hit. This area is in front of and above the chest cavity on deer, elk or any other critter and does not contain heart or lungs but does control lots of CNS functions and if hit will put an animal down immediately, however it may not expire immediately. Shot placement close to this region has the same effect but is temporary and the animal will get up and in most cases is lost unless a follow up shot is administered.

    I'm not condemning shoulder shots, I use them in certain situations myself, however I like to see blood freely flowing out of the chest cavity, their not going far.
     
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  10. jrock

    jrock Well-Known Member

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    No, it was not my POA. It went high because the animal ended up being about 40 yards closer than expected so my POI was very high. I re-ranged and calc'ed it out to make sure. 30 or 40 yards makes a difference in POI at long range. Lesson was learned.
     
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  11. Orange Dust

    Orange Dust Well-Known Member

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    What he is saying is it takes a much bigger gun to reliably do it.
     
  12. DrillDog

    DrillDog Well-Known Member LRH Team Member

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    No it doesnt.
    Just takes a good bullet and a properly placed shot. I've seen elk drop like a rock from a 243 Winchester. My father in law has taken 3 bull elk with a 6.5-300 WSM with 140gr Bergers. All 3 bulls around 600 yards. All dropped like a rock from the high shoulder shot. Just the same as all the deer we've taken

    Shot elk with a 300 win mag and 338-375 Ruger too. No difference in how the animal drops. You hit your mark on the shoulder with a good hunting bullet and they are going down.

    The only way it wouldnt work is if using a bullet like the Nosler Ballistic Tip that can blow up upon impact on heavy shoulder blades. Or when using a good bullet at distances well beyond its capability to maintain sufficient impact energy.

    24 years ago, I witnessed my father hit a mule deer buck right in the high shoulder kill switch spot at 500 yards. He was using his 300 Win Mag with 180gr Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets. The buck dropped like a rock. He went back and placed his rifle in the truck, then we hiked up to it. He only had his only 44 Magnum wheel gun on him. We got about 50 yards from the downed buck and suddenly it jumped up and took off over the ridge. We chased that buck what seemed like forever getting close enough many times when it would be down for him to put multiple 300gr rounds it in from a 44 mag. But it just kept getting back up and running. Finally after about a mile and multiple wheel gun engagements, he finished the buck. After skinning it out, we found that the bullet exploded on the shoulder blade and never fully penetrated. The shock from the impact of the Nosler BT knocked the buck out cold, but did not kill it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2019
  13. mnoland30

    mnoland30 Well-Known Member

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    I hit a cow elk in the heart with a 400 gr. muzzleloader bullet, and it ran 75 yards with no blood trail. X2 on Terminal Ballistics Research. That website is worth the read. They talk about the autonomic plexus, which is in front of the shoulder. I hit that on an aoudad and gemsbok, and DRT. After looking at the anatomy of elk, I try to aim just a little above center. With a lower velocity, or a muzzleloader, a scapula shot doesn't ruin as much meat. A .45 cal. 405 gr. high shot on or just below the spine will drop them in their tracks. I saw a low spine shot drop a cow, leaving a 4' half circle of blood spray from the lungs. I almost always hunt muzzleloader, so I go for the high percentage shot with the most room for error. I believe that to be on or just behind the shoulder, a little above center.
     
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  14. adk hunter

    adk hunter Well-Known Member

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    ...250 yards was about his comfort zone and is a fairly long shot for a guy from New York.
    Ouch!
    P.S. I'm from the Adirondacks not NY lol
     
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