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Aging whitetails on the hoof
We are wanted to start targeting deer that are 3.5 and above on our farm. We killed two this year that scored high 120's low 130's net that we believe are 2.5 yo. Teeth are on their way to be aged.
My question is what are the tell tell signs of a mature deer versus a 2.5? I see the picture of the buck on day 3 of pat's hunt (big 10) and he has a large rack but based on the keys I'm aware of I would call him a 2.5.
So, all of that is to say I need help.
It's definitely an inexact science. Especially if you have to make a quick decision. If I could pick only one thing it would be mass. Body mass and antler mass. Both come with age and if you have to wonder if a deer is old, he probably is not!
Agree with Greg above. Some bucks will have long tines while still young, but few, perhaps none, will also have larger diameter bases while still young. Also, sway back and belly sag usually aren't discernible until they are at least 4, more like 5 plus. If the rack is tempting, but the back is a straight line it is likely a 3 year old.
3.5 they have the race horse type look (heavy chested) then at 4.5 they start getting a pot belly...
Zbone pretty much nailed it.
3.5 - race horse chest and torso 4.5 - pot belly, base of neck looks like it starts/ends at the lower part of the chest 5.5 - starting to show a bit of sway back and the head takes on a very pronounced triangular shape and it'll also look like he's developing jowls.
At least those are the clues I used on our S TX lease.
QDMA has some good info on their website about aging deer. Some would say that’s about all they have, and I’d be in that group. But, they do have pictures to go by and descriptions that would be helpful.
Hang cameras. Pay attention to how they grow from year to year.
All good answers.
The swayed back or low neck is a good tell for older deer. Short legs is another.
This is by no means any advice to follow. Just some interesting data. Of all the 2.5 year old bucks I have shot. None scored above 115. Of the 3.5 year old bucks I have shot they have ranged from 120 to 130. My 4.5 to 5.5 year old deer ranged from 125 to 160.
Now body size there was a definite line in body weights.
This pic is from Sawyer County Wisconsin. Thick timber, lots of lowland, tag alder swamps, and precious little agriculture.
The smaller buck on the right I would guess is a 3.5 year old. The bigger one I killed 2 days after this pic was taken. He's at least 7.5 and may be even older. I know this because I saw a trail cam pic of him from 2 years ago that a neighbor has and there is no doubt it is the same deer. In that pic he was a little wider and a little heavier with about the same body size. He appeared to be at least 5.5 at that time.
Bow Crazy's Link
All good info mentioned here. I would only add this...in addition to what's been stated....behavior.
Where I live I get to watch deer from my home all year long. I've probably learned as much from watching them from my kitchen window as I have from being in a stand. One of the things I've noticed about mature bucks, is that when they are moving through the woods, when they do stop to observe/hear/plan their next move, they STOP. No taking little "toe dancing" steps, and no fidgeting. They stop, period. The only thing that may move is their head and even that isn't a quick, jerky move. It's S L O W.
It reminds me of the old joke about the young bull and the old bull standing on a hill watching a bunch of cows in the pasture below. The young bull says to the old bull....
"He pops, let's run down there and breed one of them cows."
To which the old bull replies, "No...let's WALK down there and breed them ALL!"
Make no mistake about it, QDMA (now the National Deer Association), has the best website online for anything related to deer, deer habitat and deer hunting. Here is the link to aging deer on the hoof - a bunch of articles for you too choose from. BC
It’s not an exact science, and that would explain all of the 7 year old management bucks that get killed every year along with the two year old booners. I read that Milo Hansen’s was only 2.5 years old
On the rack mass and stickers/junk are USUALLY indicators of an older deer.
The Hanson buck wasn’t 2.5
Totally agree with milnrick... Guessing at least 5.5...
Thanks for the pic JAKAPR...
Also agree with APauls... No way the Hansen buck was only 2.5, I'll bet my house on that....
During the rut, he was with a doe. I had him by the blind a few years before and he was pretty good size then. His rack was messed up just like it was in this picture. funny thing about this picture, when I put it on here I mentioned that as big as his body is and with a rack like that no other deer would mess with him. well a few days later after dark I was driving past the field and he was on the other side of the gate with a doe. I stopped to watch him. Another 8 came up and fought with him over the doe. The other buck was as big as he was body wise and rack wise, but a straight 8. He kicked this bucks butt and took the doe.
Here in NY I've occasionally stopped at the DEC regional office where they check the deer. They use dial calipers on the base just above the burr and, apparently, use that diameter as aging data.
To me 2.5 year olds still look like they have longer legs. 3.5s look like their legs are shorter and are just bigger in the shoulders and rump. One thing, bucks can lose significant weight during the rut. Especially those cruisers that cover a lot of ground and those aggressive bastages always looking for a fight. These bucks can look big up front and angle toward the rear and look like they have a smaller butt. These are 3.5 or older IMO.
Aging deer based on antler mass is not gonna work.
This "buck" I saw during bow season twice and it was still in velvet. Jon said it might be a doe, but the only way to know for sure was shoot it. It never came close enough for a shot, but the neighbor shot it during shotgun season. it still had velvet, but they peeled it off, why I don't know. with the velvet off it was 10" at the base. and yes it was a doe with a huge body. Another neighbor said he had it go under his stand during bowseason, but didn't shoot, said it was too ugly. I bet he would of shot if he new it was a doe.
Some great posts on this---It certainly is not an exact science, but field judging rarely is as it is "judging", that is using the best resources at your fingertips then and there. -Typically, if I think it "may be" a young deer, that being a 3.5 or younger, I simply error on the side of it being a young deer and hang with my gut instinct, but I live in Wisconsin and primarily hunt Midwest deer where differentiation between ages seems to be more apparent than other areas of the country based on body. Things that I immediately look at on the buck's body are his brisket area, chest, perceived leg length, back, and belly. None on these alone are anywhere near 100%, but when you look at all of them together and have seen what you KNOW has been an aged buck of 2.5, 3.5, 4.5 or 5.5 it becomes easier and easier.
Now, with that being said, determining a 5.5 from a 7.5 or 8.5 on the hoof... Good luck! LOTS of variables in there.
Duke, good post ! I do the same and one can easily be a year off either way. I used to get the QDMA newsletter by email each week simply for the “age this” feature. They presented one or two pics of a buck, asked you to age them, and then provided the answer the next week. These were bucks that had been killed and aged. I was about 80/85% right according to them. The big variable of course is that jawbone aging has been proven to be accurate only a little over half the time, and cementum annuli (counting growth rings on the incisors) is only about 10% more accurate than jawbone aging. So the gist is, unless your buck has a tag in his ear, and records from birth, it’s a best guess, or maybe an educated guess on anyone’s part. We do the best we can.....
The buck on the right is the buck that was in the picture zbone put on here. This picture shows the body size better than my silhouette pic. He was with a doe at the time, thats why I got the pictures, then he crossed the road following the doe for the silhouette pictures. the buck on the left was at my blind last month. Rack wise he is close to the buck on the right. I am guessing maybe 3-1/2. Imaging what his rack would look like when he gets to the age of the other.
In our area the head and body size is dramatically different from 2.5 to 3.5. Two year olds here have a short face, by three they are stretching out. Same goes for body. The “race horse” comparison is spot on. For me, it’s fairly easy to see 1.5, 2.5, and 3.5. After that the lines get blurred.
4.5 big jump
4.5 big jump
Just have to look at a lot of deer of a known age. It’s usually easy to tell a 2.5 from a 3.5 from a 4.5. After they are 4.5(mature IMO) it becomes hard to tell. The overall shape abs race horse look helps, the belly gives them away.
They're a little easier to classify in the early season, like in Sept & Oct. The old ones have that saggy belly look and sunken back-line, after a long, easy summer of feeding like pigs and sleeping all day. Once they start running and chasing incessantly in November, their bellies suck upwards and sorta cave in, making them look much more gaunt in the body.
There was an Age These Bucks thread on here a while back where Pat had some bucks on camera and then he had the teeth aged by DeerAge.com and he knew exactly how old they were. The guesses were all over the place but some guys nailed them both. That might be worth digging up and learning from. Whenever something is given away free there is always a ton of participation from Bowsiters, which I guess tell you just how cheap we are!
I think I won a DeerAge kit in that contest that I never got, of course I probably should shoot something worth aging before I complain to Pat about that.
I agree with Bow Crazy about the QDMA, (I know they have a new name but I still think of them as QDMA). They have an awful lot of good info, and they do a monthly "Age This Buck" feature that can help a lot.
I think that the best thing you can do is get A LOT of trail cam pics, and get together with those who will be hunting and agree on some criteria. A few things to keep in mind: -Body Characteristics will tell you much more than rack size will. -Pics, during or near the rut will be most helpful. -Pics that are full body and close to broadside are way better than angles. -You will likely be separating deer into just a few categories as opposed to every age class (IE "Yearlings", "Wait a bit longer" and "SHOOTERS") -It's your land so you get to define a shooter. And you can be as picky or lenient as you want. -Things I look at include: Where does his neck joins the brisket? How jacked up does he look? More skinny, or racehorse or bull like? Does his belly sag? Does his back sway? Do his legs look a bit too long or short for his body? -All of these things are as compared to other bucks in your area, not someplace where they don't get as big, or are way bigger.
-You will get much better over time, but it takes a while.
-Don't fall into the "if we don't shoot it someone else will" or you will never make any progress, and don't expect that you can turn all bucks into B&C by not shooting anything, something in between will be right for your place.
-Have fun while you are doing this, if you let it get to be like a job, you'll lose your enthusiasm for it and be much less motivated to stick to your goals.
-Maybe have a big buck contest for Biggest Buck you don't shoot, start a pool for pics of the biggest buck that you passed on shooting (and got a pic of from your stand), that way there will be some bragging rights for passing on decent bucks that aren't quite shooters yet.
Summer pic in central MN. How old?
I don’t believe the Hansen buck was only 2.5 either, but that’s what was said. Also the James McRath buck was said to be only 2.5. That was a 226 non typical killed in Minnesota. Total bull but you get a lot of that with deer hunting stories
Last year at the blind. 2 bucks, same distance. Both are good size, but one is huge. I cropped both with the same weed in the picture.
Last year at the blind. 2 bucks, same distance. Both are good size, but one is huge. I cropped both with the same bush in the picture.
How old does a deer have to be til it grows into an Elk?
Where I live I believe we have two strains of deer. A northern breed Kansas/Nebraska type deer and a deer that’s more of a Texas strain. The smaller deer in this pic is the same age or older.
Link, shoot the bigger one. He will be easier to hit!!! That is crazy the extreme difference in body size. Captured perfectly in that picture.
"Where I live I believe we have two strains of deer. A northern breed Kansas/Nebraska type deer and a deer that’s more of a Texas strain."
WTF is going on there!? Even the south TX deer arent that small body wise - are they?
Woody I bet that smaller one is bigger than a south Texas buck. I’m guessing the small one would field dress 150 with a live weight of 190. The bigger buck would dress 190 with a live weight of 240. The difference in what I’m attributing to “strains” is not usually that stark. We definitely have a shorter legged, shorter bodied deer and a strain with bigger/ longer bodies. It can be deceiving when judging the rack of one with a small body when he’s by himself. I miss those smaller deer often by 10” or more.