Bowhunting Deer: Is "No Man's Land" For Real?

Some hunters believe it is possible to zip an arrow through “no man’s land”--just under a buck’s spine and above his lungs—and that it is possible for the animal to run off, heal and live to be hunted another day.

Other bowhunters say BS,  just look at the deer’s anatomy below. It is impossible to shoot an arrow into that area without hitting some vitals and probably killing the deer, even if you never find it.

I count myself a cautious believer, because years ago I hunted with a TV host who bought in some footage of a 160-class buck he’d shot earlier in the day. The cameraman slowed down the hit—high, but we all believed the arrow clipped the top of both lungs, and that we’d find the buck dead within 100 yards or so the next morning. We looked for 2 days, no buck. Three days later the cameraman videoed the same buck walking by another tree stand, but too far out for a shot. The deer had a noticeable hole in no man’s land, and it was beginning to heal. The animal didn’t look sick. To the contrary, he walked fine. I have been a reluctant believer ever since.

What about you--is no man’s land for real, or no? If you’ve shot a deer high like that (and what bowhunter hasn’t?) tell us about it—did you get the deer or no...if not, did you ever see him again…did you see him later in the season with a scar? Get your bowhunting buddies and tell them to comment on this post, because I want as much field data as possible. It’s a good, educational topic with bow season around the corner.

In my next post, I’ll tell you what one of America’s top deer biologists (and an avid bowhunter) thinks about this. It will be the most comprehensive info you’ve ever read on no man’s land. comment

Jake in WI's Gravatar Nope, don't believe it. Above that curved area of the spine.....yes but not below it.
With the lungs inflated and the circulatory system right below the spine its impossible for an arrow to pass through there without hitting something vital.
But I also could be wrong again.....

Heres a quote from DR. Tim Lewis
"The lungs and heart, and the airways and blood that supply them, fill the mediastinum completely. There can be a space between the lungs and the chest walls of a deer when a hunter examines the chest, but this is an artifact resulting from the less-inflated status of the lungs and the introduction of air through the fatal wound or the incision through the chest wall, or both.
In life, except for the intervening thin membranes and lubricant, the lungs are against the chest's interior. A noticeably spacious vacuum could not exist, because it would collapse more readily than forcing air from the lungs during exhalation.
Likewise, the presence of an air space between the lungs and chest walls can be ruled out by the experiences of air travelers and scuba divers. Such an air space would change size with the changes in pressure like air bladders in fish. The very fact that this does not occur proves the nonexistence of such an air space. Therefore, two of the common descriptions of the "dead space"-a vacuum or an air space- are not present between the lungs and the chest walls."

Sorry for the quote but it describes it better than I can.
# Posted By Jake in WI | 8/26/09 3:28 AM
Flatlander's Gravatar i am no epert but have taken a fair amount of deer and butchered several hundred deer over the years...... i know the anatomy fairly well
the is deffinitely a "No Zone" as we call it. i have had 2 deer over the years that was the case with. its not exactly like the red box shows
it is jus a bit lower and back more of a small triangle at the back top of the ribs......... i have butchered a deer that had a hunk of arrow
wedged below the spine and ribs in this area and that deer obviously lived..... looked to be a year old wound by the scaring and healing.

last year i had a first, i hit a doe 1/3 up the chest and just back behind the heart........ it would have been in the 8 ring on any 3d target
i never found the deer........ and it wasn't for lack of looking........ we don't have big timber, so it wasn't that we overlooked her......
she lived.......

having video of the shots sure helps to slow down and watch exact placement....... its not good and no one wants it to happen, but it does
hunters lose deer at some point, and the ones that say never happenns either don't hunt very much or its about to happen to thme this season :)

its all life and death and ultimately its in God's hands
we just do our very best to be proficient
# Posted By Flatlander | 8/26/09 10:25 AM
NY Bowhunter's Gravatar About 3 years ago I hit an 8 point in "No Mans Land"with an arrow and could not find that deer. About 1 month later my friend shot that same deer and found that the wound had healed. He said the deer was acting naturally. The only reason he knew it had been shot before was the scar under the spine and above the lung cavity.
# Posted By NY Bowhunter | 8/26/09 11:23 AM
David in NC's Gravatar I agree. No Man's Land DOES exist functionally (at least) if not anatomically. By that I mean that way too many hunters have shot deer in this location and the deer lived, healed, and were later shot by other hunters as proof that the shot was not fatal. Biologists may argue that there is no such space, but functionally it definitely exists. I'm not sure if the arrow penetrating the chest cavity causes a drop in the lungs, but it is logical to think that by puncturing the vacuum, the lungs could drop.
I have shot 2 deer with an arrow in that location and did not find either one. No lung blood was present, and there was very little blood at all. I also have seen a deer that was killed with a sizable hole right through that area (presumably shot with a muzzleloader) that was physiologically unharmed from the wound.

If you argue it doesn't exist, then you must assume that the projectile did clip the lung but caused such little damage that the wound healed on its own, as many of these deer have been seen unharmed weeks or months later.
# Posted By David in NC | 8/26/09 11:48 AM
Jake in WI's Gravatar There is an area high and forward in the stomach cavity that would leave little blood and possibly not be lethal. Right behind the diaphram and chest cavity. Anything in front of the diaphram and in the chest cavity is GOING to hit something vital.
I also want to point out that the lungs are lobed and thinner in certain areas therefore, not causing the major hemorrhage that we are used to with a lung hit. If you have a high hit in the lungs like where Mike has the circle it will bleed a lot internally and also not look like the typical lung hit. There are also instances where it is just an obstacle illusion. I can remember watching a show with Pat Reeves hunting in Buffalo County and Pat made what appeared to be a perfect shot on the famous "Moses" buck. They even got trail cameras of the deer with a scar there. The arrow deflected and never entered the chest cavity.
The ribs run off of the spine at nearly 90 degrees so it is very easy to deflect an arrow and give the illusion of a perfect hit.
Again, I just don't believe it and from what I have read it is physiologically impossible. Maybe, its just an excuse that is easy to use? (that is not meant to offend anybody, so please do not take it that way)
# Posted By Jake in WI | 8/26/09 12:04 PM
Jake in WI's Gravatar Also, note on the anatomy chart above how the spine curves down right by the scapula, the fins still go up and still give the illusion that the spine follows the back when in reality it curves rather drastically downward. If you hit that area you will not hit anything vital.
# Posted By Jake in WI | 8/26/09 12:09 PM
miller the deer killer's Gravatar My Dawn2Dusk prostaff brother Hunter Ricketts and i were hunting last year when i hit a doe VERY high... rather than run off, however, she tipped over and i was able to put another arrow into her. the old saying goes...

Hit them high, watch them die
hit them low, watch them go.

however, i would NEVER attempt to hit a deer in this area, as it is a very, very low odds shot
# Posted By miller the deer killer | 8/26/09 1:36 PM
hanback's Gravatar miller, good to see u back! interestingly I shot a MT buck last fall, went straight down and rolled over 2 times! I had
never had a buck do that before! The hit was a little high but not up top in the sping--must have shocked/spined the deer,
and then the arrow deflected off a bone and came out low and perfect on the other side--it was weird, but strange things
can hapen when you hit deer high
# Posted By hanback | 8/26/09 4:01 PM
trent M.'s Gravatar A buddy of mine shot a decent 8 last year and by muzzleloader had a very nice scar ABOVE the spine, 2 blade rage that was vertical on one side, and horizontal on the other. Deer bled and bled, and kept running. No man's zone isn't BELOW the spine...its ABOVE it...
# Posted By trent M. | 8/26/09 6:15 PM
hanback's Gravatar Trent, very good observation, as you'll see in my next post!!
# Posted By hanback | 8/26/09 6:36 PM
Scott from MI's Gravatar Im not so sure on no man's land. Im in the same boat as a few others here, i think if your going to hit a deer anywhere in
the rib cage area below the spine your going to hit vitals and 90% of the time that deer will die. Might not be that day or
next, could be a few days or a couple weeks but most likely it will die. Sure there is a chance it might make it but very small
chance. I agree with Trent as well, i think its above the spine that most deer get hit and make it. Theres lots of skin, and
tissue above the spine.
# Posted By Scott from MI | 8/27/09 9:51 AM
PA Archer's Gravatar 10 years ago, I shot large bodied mature 9pt in the much-debated no man's land. Blood trail was decent for the 300-400 yards. So much so I kept
telling my neighbor who was tracking with me that I was sure he was over the next hillock. Reached a creek bottom and the trail sputtered
and gave out. I searched for 3 full days for that deer in an ever-widening circle that eventually ended up being close to a mile across.

The same deer ( he had a distinctive kicker on his right side G-2 and now with a high archery wound) was observed chasing does on the
4th night after the shot by one of my neighbors roughly 3/4 of a mile away. He was then killed on opening day of gun season by a
landowner 1-1/2 miles from where I'd shot him. The landowner's son reported the deer had a healed archey wound high on his back .

My guess ? Some form of "No man's land" is very real for me (nearly gave up bowhunting after that shot). Based on the anatomy I've seen and my recollection of the shot placement, I now believe I clipped the top of the lungs with an extremely poor choice of an early generation of expandable broadhead that didn't cause enough damage to the lungs to kill him.

He subsequently managed to either break the arrow off or remove it and then laid low for a day or two
til he was healed up enough to breed another day. Truly amazing animals.
# Posted By PA Archer | 8/27/09 12:49 PM
T.J. from Louisiana's Gravatar Last year, a guy in our club arrowed a nice 8 point early in the season. He thought he had hit it a little high, but was not worried about
it. He looked for the deer for days, but never found the deer or his arrow. Well, the same guy shot and killed the same 8 point late in
the gun season. When they started to clean the deer, they found something very unusual. The front half of the arrow was still inside
of the buck. The wound had completely healled, and the buck was perfectly fine (until he got shot, again). The arrow had gone above
the lungs and below the spine, otherwise known as "no man's land". After this, I am a firm believer in that misterious space called "no
man's land".
# Posted By T.J. from Louisiana | 8/30/09 3:44 PM
Jeff Brewer's Gravatar Yes without a doubt the dead zone is for real. Just below the spine and above the lungs.. The "BACK STRAP SHOT" 4 years ago I arrowed a 140 class 8pt at 15 yards on a creek ridge in JPFWA here in Indiana. A Clean pass through that nocked the dear off of his feet into the creek. we had good blood but backed off because it was late in the evening the next morning we jumped the buck up 200 yards from the shot location and we saw this deer a week later breeding a doe in the same area with a nice distinct scar just below the spine. The deer never got harvested but was spotted 5 more times through out the season. To all those skeptics.. the next time you shot either a doe or buck do a hands on inspection of the anatomy. I do all of my own processing so I know deer anatomy very well with over 100 deer under my belt.The spine on a deer runs very close to the surface of the skin. JUST LIKE YOUR SPINE ON YOUR BODY. Or your dogs for that matter
# Posted By Jeff Brewer | 9/7/09 1:17 AM
john mueller's Gravatar It exists and I have done it more than once. I have bought deer anatomy charts and looked at skinned deer and I do not have an explanation. If the anatomy charts are correct every deer that I hit in this area would have died and I would have a couple of giants on the wall. If you consider the angle from a tree stand and the entrance and exit of the arrow, all of these deer should be dead. I have seen all of the deer that I shot weeks later. I have come to the conclusion that there is an area we can call the bermuda triangle and the only solution is to never shoot high. Aim low and aim small.
# Posted By john mueller | 9/18/09 10:25 PM
Terry's Gravatar I shot a really nice 8 point this weekend and never found the deer. I am going crazy wondering why. I hit him a little high but not like the drawing on this site. I thought for sure I had a lung shot. How big is the no mans zone. I had a blood tail for about 80 yards and then nothing. any thoughts would be appreciated
# Posted By Terry | 10/19/09 5:10 PM
B> Moran's Gravatar I didn't know about "No Mans Land", but I found out about it last night and I am a beliver...a frustrated believer! Had a real nice buck, probably would have been my best ever, at 22 yards. Shot hit about 3-4 inches from top of deers back and a little farther back than I wanted (again 3-5 inches forward of dead middle). shot would have hit the rear portion of the red circle on the picture at the top of this post. Arrow had maybe 10 inches of shaft still sticking out, so penetration was not great, but enough to make an exit wound. Deer ran fast and hard...thought we heard him go down about 80 - 100 yds away but after tracking found the noise was where he had bulled through a tree top left by loggers in a trail. Followed blood 1 hour later...150 yds to arrow (completely covered in blood). No evidence of lug shot but also no evidence of gut shot. Another 150 yds and blood stopped. Went back this morning and combed the area looking for more blood or likely places he may have gone, bedded, and died. Nothing! Blood trail never indicated that deer stopped for long or bedded (like he was hurt bad) either. I'm in disbelief and upset...but I have to say this deer, to my amazement, is either dead a long ways away, or he's still alive. I can only hope he is still alive and will heal and perhaps be harvested another day.
# Posted By B> Moran | 11/4/11 3:07 PM
Rich's Gravatar I have hit 2 different doe high and never found either of with a 2 blade rage out of a tree stand at 5 yards good pass through and very little blood...and the other just this season i hit her high and the arrow was hanging out at a decent spot on the other side, she staggered off like a drunk deer and i never found any blood or the deer.
# Posted By Rich | 11/6/11 3:29 PM
Parker Vanik's Gravatar It is righ now, Monday November 4, 2013... i shot a small buck just last Thursday, high, at 25 yards. ive heard of the "No-Zone" before, and have been skeptical. so after this shot, i am now a believer, when I shot the deer, i knew immedeatley the hit was high, though the deer was running like it had been hit hard, tripping stumbling over every branch and twig he came to, I watched him run, and run and keep running, kept thinking he should fall any time now. he ran over 200 yards that I could see, before he got into the beans and over the hill. knowing my hit was not pristine, i sat down and gave him adequate time to die. 45 minutes later, I got down out of my tree and walked. I found my arrow, broken 2/3 of the way up the shaft, broadhead end, fletchings and knock end, missing. this tells me the arrow passed through the deer and broke off on the other side. I found ONE drop of blood on the arrow, that shouldve been painted red. one drop on a leaf near by and that was all the blood I found. im confident this is where I hit, leaving him in pain, unfortunately, not dead, nor mortally wounded. and now I am a FIRM believer in the "NO-Zone"
# Posted By Parker Vanik | 11/4/13 9:08 PM
stella's Gravatar VERY weird arrow pass through with not blood trail. I'm fairly sure I hit this area and had a pass through with no recovery. The shot was on a doe at 25 yards with a muzzy broad head. I saw the lumanoc hit what I thought was a high double lung shot. The deer ran off like many of the others I recovered 50-100 yards with double heart or lung shot. Confident in a good shot I waited and hour and went to where I shot her. I found NO BLOOD and NO ARROW. There was fresh snow on the ground so following her tracks was easy. I followed the bounding/leaping tracks thorough otherwise untouched snow for about 150 yards. In the fresh snow I only found a quarter sized clump of hair and only one drop of blood. I found the arrow horizontal in the snow 150 yards away. The razorblades had huge chips out of two of them. The arrow had bright red blood, that looked like a heart or lung shot without the bubbles, from tip to stern. The lumanoc was no longer working because blood had completely soaked the inside of it. Those three factors lead me to believe the arrow had to pass all the way through. I followed the tracks for a couple 100 more yards and lost the trail in the deep brush. While following her tracks I never saw any blood other than the one drop and the blood on the arrow. Pretty weird right?
# Posted By stella | 2/23/14 3:14 PM