How to Age a Deer
When you’re deer hunting, there are many mysteries that present themselves. You may be curious about when the deer will arrive in your area, why they move in certain patterns, or any other question — and a common one that people ask is how to tell the age of a deer. Unsurprisingly, wild deer aren’t given birth certificates, so it’s impossible to narrow it down exactly. However, there are a few time-tested techniques that you can use to age a deer, so read on to learn more about them.
By the Size and Spread of its Antlers
If you’re wondering how to tell the age of a buck, the easiest place to start is with the antlers. A buck’s antlers are the biggest giveaway to the age of a buck, and it’s also probably the most accurate way to age them from a distance.
First and foremost, you’ll want to look at the length of the antlers. How long do the antlers extend in front of the deer’s face? A younger buck who is less than two years old will not protrude past the deer’s face at all, while an older buck will usually have antlers that jut out about 20 inches from the buck’s face. Generally speaking, the larger and wider the rack of antlers, the older the deer is.
If you’re checking the age of a buck that you’ve killed, you can take out the ruler and get down into the details of it all. This is done by analyzing the antler spread of the animal. Measure the distance between the antlers of the deer. If a buck is younger than 2.5 years old, the spread will almost never be more than 14 inches. However, once the buck reaches a prime age of 3.5 years old or so, you can expect the spread to come in over 15 inches.
By Its Size and Body Type
If you’re wondering how to tell the age of a doe or are just finding the antlers to be unreliable, the next move is to study the deer’s body size and type. There are a few different indicators that you can use to properly age a deer by judging its body — the neck, the legs, and the proportions.
A younger deer will have a much thinner neck than a mature deer, especially in bucks. A deer that’s under 3 years old will have a thin, long neck, and a deer that is over 3 years old will start to have a thick, muscular neck. By 4.5 years old, you can fully expect a buck to have a very muscular and proportioned neck. This is especially pronounced during the rut when a buck’s neck will swell a bit.
When looking at the legs of a deer, you’ll want to take notice of how they compare to the rest of the deer’s body. When compared to the rest of the body, a young deer’s legs will seem long and thin and gangly. However, as the deer matures, the rest of the body will grow into the legs, which will make for a proportionately better look. When the deer reaches full maturity at around 4 years old, you can expect legs that look short and stocky.
The final clue to the puzzle is how the proportions of the deer look. On a younger deer, you’ll find a body that has a small stomach and torso, which gives off a skinny and almost frail look. As the deer ages, it will age into its body and that torso will become much more stocky and well built. The area between the neck and the chest is a great place to look to try and determine the age of the deer.
By Its Teeth
If you have killed the deer and want to be specific with the age of the deer, you can use the deer’s teeth to make an accurate prediction.
First, open the mouth of the deer and count the number of teeth in the jaw. If the deer has 5 or fewer teeth in its mouth, it is absolutely a fawn. Deer develop their teeth during their first year of life, and if a deer has at least 6 teeth, you can be confident that it’s at least one year old.
Once you’ve done this, take a look at the third tooth (from the middle) on the bottom jaw. If this tooth has three cusps that form into a single tooth (also called a tricuspid), then you’re definitely dealing with a fawn. This is their baby tooth, and throughout that first year of life, that tooth will fall out and be replaced with a permanent bicuspid tooth.
If you’re looking at a bicuspid tooth already, try to examine the color of the tooth. Does it look to be the same color as the other teeth in the mouth, or is it noticeably whiter? If it’s noticeably whiter, then the tooth is likely new and the deer is probably a little over a year old. However, if the color matches, you’re dealing with a deer that is either near full maturation or is fully matured.
Finally, if you’re certain your deer is on the older side, take a look at the rest of the teeth — specifically, the enamel. As the deer ages, this enamel will wear and fade to a brown color. If the teeth look noticeably worn down, it’s very likely that the deer is elderly (over five years old).
Give Yourself an Edge in Your Next Deer Hunt
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