Being able to tell a deer’s age is a valuable skill for any outdoor enthusiast. While many hunters prefer to grade bucks based on antler size and point, shooting older deer while sparing the younger is a common practice for protecting a population.
Age matters for rack size as well. If the goal of your hunting is bigger racks, then strong nutrition and available food won’t do any good without the age to support it.
It’s not a perfect science, but with practice and research, you can estimate a buck’s age with fairly consistent accuracy.
At a year and a half, a buck will have smooth, small antlers with few sticker points, if any at all. The face will look short and doe-like, with a tapered muzzle that should be easy to spot. When looking at the body, the rump will be higher than the shoulders, with thin legs and a slim torso. One of the best practices when aging a buck is to picture the animal without antlers; at a year and a half, it would basically look like a doe.
The next year, a buck will have a wider antler base, reaching about three to four inches in circumference. During the rut, the buck’s neck will begin to swell visibly, and it will essentially start to look like a yearling that has hit the weight room all summer. Perhaps the biggest change will be in the shoulders and rump, which will now have similar heights. It will keep its doe-like face, but it will have a noticeably larger body.
If the buck makes it to year three, it will now have a heavy, rough antler base and much larger neck and shoulders. The back is still a straight line but the belly will start to look larger. The buck should now have a fuller rack that is hard for hunters to pass up. It’s easy to differentiate a one or two-year-old compared from a three-year-old, but determining age from here on out becomes more challenging.
When the buck reaches four and a half, it’s now wise, savvy, and strong. The neck and chest will look like they seamlessly flow together and the legs will take on a short, stocky appearance. They are now reaching full antler growth and will have thick haunches that make them look more powerful and heavy.
If you spot a buck over 5 years, consider yourself lucky. They can be hard to tell from a four-year-old, but they should have even thicker, bulkier chests and will sport glorious antlers that you won’t be able to forget. They will have a sagging gut and drooping back line.
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Hunters have sought shed antlers on the forest floor for as long as they’ve hunted deer. In recent years, antler shed hunting has become more popular than ever. However, while shed hunting is a rewarding activity, it is often difficult at the outset. Fortunately, dedicated NOMADs usually get better at finding antlers as they accumulate more experience. To enjoy success, you’ll want to hone your skills, cloak yourself in the right type of gear and maybe even enlist the help of your dogs. Whether you’re just getting started or have been at it for a while, we hope these antler shed hunting tips will help you improve your take.
No matter the pursuit, sportsmen and sportswomen are always interested in improving their game. If you fish for bass, you’re always after a bigger one than you caught the day before; if you like to stalk gobblers, you’re always on the lookout for a bigger and better bird than the last. Similarly, whitetail hunters are always keen to harvest a bigger buck than they ever have. And this drive will last for the rest of your life. Even if you managed to claim the biggest whitetail buck ever killed, you’d be out again next season, looking for his big brother. In this post, we’ll showcase some of the biggest whitetail deer on record and offer some background on the record keeping process.
Despite the close kinship of deer and elk, both species represent very different challenges to the NOMADs who hunt them. Most experienced hunters and guides would agree that deer are the easier quarry to pursue, but if you learn to embrace the ways in which these species differ and apply the skills you’ve learned hunting deer, you’ll have a much better chance of bagging a big bull. In this article, we’ll cover the difference between deer and elk hunting so you can have the edge over whichever game you choose to pursue.