Deer Anatomy: What You Need to Know

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Deer hunting is fun and fulfilling. However, the goal should not just be taking down your targeted deer. Every hunter has an obligation to make an ethical shot when killing deer. It means making efforts to kill the animal in the quickest, legal, and most humane way possible. To make this possible, it calls for hunters to learn and comprehensively understand the anatomy of deer.

There are several aspects of deer anatomy that will help hunters comprehend the deer’s makeup, including their behavior. These would include their ways of communication, eyesight, sense of smell as well as their habitats. With such knowledge, a hunter is better placed and can move around undetected when going after the wary animal.

Since deer anatomy is a broad spectrum, this article will discuss deer anatomy pertaining to deer’s critical organs. It will aid in ensuring proper shot placements to quickly and humanely dispatch the animal. It will also cover some general aspects that are deemed important to hunters.

Deer’s Best Organs to Shoot

Heart, Lungs, and Liver

The three mentioned organs make up the vitals that possibly every hunter targets. Well, if you are hunting for deer meat, this knowledge ensures that you do not mess up.

The heart lies low at the center of the animal’s chest, right below the lungs, and slightly past the diaphragm. Not to the left nor to the right of the chest cavity. On the other hand, the lungs are located behind, rearward of deer shoulders, and are the largest vital organs. The liver lies behind the lungs.

Referring to the first aid class basics, the Air Breathing and Circulation (ABC) are critical to animals’ lives. Deer is no exception. Any damage or compromise in any of the systems will render a deer dead.

The lungs are the largest organs in the deer’s breathing and airway system. Therefore, damaging the lungs with a bullet compromises the system; hence oxygen levels suffer. As a result, the brain does not get sufficient oxygen, causing other body systems to shut down.

Furthermore, torn lungs lead to massive internal bleeding since all the blood passes through the lungs for oxidation and deoxidation. This would lead to a quick death.

When it comes to the circulation system, we think of the deer heart anatomy. The heart muscle is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood to other organs of the body, including the brain. Therefore, a damaged heart negatively impacts the pumping efficiency, and the animal dies eventually.

Whatever the hunting scenario, the heart/lung region remains to be the most ethical since it results in a quick death. In fact, it presents the target that every hunter should aim at on deer or any other deer-sized game.

The Head

Aside from the deer vitals, a head should not be ignored. A headshot calls for the understanding of the deer skull anatomy. It is a no brainer that properly executed headshots will drop a whitetail instantly. This mainly focuses on the brain. Damaging it disrupts the entire body functioning and throws the animal into total unconsciousness.

Another huge perk of targeting the brain is that it causes minimal meat loss and damage.

When targeting the brain, draw two lines on the animal’s forehead. One line from the right ear to the left eye and the other from the left ear to the right eye. A perfect shot will be where the two lines intersect.

Although the brain is an excellent target to instantly take down deer, a slight miss makes it potentially brutal and inhumane. This is because the little impact on the brain may lead to several agonizing death days, if not weeks. Actually, the deer’s brain is such a small target, and hence there is a high risk of missing it.

It is also worth noting that a thick bone of the deer’s skull protects the brain. As a result, more than often, a bullet trajectory may deflect and slide off upon hitting the skull. In such instances, the worst-case scenario is when the bullet glances to the jaw. A jaw shot is not immediately lethal and leads to death full of pain and misery. That said, it writes off the idea of changing the brain with a bow.

Besides the brain, the base of the skull is also a great hit. It is located where the neck and the head meet. One of the advantages of hitting the skull base is that it has a shallow error margin. Although it is not a great initial target, it is a kill shot with minimal meat loss. Also, it does not damage the skull nor the antlers.

The Neck

Upon studying the deer skeleton anatomy, you realize deer are vertebrates. Thus, damage to their spines is life-threatening. In this regard, there is a vital point on the neck where the spine can easily be targeted. When using a high-powered firearm, it does not necessarily mean that you have to hit the vertebrae. By hitting the solid muscle close to the spine, the impact creates adequate concussion to dismantle the animal.

However, the vital area is very narrow and thus making it riskier. In fact, even experienced hunters get it wrong more often. A miss, either too high or low, will only injure the animal, and the chances of recovery are quite small. Also, hitting the windpipe or the edge of the neck can result in an ugly miss. 

Another con of this target is that mostly, neck shots will only paralyze the deer without killing them. This causes extended suffering. Therefore, the chances are that a neck shot will need a follow-up shot if not a throat slit to kill deer. The neck is also a no-go zone if you are using bows for hunting deer. 

Other Organs and their Significance in a Deer’s Adaptability

As a deer hunter, it is essential to understand the other aspects of the deer anatomy other than the deer anatomy shot placements. They include;

Deer Eyes and Eyesight

Their eyes are set on the sides of their heads, giving them a broad field of view. Deer have a 310-degree vision even though their eyes seem to look straight ahead. It is the reason the notorious animals are always acutely aware of their surroundings.

If you have been keen enough, you have noted that deer are more active at night. This is simply because they see best at night. Also, their light-detecting cells are more compared to those of humans. Like other nocturnal animals, deer eyes tend to shine when exposed to bright light, including headlights.

Even though deer see best in the dark (at night), it does not mean that they get partially blind during the daytime. Their vision is still profound. During the day, sunlight makes deer’s pupils shrink into narrow bands. As a result, the animals can focus across a broad swath of the horizon. Therefore, they can easily detect danger by scanning through the woods when grazing or resting.

Deer Smell and Scent Anatomy

Deer have an incredible sense of smell, which serves as one of their best defense mechanisms. For instance, a deer licks its nose to make it moist to capture any odor particles carried by winds. The particles will stick to its nose helping it in identifying danger and also during the breeding processes.

Both bucks and does have the ability to leave a scent behind through urine and several other scent glands. 

Due to deer’s excellent sense of smell, bucks can know when does are ready to breed and also can detect other bucks intruding their territory.

In addition, deer communicate among themselves via scents produced by several glands in their bodies. The glands include the preorbital, interdigital, nasal, metatarsal tarsal, forehead, and preputial glands. Odors emitted from these glands vary between seasons, age, and sex.

For instance, the interdigital glands appear as small sacs and are located between the toes of all their feet. They hold a bad-smelling fatty acid emitted when deer take steps. The odor from the footsteps of dominant bucks differs from those of others. This is how dominant bucks are able to detect intruding ones.

Deer Leg Anatomy

Deer are ungulates meaning they are hoofed. Their legs are well suited to run around and about either when running for their dear lives or during the rut. Although the legs seem thin compared to the deer’s weight, they have the power to produce much speed. However, deer do not maintain high speeds over long distances but they can manage up to 40 miles per hour. Deer are excellent swimmers as well.

Deer also have an excellent leaping ability. The animals can jump up to 8 feet high, enabling them to jump over dense thickets. Their hind legs have strong muscles responsible for the running and jumping power.

With the help of the hooves, the forelegs enable deer to make sharp turns and pivots while running at high speeds.

Deer’s feet have two elongated toes covered with the hooves. Each hoof has three parts, namely, the cuneus, the compact horn, and the sole horn. Amongst them, the compact horn is the broadest and hardest part. It absorbs most of the shock when the animals are running.

Deer hooves compare to the 3rd and 4th fingers of a human hand. Behind them lies the 2nd and 5th “fingers” called the dewclaws. Notably, the does have shorter hooves compared to those of bucks and hence leaves smaller tracks. Also, hooves grow faster during summers and slower during winter seasons. This is probably because of their slow metabolism late in the year.

For whitetail bucks, their tarsal glands are located on the inside of their back limbs. The glands are responsible for secreting a musky scent that is unique to every individual buck. These male deer urinate on the tarsal glands leaving some scent on scrapes as they paw.

Deer Antler Anatomy

Although most people hunt deer to harvest meat, some are after their antlers. Male deer grow antlers on top of their heads, which would have up to 10 spikes. Does may also grow antlers, but it is a rare scenario. Deer antlers are made of live tissues composed of bones. They grow at a rate of approximately 2 inches per week. As a matter of fact, deer antlers are distinguished for having the fastest growing tissue amongst all animals.

The whitetails start to grow their antlers during spring and stop from late summer to early fall. The animals later shed them after the breeding season. When the antlers are developing, they are covered with velvet – a spongy tissue containing blood vessels responsible for their growth. The bucks later remove the velvet by rubbing it against trees after the antlers are fully developed. Do you know how to score deer antlers? Find out here!

Therefore, the best time for trophy hunting is during the deer mating season. During such periods, one should be extra cautious because they tend to be more aggressive, jumpy and reckless. Motorists are advised to be careful as deer tend to cause many accidents.  

Deer’s Ears and Hearing

The hearing aspect of the deer’s anatomy is crucial for the animals’ survival.

With reference to the whitetail deer anatomy, one can infer that a deer’s hearing ability is far superior to that of humans. As a result, deer is better placed in identifying danger from their predators, including humans.

Ears of the white-tailed deer have special muscles attached to them, enabling them (ears) to rotate. This helps the animals hear from multiple directions without moving their heads. Besides, it is also essential in determining the direction from which the sound is coming. This would probably extend to even how far the sound could be.

Most Popular Deer Hunting Accessories

For a successful hunt, here is a set of accessories that you will need:

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The deer anatomy covers a wide array of topics that are important to every hunter. For that reason, it is essential to familiarize yourself with deer anatomy relating to your hunting skills and weapons.

It will help you understand that some weapons and shots are more effective than others, thus improving your decision-making skills. Before making a shot, evaluate every possible scenario based on the variables highlighted above and your competency.

Once you pair your skills, practice, and patience with knowledge of the deer anatomy, success is on the horizon. You will definitely be that long-desired pro you have always imagined.

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