I am beginning to learn how to age a buck on the hoof. It can be hard in the woods with branches and bushes blocking pieces of the animals but I want to work on it and see if it will help my patience as I wait for the bigger bucks.
I have gotten pretty good at aging does based on their face structure and the size of their features. I have not had the opportunity to harvest a doe, so I can't say for sure if my calculations match the actual age of the deer but I am working on it. I have a nice, healthy heard of deer living around my house and it’s not uncommon to see an older doe with some yearlings or even fawns throughout the summer. Their longer features means an older animal and if you are patent enough and have a few moments to study the animal, you can tell if the doe you are looking at is older or younger.
It also matters where you live. I posted a trail camera photo of a buck on the And a Strong Cup of Coffee Facebook page. We knew that the deer was at least 4.5 years old. I asked some friends at the National Deer Alliance, Nine Finger Chronicles and Wired to Hunt what they would age the buck at. All of them aged the deer to be 2.5 to 3.5 based on what they are used to seeing out West (Iowa, Kentucky, Illinois.) Here in Maine, where the climate is harsher and the predators are more of an issue, the deer do not stay bulked up like they can out there. While large antlers may be appealing, they are not always clear sign as to the age of a deer. As bucks age, their necks get thicker and their bodies begin to get more muscular. Their stomachs begin to sag slightly and they are just massive animals that rule the woods.
But, I have found that one of the easiest way to age a buck is to actually know when it was born. When the deer began to move out of the woods after the long, cold winter, the two button bucks that were born last summer took to my lawn. His antlers have grown just a couple of inches so far this year and I hope that he sticks around so that I can watch him grow... I hope his dad is somewhere nearby and if he is an 8 pointer, I would love to see him this fall!