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Aging a Buck on the Hoof – in 6 Seconds by Grant Woods

It can be challenging to accurately estimate a buck’s age on the hoof during the late season. Bucks often lose 25% or more of their body weight by the late season due to calories burnt chasing does, lower quality food resources, etc.

This decreased weight can change some of the characteristics commonly used to estimate the age of deer. A buck’s age can still be accurately estimated by taking this expected body weight loss into account. This video shows a realistic scenario. It’s a good buck, but you only have six seconds to decide to shoot or pass.

The landowner requests all bucks be passed unless they are four years old or older. Would you pass this buck? The following are the body characteristics I used to estimate this buck’s age and whether I’d shoot or pass.

  1. This buck appears trim but I realize he’s lost a lot of weight by this date in December – especially since he lives in a hardwood forest and there are no soybean or corn fields around.
  2. His shoulders appear muscular and there is a hump over his shoulder.
  3. His chest sags below where his shoulders meet his legs.
  4. His chest is noticeably larger than his hams – he has a buffalo shape.
  5. The circumference of his antler bases is larger than his eyes – a good indicator he’s mature.
  6. If I cover his antlers and simply view his body he appears much more muscular than even a mature large doe.

I estimate this buck to be 4.5 years old. I would be trying to put my tag on him! How about you?

Growing and Hunting Deer together,

Grant

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Dr. Grant Woods
Dr. Grant Woods
Raised in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, Dr. Grant Woods has consulted on wildlife research and management from Canada to New Zealand. A hunter since childhood, he not only knows how to grow big deer, but how to effectively hunt them as well. His work serves to improve deer herd quality and educate hunters about advanced management techniques.