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  • Post last modified:March 11, 2023

Is It Ethical to Hunt Deer with a 556 or 223?

Certainly it's ethical to hunt whitetail with a 223 or 556, but it all comes down to the ammunition you're using and the skill of the user for shot placement.

federal premium 223 69 gr

It's important by law to use the right 556 bullet and not use military or penetrator rounds, as they are not designed for maximum tissue damage.

Shot Placement Matters


Skill of the user is a crucial factor.

There have been cases where large caliber rifles and top hunting rounds were used, but the user was unable to hit the shot properly, resulting in an unethical kill. Therefore, it doesn't matter how big the caliber is; it really comes down to where you place the shot.

Where To Aim


This broadside shot is the best choice because it offers a larger area for the hunter to hit the deer. If the hunter misses by a small amount, they can still hit both lungs. If the shot misses further back, it will hit the deer's liver instead.

This is a clear path to the heart and lungs. If the hunter aims at the spot just behind the front leg and between the middle and bottom third of the deer's chest, they can hit both lungs and even the top of the heart.

Aim for the heart of the deer, which is the lower third of the body. Aiming for the Center Mass doesn't account for the fact that 99% of deer shot with a bow and arrow won't drop unless they're at Point Blank Range. So, aiming for the heart gives you room for error when the deer drops.

deer shot placement broadside

Even after he drops, your arrow hits Center Mass, so if he doesn't drop, you hit him in the heart. If he does drop, you double lung him. There's no reason to aim Center Mass, and you should always be aiming for that lower third of the deer.


the second-best shot you can take is when it's quartering-away from you. Some hunters prefer this shot because the deer is less likely to see them getting ready to shoot. From this position, you have a good chance of hitting the deer's vital organs, like the heart or at least one lung.

To take a good quartering-away shot, aim further back than the deer's front shoulder. It's a good idea to aim at the opposite-side shoulder, where you want the arrow or bullet to exit the deer's body. If you aim too far forward, you risk only hitting the deer's front limb. However, if you aim a little too far back, you'll still hit the liver and clip one lung, which is a good shot but not as quick as a heart or double-lung shot.

Frontal Shot

It's not a good idea for hunters using a bow or rifle to take a shot at a deer from the front. There's a lot of bone and fat that can get in the way of the arrow, making it hard to hit the vital organs. Even with a bullet, there's a risk of hitting the guts and ruining the meat.

Even if the shot does hit the right spot, the target from the front is very small. A deer's ribcage is only about 12 to 14 inches wide when viewed from above, and the heart is less than three inches when viewed from the front.

Also, don't aim to the left or right of the chest because the heart is in the middle. Aim high and in the middle to avoid as much bone as possible and to give yourself the best chance of hitting the small target.

Using Properly Zeroed Rifle

Whether its for hunting or precision marksmanship, zeroing the scope is the key.

  • The 200-yard zero allows for maximum point-blank range (MPBR), which means the bullet stays within a six-inch circle of the target.
  • However, the 200-yard zero is less precise and more affected by wind, which can cause the bullet to miss the target.
  • The 100-yard zero is more precise but has a shorter MPBR.
  • It's important to be precise in zeroing the rifle and not just guessing, as every cartridge drops differently at 200 yards.
  • A wandering zero can be caused by factors such as barrel temperature, scope, or rings.
  • It's recommended to shoot at different distances and positions to train for the real hunting environment and to know the limit of the rifle.