Deer running after being hit?

Guy Miner

Master Loader
Apr 6, 2006
We've got hunters from all over the country here, heck Canada too, and other parts of the world. I'd appreciate reading your thoughts, your experiences on this.

I read, mostly on a couple of lever-gun forums, about deer running after being hit - running a long darned way and sometimes being very difficult if not impossible to recover.

The vast majority of deer I've shot (mostly mule deer) have simply collapsed either instantly, or within seconds, without taking a step. Same with the deer I've seen my hunting buddies shoot. Rarely have I had to trail a deer. A few times yes, but maybe three times in all these years of hunting. Only one of those was a long track. I was helping another hunter who'd gut shot a mule deer. Sadly in the falling snow, we eventually lost the tracks after over a mile of trailing the deer. That's the only deer I've ever seen lost among the folks I hunt with.

Is there a type of rifle cartridge or bullet that is more likely to not drop a deer where it stands? Why do some folks talk a lot about deer running off and having to track them on a routine basis? I don't understand.

I've had instant drops from a traditional 50 cal muzzle loader, the 45-70, 30-06, 7mm Remington magnum, 25-06, 6mm Remington and likely more cartridges I'm forgetting. High velocity, modest velocity... Most of the deer just dropped.

Thanks for your input!



Mar 21, 2021
Seen many run , white tails that is .

One that sticks in my head was a nice buck shot with 7mag from about 300 yards with Remington corlock 150 grain I believe, damn deer just hauled ass , we tracked and tracked 400 yards blood just stopped , we looked for hours , went back next day found him , double lung ,, bullet looked like it never expanded , still not sure about that one.

Another 2 involved muzzleloader one with cva power belt and one hordany xtp , bullet blow up , damn miracle we found them in the thickets ,

All 3 shot correctly.

Been several more but it was due to poor shots .

Can power belts were absolutely the worst bullets I ever shot ,, shot damn good, but performance on deer was poor at best .

Seen several run off with 223 or 22-250 shot correctly as well , but I chalk that up to they just ain't deer guns . Yotes and dirt dogs yes , deer nope

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Oct 23, 2020
I've had very few whitetail take off running, either in sport hunting or control work. Those were primarily shot with either a .308WIN or a 30-06. I don't remember the .308 load, but it was probably 150gr Core Lokt factory. The 30-06 was a 125gr Silvertip and it turned off deer like a lightning bolt.

I did shoot one with a .223 on control work that ran. I never recovered it and is the only animal I've ever lost to date.

Caribou were mainly shot with a 300WSM and they dropped at the shot. Never tracked one more than a few paces. The two slowest kills on caribou were with a 6.5CM. Hit well, they just stayed on their feet longer than I'm used to. They were on their feet, but definitely not getting very far. I hit really big one with a .308 and it wasn't terribly dramatic either, but it didn't run anywhere.

Moose have stayed on their feet a distressingly long time. I've hit a few that simply just stood there after being solidly double lunged. I had one trot off, but he only made it 100 yards or so before he just laid down and died. If you hit a moose and he're in for a job as they can cover a lot of ground and tend to run into deep nasty holes or the middle of a lake before dying.

My hunting partner whacked a nice bull three times through the chest with a 33NOS and he stood there for what seemed like forever.

Bears have tended to be pretty hardy and take off after being shot so I tend to shoot quite a lot until they quit moving. Both of my recent big black bears got hammered on hard before they gave it up. Plenty of gun, solid hits. Both dropped at the first shot, got up and took off before being shot again. The grizzlies I've seen shot were the same way, only worse...lots of good shooting and an animal on its feet and mobile for longer than you'd like.

In short, the "running deer" phenomenon in my personal experience is most likely just bad shooting. Moose, elk and's probably expected to some degree.

1100 Remington Man

May 1, 2007
Guy one of the reason I like hunting out West is because I can use a High Powered Rifle and Yes Roy Weatherby was right speed kill.
A vast majority of my Rifle shots have been DRT like they were struck by lighting, but I have also seen a Nice Buck Antelope shot with my .264 Win Mag on a classic broadside shot a double lung shot make a sprint for 50-75 at full speed till he rolled with a Nosler 120gr BT. I have had a couple Deer do it as well, but they were the exception to the rule.
Now Whitetail hunting here in Iowa with Slugs I have only had one DRT and I shot a 8 point Buck looking around a tree at Me from 25 yds and I shot him right in the ear hole into the brain. I always expected a deer to run from a foster slug 1oz 12ga. and that’s from 50-440 yards with lung shots or heart shot. They just run till there out of gas.


Nov 5, 2015
Have used 223, 243,25-06, 6.5x55, 270win,7mm08, 7mmRM, 308win, 30-06 and 35 Rem,.490 RB, .530RB in ML and sabots. Some deer run some drop. Have been hit in the heart, lung area didn't seem to matter. The best results have been high shoulder shots clipping the underside of the spine.
Once read a story that claims the position of the valves of the deer's heart determined whether the deer ran or dropped. If it was exhaling or inhaling. I don't know. This I do know. The bigger the hole the bigger the blood trail if needed. Dan.

Dr. Vette

Apr 16, 2012
My rule is that whitetail deer always run. Sometimes it is far, sometimes not, but they run. If they're hit in the heart and/or lungs, they run no matter how good the shot may be. Heart in shatters, lungs turned to much, it doesn't matter - they run. Only a shot to the spinal column seems to stop them.

I've seen very few drop where they are shot, unless it's on a TV show. Those deer inexplicably seem to always drop. My daughter shot one and had it drop, but happened to clip the bottom of the spinal column with the bullet, so that worked well.

I've seen antelope drop DRT far more often than whitetail deer.


Nov 25, 2013
Whitetail deer are a tougher animal compared to the mule deer. They have a stronger constitution and stronger will to live, than the mule deer, despite being a smaller animal on average.
You can almost compare these two animals the same as elk and moose...even though the moose is a larger animal, it just just does not have the same tenacity of life as the elk.
I have often heard that caribou were generally easy to harvest cleanly, but I have seen them soak up some lead too. But animals are just as individualistic as people...some are just tougher than others. And can take more punishment.

Bullet placement always factors into the equation. Yes, there is truth to the Weatherby advantage where speed kills (as there is more hydrostatic shock to the animals bone/tissue and central nervous system). Just as there is something to the frontal area transferring more energy to the animal with larger caliber bullets and/or FP/RN designs of the older "brush" cartridges. Use enough gun has a place...for when all things go wrong, there is a factor of safety in your favour...versus using the cartridge/bullet that requires that all things are right for it to work reliably. Our quarry deserves this respect.

I do not get worried about whether the animal runs or drops in its tracks, as the aforementioned variables all factor into the equation. My main objective is that the animal is harvested cleanly, quickly with no undue suffering. This means that I have to perform as required to ensure this occurs. If it does not, then 9.9 times out of 10, it is my error, not the error of the rifle/cartridge/bullet combination.

May all your shots fly true!


Jul 29, 2019
Lots of variables.
Calibre/weight/bullet construction etc
Also was the deer aware of your presence?
I have also heard that it depends on the last breath the animal took before being hit.

In my experience with boiler room shots, whether hit by my .243 or 30-06 they often run, although the smaller species I hunt like Roe deer less so, but there is always one that hasn't read the script!
Fallow deer are renowned for running on, red deer, in my experience, always run, often 50 yards but I have known well over 100 yards.

Of the whitetail I have shot (only 3) 2 ran on around 50 yards.
The Mule deer, (only 2) dropped on the spot.
The 2 bull elk, one dropped, one ran of a few yards.
Of the these deer none were aware of my presence.

I guess it all comes down to the 'ick' factor


Range Officer
Staff member
Oct 30, 2004
The trick is expanding cup and core bullets at high velocity. That is the only way to stack the deck in your favor.
That being said I have seen antelope hit with 416 Bee mags and with no heart and lungs make it 163 yards away.


Dec 11, 2010
"Once read a story that claims the position of the valves of the deer's heart determined whether the deer ran or dropped. If it was exhaling or inhaling. I don't know."

I have read the same thing. I think it boils down to if the deer, elk whatever had the heart pump a fresh supply of oxygen filled blood to the brain. If so, the deer or elk ran. Dunno what regulates the distance as I've had deer drop DRT, run only a few feet or at least one that ran about 250 yards before expiring. FWIW, that one was shot with my .243 by an eleven year old kid on his first deer hunt. One of my neighbor kids who wanted to hunt. One deer I remember quite well was shot at such close range, think three feet from the muzzle of my .308 that the entire far side was totally blown out. I've never seen such destruction as what I saw on that deer. I literally stepped on it and shot from the hip as it got up. That deer actually ran close to forty yards before dropping. All I had to do was cut off at the windpipe and free the anus, roll over and shake. I have no idea how he could run after the shot. Bullet was the 150 gr. Sierra Pro-Hunter over a stiff load of H335. Most deer I shot were either DRT or went a short distance.
Paul B.


Nov 8, 2006
I've certainly witnessed whitetail run an amazing distance with no heart on several. Never had a mule deer run very far. Moose, also, tend to be quite phlegmatic, dropping close to where they are shot. Elk... That's another story. Most have dropped pretty quickly, but when one does run it will be quite a distance. Bears? I've learned to keep shooting until they quit moving. They have an incredible desire to live. Crawling on all four to find a drop of blood in thick bush when following a "dead bear" is not a particularly healthy occupation, though I will confess that it is exhilarating.


Mar 21, 2021
FOTIS":he737lh3 said:
The trick is expanding cup and core bullets at high velocity. That is the only way to stack the deck in your favor.
That being said I have seen antelope hit with 416 Bee mags and with no heart and lungs make it 163 yards away.
163 yards out there ain't a big deal..

163 yards in these pine plantations is a big deal , you have to crawl through them sometimes.

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Jul 28, 2015
For whitetail the 270 win was the most lethal at dropping deer in their tracks for me. When I had the 270 I took 24 deer and 22 never took a step. I just always used cup and core bullets loaded hot. All the various 6.5’s I’ve used seems about 50/50 between dropping or running short distance. So far my 9.3x62 has been devastating. On that I’ve been loading the softest 286 gr bullet I can find to 2500 FPS in a 98 Mauser and all of those have hit the ground. Now in my sauer 9.3 I have used 230 gr, and most of them have made it about 20-50 yards after being hit. With my two 416’s I’ve used the softest bullets I can get and loaded hot. It seems to work very well with only one deer making it about 15 yards. The others just look like you jerked the earth out from under them. Whitetail just seems to have a strong resistance to dying as others have said. It’s amazing how far they can go even with their heart and lungs destroyed.

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Jan 12, 2015
15 years as a unofficial assistant guide, and a personal total of over 40 whitetails, is that a deer shot in the heart will probably do a 100 yd dash at Max speed, a center long shot is a 50-50, high lung shot, just below the spine, DRT.....doesn't matter what cartridge it was.

truck driver

Ammo Smith
Mar 11, 2013
I once stood in one spot while doing crop damage culling and shot 5 Whitetail doe as each steprd out of the same thicket one after the other. Each one was a front shoulder hit with a 165 grain Hornady innerloc spitzer out of my 30-06. They all ran 50yds after being hit before they collapsed.
I had one on a different day travel a long ways and probably was close to 300yds but a small branch that I didn't see got in the way and caused the bullet to tumble.
Thank goodness for a light snow that showed the blood trail that was melting fast or I would have lost it.
When skinning her out I found the bullet on the same side that it went in on and was located under the hide in the hind quarter. That bullet entered the front shoulder destroying the lungs and bounced back and forth tumbling off the ribs hardly touching a gut to come to rest in the hind quarter under the hide with lots of tissue damage.
That one had a strong will to live but crawled under a multiple rose bush to hide and die.
The only ones I have had drop in their tracks were shot with my .45 cal muzzle loader, 35 AI and my 12ga slug gun


Range Officer
Staff member
Nov 4, 2004
Gunner46":1wkwjx7r said:
15 years as a unofficial assistant guide, and a personal total of over 40 whitetails, is that a deer shot in the heart will probably do a 100 yd dash at Max speed, a center long shot is a 50-50, high lung shot, just below the spine, DRT.....doesn't matter what cartridge it was.
My experience is the same as yours.
I'm a big fan of the high lung shot. The deer are DRT regardless of caliber. I've shot several deer crop damage deer hunting with this shot placement and they still have a mouth full of beans. The lighting strikes before they hear the thunder.
With a bow, lung shot deer typically go 40-80 yards.


6mm Remington

Ammo Smith
Feb 27, 2006
Antelope Doe - 150 yards - 7mm Rem - 160 gr. Nosler Partition - 3070 fps

One year my dad shot a doe antelope at 150 yards. Neck shot. He missed the spine but took out the artery in the neck. She ran 1/4 of a mile before she dropped having run out of blood. We both were amazed at what this animal did.


Dec 26, 2016
Yeah. Nothing really different to add.
Hydrostatic shock matters. I’ve had most white tail make 30-100 yards on clean double lung heart shots. A memorable one was a 8pt white tail broadside. Hit him at 45 yards with a RN Hornady interlock doing 2800 FPS. Sprayed blood 8-10 ft behind where he was standing… ran 85 yards through some thick stuff, he hit a big oak square on full run leaving an 18” blood splot, then bounced off that tree to a near by sapling, antlers hooked and he slide right Down it. First every 8 point ringer.
When I gutted it, the heat came hour in two pieces. Lower chambers and upper chambers.. this past year I used a 45/70. Hit him at 60 yards,?double lung heart, ran 60, blood trail was more like a red carpet.. easy recovery. That was a federal cup and core.

I had 5 of 6 does drop DRT with a 243 85gn SGK HP. (RL26 for 3300fps) The five that dropped, no exit hole. Complete energy dump. The 6th had an exit hole and made 50 yards.

The 45/70 left a blood trail comparable to my CVA shooting Barnes tipped triple shock muzzle loaders..

We hunt in thick stuff, so 100 yards can be a horrible track without a decent blood trail.

I was taught to shoot for the heart, but from what I’m hearing, high lung / high shoulder is an excellent choice for DRT.

Have a friend who gets a lot of DRT deer with his 308 and CoreLokts. My favorite, he shot a 10, it dropped in his shooting lane, got out, gutted it, back in his blind, 20 minutes later a 6 pt walked up to the dead 10, sniffed the 10, and he added the 6 pt to the pile. Was tagged out 10 am opening day….he was whistling a happy tune that day. He was pretty high, so betting he got a high lung hit on both.

I don’t think the deer know if they were hit by a new or old cartridge. If you don’t wipe out a white tails nervous system, they run.

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6mm Remington

Ammo Smith
Feb 27, 2006
3 pt Mule deer buck - 200 yards - 50 mph crosswind - 280 Remington - 140 gr. Nosler Partition - 2940 fps

Proned out lying down over a pack. Held for tight behind shoulder as deer was facing right. Bullet drifted farther than I imagined it would. Hit the buck dead center front to back and up and down on his neck. Clipped the spine and he dropped. Did not hit any major arteries. Kicking and struggling to get up. Before I could put another bullet in him he got up and ran off. Went down a draw and over the top and was gone. Barely any blood where he dropped or in following him. Central Montana pretty open where we were hunting coolies. Junipers and sage brush mixed. Began following tracks and once in a while finding a spot of blood in the dirt. About 30 minutes into following direction he went and checking every draw I saw some deer go over the top of a ridge about 1 MILE away. Last deer was walking funny and slow. As he skylined and stood for a minute in looking through my binoculars I could just make out antlers against the sky. Gut feeling it was him. Went back to the Jeep and drove over to where we last saw him checking each draw we cam to as we went. First little draw we checked over the top - nothing. Next one we found him alive and laying tucked under a Juniper. He got up and started walking away. One shot to the lungs and he dropped. You could literally see from one side of his neck looking into the bullet hole and out the other side. Hole was about 3/4" wide. Unbelievable he made it that far. It took us some time to get back to the Jeep and then check draws as we went over there to where we thought he was. Amazing he made it that far and was still alive at that point. Lucky I saw him skylined and walking.


May 3, 2017
I've never had a deer run after the shot during rifle season. I'm also a high lung shooter. Elk on the other hand...the big roosevelts I've seen run some distance after a double lung shot. Tough buggers. Sounds like a freight train taking off too just running through tree branches..... But deer, haven't had any run. Shot with 30-30 (granted those were close shots), 270, 30-06, 35 Whelen, and 50 cal muzzy. Not as much experiences as others on here with whitetail though. Mostly mule deer and blacktails out west here.