Where to shoot a black bear

Where to Shoot a Black Bear with A Bow

May 18, 2017

Going on your first archery bear hunt with a bow? Awesome. Below are some tips on what need to know about shooting a black bear with archery tackle.

Whether you use a mechanical or fixed-blade broadhead for bear hunting, you need to know where to aim. The ideal shot for big game animals is an arrow that passes through both lungs. Taking out both lungs is even more important when hunting black bears though. Bears are tough and can run a long way on one lung. Wounded bears are also known for leaving poor blood trails, especially if the arrow didn’t pass through. Their fat and thick hair can close a wound quickly. An arrow through both lungs will typical cause the bear to drop in sight, though.

So that’s the goal, but how do we achieve it? A black bear’s anatomy is a little different than a deer’s or other ungulates. Their lungs are slightly farther back and their shoulders are a little farther forward. Take a look at the anatomically correct vitals on the MasterTarget paper archery targets below:

Where to shoot a bear vs. deer with a bow

Many deer hunters use the near leg as a reference point. They follow it up to lower chest to settle the pin on heart/lungs region. If you follow the same routine with a black bear, you will miss the lungs completely.

Canadian bear hunting guide, Rob Nye, recommends aiming for the “middle of the middle” or exactly where the midpoint of the front and hind legs intersect with the midpoint of the belly and back.

He wrote this on the bowsite.com forum:

So far this season I’ve guided (or helped guide) 15 bowhunters, most of them first-timers for bears. 13 bears shot in the middle broadside or quartering away and dead within 30 – 80 yards, 2 shot in the shoulder and still going. One was shot last evening: ran 30 yards, walked another 20 and tipped over on video, dead in less than 10 seconds. 

Where to shoot a black bear

As bowhunters, we love those quick recoveries. This approach also takes the front shoulder – which is easy to flirt with on a whitetail – out of the equation. On a quartering away shot, I would follow Nye’s advice verbatim. On a broadside shot, I like to creep just a hair to the left of the middle. This gives me a little more wiggle room. If I pull the shot slightly right, it will likely still hit lungs and not liver. And by the way a broadside or quartering-away shoot are the only ethical bowhunting shots on a bear.

Wasp broadheads will the break the ribs like toothpicks, but the front shoulder shields the vitals on a quatering-to shot and is no match for any broadhead.

So get a bear target (like this paper target) with the vitals marked on it and start getting used to aiming a little farther back. Select a Wasp fixed-blade broadhead (or a mechanical if your draw weight is more than 65 pounds) and we promise, it will do the job. 


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