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gurkster

How do you age a deer on the hoof?

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I am reading posts that say how people saw a 2.5 year old buck or 3.5 year old, etc. I know how to age a deer by their teeth, but not on the hoof? I can tell a "young buck" from a "mature buck" but that is by antler size and body size, also some coloring and body posture. I have no idea how to know if it is a 2.5 year old vs. a 3.5 year old though? How do you guys age the deer you see?

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2.5 and 3.5 I think can be a little tougher to distinguish on the hoof.

When hunting I just think that a 1.5 is simple to see, then grouping 2.5 and 3.5's together, and 4.5 and older all in a class.

Basically looking at them as young bucks, mid tier bucks, and Big Daddy bucks.

On trail cam you have the benefit of examining closely, different angles, close up, etc. So that helps. And by no means is it concrete. Lots of people post pics on the QDMA forums asking for age and score of bucks they have on cam, and most times there is darts being tossed out on the ages.

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I am reading posts that say how people saw a 2.5 year old buck or 3.5 year old, etc. I know how to age a deer by their teeth, but not on the hoof? I can tell a "young buck" from a "mature buck" but that is by antler size and body size, also some coloring and body posture. I have no idea how to know if it is a 2.5 year old vs. a 3.5 year old though? How do you guys age the deer you see?

Its not an exact science, but its like aging people. You go off of physical traits and experience. In all honesty, tooth wear aging has been found to be less than 50% accurate. Cementum annuli (think counting tree rings) is about the only accurate way of determining age, and that is only about 85% accurate according to some studies.

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In farm country for me it's very easy, then again the older you get the easier it gets, baskets or less are 1.5's. 2.5's either have a decent rack small body or bigger body less rack, 3.5 and up are in our groups shooter category, if you are unsure or can't get a decent look we don't shoot and many times that's the case, the farm country bucks seem to pattern out fairly well, wouldn't have a clue further north or in the big woods. Another help is watching them all summer long in velvet, forgetting age they are either in our shootable category or not and trailcams help get really close up looks, not an exact science but it works, sad part is the past 5 years or so we are seeing very very few of those 3.5 year olds or up. But you convince yourself 1 must be around somewhere, reality is probably not but we all hang onto hope. Good Luck with the scopeless muzzleloaders this weekend! Food source might be a good place to start.

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Rack size plus body size is how I guess. 1.5 and 2.5 generally small bodies and the rack is inside the ears or on the verge of getting outside the ears. 3.5 up here don't usually have much mass. When they reach around 4.5 and older all things come together. Body size, wide antlers, and antler mass. Thats the best I can do anyway.

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Basically we are taking our best guess. For the most part it is fairly easy to tell the different between a 1.5 - 2.5 - 3.5 once you have some experience under your belt. There is plenty of gray/overlap among those age groups but hey are the easiest judging by body/antler size. After they reach 4.5 it it anyone's best guess, you might even throw a few 3.5's in that group as well because sometimes you just don't know.

Overall I think we can be fairly accurate but I suspect there are a lot of deer that we could be way off on depending on their age/genetics/nutrition.

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From experience of hunting an area for a few years you begin to see a pattern in body sizes and antler sizes. Different areas can mean very different body and antler sizes. It is just a guess for the most part, based on experience.

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Having hunted different areas of MN it's very dependent on where you are hunting.

Before anyone disputes my numbers below I am generalizing and there are exceptions to every rule. I've mostly hunted in Southern MN and is what I'm basing my numbers on. Weights can obviously vary greatly depending on when you shoot them.

For a 1.5 year old I rarely see spikes and when I do they are probably at least 6 inches. Some 1.5 year olds will be 8 pointers. Very little spread and no tine length. Probably dressing out between 120-140 lbs. I don't have my memory card here but I just got a trail pic of a buck after gun season with spikes that I would say are 8-9 inches. Will try and post the pic later.

Most 2.5 year olds are getting 12-15 inch spreads. A few will have good tine length but the mass of the main beams won't be too great. The necks on these guys will start to get pretty impressive but not huge yet. Dress out between 150-180 lbs.

A 3.5 year old will usually have a spread outside the ears. Most will have both good mass and tine length. When nearing the rut these guys will have some big necks on them. Most will score 120-130 inches gross which make these the first real nice deer, IMO. Most will dress out at over 200lbs.

4.5 and older I kind of cluster together. At this point the bodies/racks may get a little or a lot bigger. I figure it's mostly genetics at this point.

Very mature. Look for more of a pot belly, a swail (sag in the back like an old horse) and a little bit of a crown in the nose. These guys have been around for a WHILE.

When I have hunted more North woods deer I've seen a lot more spikes and some that may not even make 3 inches. The body sizes and racks will be a little smaller but by 4.5 or 5.5 I think they catch up to the guys from the South.

Back to the 2.5 year olds. I was kind of disappointed I shot a 2.5 year old this year. He had great tine length but never looked at me so I didn't get a great judgement on him. Just a little disappointed in myself but happy to have gotten a deer. Had I let him walk he would have surely been one for me next year, if he would have made it through.

Just my .02 worth. And I'm not even sure it's worth that. smile

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I think your body weights would be accurate for Canadian whitetails.

Vast majority of MN, a 2.5 isnt going to tip the scales at 150 too often.

You certainly will NEVER find a yearling(1.5 year old) going in at 150.

120 tops, and thats a stretch.

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You could be right. I typically don't do a lot of weighing of 1.5-2.5 year olds so I'll buy that. I'll edit and lower the weights a bit. I will admit most deer that we go through the trouble to weigh are typically 180 or above.

First deer I ever shot was a button buck and did weigh 90lbs field dressed. I'm sure he would have been bigger than 120 the next year.

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I think a 2 1/2 year old MN buck will break the 150lb mark with regularity.

Aging them is pretty easy.

0-7 points is a 1 1/2 year old

8-10 is a 2 1/2

11-13 is a 3 1/2

14-16 4 1/2

Pretty straight forward. laugh

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I would agree on the weight thing. I think most bucks that dress around 150 lbs. are probably two-year olds. They may be starting to have okay racks, but most in our area are still runty little baskets. I would say most yearlings are 6 pointers, but there are plenty of forks, as well as little 7's or 8's. We hardly ever see a spike, if we do it's usually a really little yearling, which we assume means he was a late fawn the previous year. It does seem like spikes are more common farther North.

I don't think there's many deer that will dress out at 200 lbs. as a three-year old, although I agree they could be pretty close. That said there aren't many deer, bucks anyway, that get to be three years old...

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Shot a tooth aged 3.5 year old that out dressed at 207.

Shot one that I estimated was a 3.5 year old at 210. Obviously this one could have been older.

I do think eating corn/beans makes a big difference in the early years.

About 5 years ago the neighbors shot a 1.5 year old buck that would have probably had trouble breaking 100lbs dressed. I attributed that to a probable LATE fawn the previous year.

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Maybe I should start a new thread for this, but I think it is pertinent here. I am pretty lost when it comes to guessing the age of deer so I thought maybe I would post a picture of the buck I shot this fall so we can see what age everyone would guess it as. It might help people get an idea of what everyone looks for.

The buck was shot in NE Minnesota. I did not get a weight on it, but it was pretty heavy. It was all two of us could do to get it loaded in the back of a truck. I'm guessing a bit on either side of 200 pounds. My guess for age is 3 1/2, based on no skill or experience. What do others think, and why?

full-28108-3691-pb131377.jpg

full-28108-3692-pb131358.jpg

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My analogy is similar to humans, let’s use woman to compare the different ages. Hope this doesn’t offend anyone. If so Im sorry ahead of time.

Teeny bopper- 1.5 She’s starting to see she has the tools, she is so darn excited about them she struts them everywhere. Ive learned to ignore this age as it isn’t worth mounting

18-early 20’s - 2.5 built like an Arabian Horse lean and fast , a tight tummy but just learning the ropes, Mighty tempting but not quite yet ready, Just get you in a bunch of trouble and a bunch of mounting’s on the wall

Mid 20’s – early 30’s -3.5 She’s got it all now and she knows how to use it, Still a little lean but built for anything. The trophy’s of the woods. Still get excited for the rut but she’s a lot smarter than a year ago and doesn’t just go traipsing through the woods for just any ole buck. .

Mid 30’s- 40 -4.5, She s got some age on her now but also some well learned experience. She’s showing signs of from these experiences; guts getting a little poochier than it used to be but she still knows she’s got what it takes. No little lady better mess with her cause she’s seen it all by now and knows how to fight.. Doesn’t get out as much during daylight now either, if you see her its usually after dark and she means business. She’s a survivor.

Over 40 - 5.5 and older Tummy sagging, wrinkles showing up, Weight has become a problem. Still has a nice rack but it’s starting to go down hill. Still a trophy but her years are limited from here on out.

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No Wiser, Id say 3.5 -4.5 for sure.leaning to the 4.5 myself but ive seen some that have surprised me before.

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My analogy is similar to humans, let’s use woman to compare the different ages. Hope this doesn’t offend anyone. If so Im sorry ahead of time.

Teeny bopper- 1.5 She’s starting to see she has the tools, she is so darn excited about them she struts them everywhere. Ive learned to ignore this age as it isn’t worth mounting

18-early 20’s - 2.5 built like an Arabian Horse lean and fast , a tight tummy but just learning the ropes, Mighty tempting but not quite yet ready, Just get you in a bunch of trouble and a bunch of mounting’s on the wall

Mid 20’s – early 30’s -3.5 She’s got it all now and she knows how to use it, Still a little lean but built for anything. The trophy’s of the woods. Still get excited for the rut but she’s a lot smarter than a year ago and doesn’t just go traipsing through the woods for just any ole buck. .

Mid 30’s- 40 -4.5, She s got some age on her now but also some well learned experience. She’s showing signs of from these experiences; guts getting a little poochier than it used to be but she still knows she’s got what it takes. No little lady better mess with her cause she’s seen it all by now and knows how to fight.. Doesn’t get out as much during daylight now either, if you see her its usually after dark and she means business. She’s a survivor.

Over 40 - 5.5 and older Tummy sagging, wrinkles showing up, Weight has become a problem. Still has a nice rack but it’s starting to go down hill. Still a trophy but her years are limited from here on out.

Ufff-da.

mabr, I gotta make sure my wife doesn't read this one!!!!

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Also 1.5's typically have little to no neck during first rut(similar to doe), 2.5-3.5 is tough but generally spread or height will give it away

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No Wiser: I'd say your deer is no younger than 4.5 years. Very nice buck, by the way!

A few years ago I shot a 12-pointer up here that topped 220 pounds. I figured it was AT LEAST 5.5 years old, as its face was gray and its massive antlers were thicker at the base than a 50 cent piece.

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HNTBUX, It really could have been a fun if we didnt have youngsters reading.I was worried as it was. If my wife sees it she's going to ask me to age her, then Im in a bunch of trouble LOL.

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