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Chest VS Head - DRTs

All my life I've been trained to shoot center-mass. From my earliest days shooting (7 years old) to the present day (54 years old), it's been center mass. Head shots were "discouraged" for reasons varying from being too hard to hit under stress, to political shenanigans. So needless to say, it stuck and I prefer body shots.

I watch a lot of rat pesting videos and most of the shooters go for head shots for an 'instant' DRT. Now I know the pest is dead almost the instant the pellet strikes, but there's just something about all the nerves causing all the jumping around that is unsettling for me and makes me want to put a second shot into the pest immediately, but with a pumper, that's just not possible - follow up shots are slow at best - muzzle loader slow and I've lost a few 'dead' chippers to muscle spasms that propel them back into their holes. I find that with a solid chest shot (mid neck to lower rib cage), the majority of my shots cause DRT. There is the shove from the pellet knocking the pest back, and maybe a few twitches, but the chipper usually collapses less than 6" from where it was hit, with nowhere near the amount of spasms and kicks. Granted I'm using a .22 with mid weight - 18.21 gr Crow Magnums or 15.4 gr Gamo Redfires at medium velocities (roughly 568 FPS/10.2 FPE).

In my experience, on body shots, the Crow Magnums hit like a ton of bricks, but with very little (external) blood loss, the chip goes down hard and stays there. The Redfires don't hit quite as hard, but there is massive and rapid (external) blood loss and again, the chip drops almost right where it was hit. Upper neck and head shots almost always lead to spasms that propel the chippers a good distance, many times into their holes. Like the one I hit yesterday, I tried for a head shot because there was a rock directly behind the chipper's body, I KNEW the pellet was going to pass through and I didn't want it bouncing somewhere it shouldn't go, but behind the head was a mound of dirt - a perfect back drop. It must have only been a grazing head shot, because it "recovered" and sprinted into its hole. If I had aimed for the body, it may have hit a bit off center, but it still would have been a solid hit, but with the risk of a ricochet. 

Well, I've explained my reasons for preferring body shots, what does everyone else prefer and why?

For me, I go for head shots everytime. The brain controls everything. A well placed shot to brain, not head will do the job. If you are hunting for food, why mess up good meat with a body shot. Works for me.


Sep 27, 2016
MI, United States
    99% of the time I shoot the heart.

    Not chest, not body, not center mass but heart.

    Basically I locate the heart with imaginary "x-ray glasses".

    Depending on the angle, my pellet will enter the animal's center chest, side chest/armpit or thru the back right between the shoulder blades.

    Whatever it takes to get to the heart.

    I don't hunt for food, just pest control so limiting tissue damage isn't a concern for me.


    Oct 16, 2018
    Wa, United States
      I have only killed 5000, granted ground squirrel's, not eatable this year and go for the shot provided. From 5 yards to 120 yards I shoot head,chest or center of mass. Some are called peekers, you only have an eye and top of head for shot, some are sunning on mounds and depending on range have the shot of choice and then there are runners or creapers that only allow the quick shot. Dead is dead flip flop or DRT.
      Well for me it's simple. I shoot the first guaranteed vital shot. Brain works just as good as heart and lungs. I shoot whatever opportunity presents itself first. As far as wasting meat a heart lung shot wastes nothing for me. Anyone who says they eat squirrel ribs and don't want to waste them has my respect and I want to see the YouTube video of it. Even on deer a heart lung shot doesn't waste much. I do eat the heart so sometimes it wastes a little but deer are different creatures. Heads hots are often impossible and even if you had one they can turn at the last second. That being said I only had a heads hot this year and my 308 blew off his horns on its perfect pass through the brain..... So when I'm teaching my 7 year old I'm telling her to take her time aim carefully and hit ether the brain or heart. I guess if both shots are available I will always go with a good heart lungs shot with a 22 or higher. 177 I only go for heads shots. Good thread I love reading your guys answer. There are always more ways to skin a cat or in this case to plug a rat. 
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      Jul 26, 2018
        "... Like the one I hit yesterday, I tried for a head shot because there was a rock directly behind the chipper's body, I KNEW the pellet was going to pass through and I didn't want it bouncing somewhere it shouldn't go, but behind the head was a mound of dirt – a perfect back drop..."


        Just how big are those chipmunks in Ohio?😂

        Your chipmunks must be the size of the white tail deer here in Alabama.
        I’m a big fan of a well placed shot to the vitals. Very effective. Have had many that do just as you described, DRT. If I feel really confident on the fead shot, I will take it, but for me, I’m good with whichever is the best opportunity presented. I have documented a couple of those shots in This thread with particular attention to the actual trauma caused by the pellet. 
        90% of my ground squirrel shooting is done at my ranch permission. The ranch owner and foreman just want to get rid of the squirrels. I'm not worried about killing them DRT. I'll usually aim center mass, if given the opportunity. Lots of times it's DRT, other times, they're able to run/hobble back to the hole. Either way, they won't be coming back out. My mission is to eliminate the pests, not to worry about how fast they die. Sorry if this seems insensitive, but the job gets done
        They still die quick calBarry. If you get the heart and lungs they die within 60 seconds. They may get to the hole but they die very quickly. A couple of years ago I shot a deer right through the lungs. It ran 300 yards on adrenaline alone and died. It's just crazy how much ground animals can cover on their ghost run. It's not unethical to do what you do. DRT is very good for retrieving it to eat. For pesting you are totally right. Shooting them in the butt so they don't come back is unethical. A good chest shot is fine. 
        This video from Ted of Ted's Holdover has him talking over how "disinhibition" works on headshots with rodents.


        Essentially, the brain is HOLDING BACK the firing of the nerves, and when it gets taken out, the nerves fire off all their energy until they have used it up.

        What you are seeing looks horrific, but it is actually the kindest possible thing. That animal twitching and leaping about isn't doing it in fear and agony -- the animal is essentially dead. In fact some hunters do not like to see the animal NOT twitch after a head shot, because it signals that the shot may have simply injured the animal without killing it.

        I believe an instant brain death is far and away the kindest thing you can do for an animal. And I've had squirrels run off after body shots a few times -- that feels MUCH worse once you realize what's really going on.

        I prefer head shots on small game for two reasons:

        1. A shot to the head with a reasonably powered air rifle tends to incapacitate them for long enough to get a follow up shot if the first shot is a bit off. Often not the case with body shots, as they will quickly run off to be injured elsewhere in a non-accessible place.

        2. I eat most of what I kill, and head shots make the dressing portion much easier and cleaner since there isn't a chest cavity full of blood and/or gut contents to spill out. As others have mentioned, I really don't experience any appreciable loss of meat due to body shots on small game. It's really just about the dressing on this front.


        Apr 13, 2020
        CA, United States
          It all depends on the gun/ammo. 

          if I want something DRT, it’s going be slow .25 or even .30(I don’t have 30), sadly it is so effective I haven seem a squirrel in my yard in 4 months!!!

          in .22 I would go for the head but a vital shot is more than sufficient even for a tough tree rat as long as it’s well placed.

          in .177 will always going to be headshots period. unless I’m 100% certain of headshot I won’t take the shot......granted I haven’t had the chance yet and I have a 12 FPE .177 gun test for the tree rats. Been practicing headshots on sparrows though, it get gruesome even with 6FPE on a sparrow. 

          Head shot or heart shot? Or you could shoot them in the NECK.

          3 years ago I started pesting squirrels and pigeons on a farm during working hours(farm hands present). Had a .22 Prod with a Tanto moderator and a Hawke 2-7 Airmax shooting 18g H&N Hunter Xtremes at 580fps. Low power for limited pass-through(metal siding and roofs on buildings) and range(workers present). Traj was flat enough from 10 to 35 yards to hit a dime using a little holdover/under with little to no wind. 

          I headshot and heart/lung shot the first few. Problem was that I wasn't ANCHORING them. Well-placed heart/lung shots was still allowing them to run/fly for up to 3 yards, before falling stone dead. Sometimes they were unretrievable, other times they bled on eqipment, shop floors, etc. Well-placed headshots were dropping them, but then approx. 10 seconds later they were doing the bothersome flipping around thing, sometimes slinging blood on equipment, warehouse floors, flopping down into ditches, etc.

          Then I shot one in the neck. OFF SWICTH! Pigeons keel over and fall down like they just went to sleep. Doesn't even disturb the other pigeons. They just look down at the fallen bird like "WTF?", and then I pop another one. Squirrels stiffen up and drop like a sack of guts.(Tip: if you ANCHOR the first squirrel the others run about 5 yards up a tree and look back as if to say "WTF?" and you can keep popping them like the aforementioned pigeons.) No twiching, slinging blood, or running/flying off. And they were almost all retrievable. Seems like even non-spine severing shots were still anchoring them. I killed and got paid for 153 squirrels and 72 pigeons that season. I only lost 3 squirrels and 4 pigeons that I shot. 

          I have since upgraded to a .22 Lelya 2.0 with BAT moderator and a clickable scope shooting Hades anywhere from 600 to 910 fps depending on the situation. This has extended my range 10 to 75 yards, but I still shoot them in the neck.

          This is my experience pesting squirrels and pigeons in North Florida. Your mileage may vary, but try shooting some in the neck.
          Jul 26, 2018
            Just how big are those chipmunks in Ohio?😂

            Your chipmunks must be the size of the white tail deer here in Alabama.

            where you at in alabama ??

            i'm 3miles north of orange beach in the swamp, and love it 👍

            I am 20 miles east of Birmingham -- a small, but rapidly growing town called Chelsea. My deer hunting is done in Hale County, just south of Tuscaloosa. 

            Always good to hear from homey air gunners. Hopefully, we will meet sometime in the future, at the shooting matches in Heflin, Al.; after the Covid-19.
            I personally think it’s a decision to be made with the variables at hand; will it be food, size of animal, size of caliber, etc. I am usually shooting squirrels/rats that I do not plan to eat. I’ve shot them both with my .22 cal Benjamin marauder that is dead accurate. When I hit them in the head it’s lights out with the occasional jumping/spinning around for a few seconds. When I shoot with my .25 Diana Skyhawk and hit center mass, they are able to run around for a few seconds and because I live close to other neighbors, they have fallen “oven the fence” in their yard which I can’t have. For that reason, I always go for head shots.