Sunday, November 27, 2011

Estimating the Age of a Buck Whitetail Deer in the Field

A white-tailed deer
Image via Wikipedia
Ethical hunting involves knowing the animals you will be hunting. Beyond this, if you own your own property and wish to manage the deer population through selective harvesting, aging of deer is an important skill. While the most accuratemethods are done using teeth wear (tooth replacement-wear method), thesemethods are not a practical answer for deciding whether or not to harvest a deer. Doing this will require some knowledge of how deer mature physically as they proceed through various stages of development.

Prior to beginning our discussion of these characteristics, let's establish why we are discussing age of deer in the increments we use. Fawns are born in the Spring and reach the age of 1/2 a year in the Fall around hunting season. Thus, we discuss the ages of deer, as fawns, 1 1/2 years of age, 2 1/2 years of age and so on. Antler development reaches its pinnacle at the time the deer reaches maturity, which is around age 5. Therefore, we will discuss the physical characteristics of deer through age 5 1/2, but deer typically retain their maximum antler size through approximately age 8.