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Hunting Moose and other Mammals

Anatomical Knowledge Helps!

When hunting mammmals, having a basic understanding and visual picture of their anatomy can help you get a clear, clean shot. A shot through the heart or lungs will take the animal down faster, causing them less pain,and ensuring that they don't run away and die someplace you can't find, thereby wasting the meat. A shot through the heart or lungs also ensures that you don't spoil meat by contaminating it with fluid or solids from the digestive tract. All in all a carefully calculated shot with knowledge of the animal's anatomy is of benefit to everyone, the animal included.

The following images were created by Dr. Bengt Röken, who worked for 38 years as a Veterinarian at Kolmarden Zoo in Sweden. Dr. Röken used euthanized zoo animals for anatomical studies and dissections. Dr. Röken has published these images previously in hunting magazines to help hunters make clean shots. He has graciously provided some of his work for this project, and though his work is not of caribou but of moose, many hunters who hunt caribou also hunt moose, and there are anatomical similarities. We hope these images will help you visualize the internal anatomy and help with efficient hunting.

Dr. Röken, in Kenya with giraffes in the background.

Moose Anatomy Heart and Lung Positioning Depending on Angle

Image © B.O. Roken, DVM, 2008,

Vital organs/shot placement in the moose:

Vital organs include the heart, lungs and thoracic spinal column. When heart or both lungs are hit by an expandable bullet, fatal bleeding occurs within minutes. Spinal injury results in immediate collapse and paralysis. If only the upper parts of the lungs are injured a rapid death due to internal bleeding occurs.
These drawings were originally made in 1968 by Dr. Roken when he was a veterinary student. He produced them after having measured angles in an anatomically correctly prepared skeleton with special regards to the anatomy of the rib cage.

Drawings of Moose Anatomy - Focusing on the lungs

Image © B.O. Roken, DVM, 2001,,

Lungs in front of the diaphragm midline are colored deeper than the parts that lie behind. The right lung is larger than the left, and only the right apical lung lies in front of the heart.

An oblique shooting angle will rapidly diminish the area covering both lungs.

The rumen (or rumneo-reticulum) covers the left abdominal cavity, whilst the liver and small and large intestines fills the right side.

This zoo born moose calf was a small underdeveloped animal, while the muscle mass was weak, and there was minimal fat deposits, the abdominal organs were well developed. During the dissection in a lateral recumbency position, some of the organs were painted. Ribs 1,5,10 and 13 are left in place. The left lung surface is painted orange, the visible part of the heart is painted red and the left jugular vein is painted blue.

Image © B.O. Roken, DVM, 1985,,

On this dissection, the close proximity between the rumeno-reticulum and thorax and heart, is clearly visible.

If a bullet is placed only centimeters behind the heart, only the margin of the lung plus the forestomachs and possible the liver (on the right side) is perforated, causing only minimal internal bleeding.

If a bullet hits only centimeters above the spinal cord (the spinal processes) the trauma on the spinal cord may vary from zero to an immediate but temporary paralysis.

The skull, neck and thoracic vertebraes have been sawed in the midline exposing the naturally white central nervous tissues (brain and spinal cord). The heart and inside of the aorta and brachocephalic artery are painted red, and inside of the nasal cavity, pharynx, trachea and right lung are painted orange.

Image © B.O. Roken, DVM, 1985,,

Male moose, 2 years old, prepared September 2000.

The right front leg and rib cage, except for ribs 1,5,10 and 13, are removed. The large right lung is painted orange.

Note the backward angle, even on the cranial ribs, which is normal in cervids.

Image © B.O. Roken, DVM, 1985,,

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