Four ways to guess the age of a buck

Four ways to guess the age of a buck

Want to make an educated guess at the age of a giant whitetail buck roaming your hunting grounds? Analyze his physical features using Charles Alsheimer’s four-point system:

1. The rack. A buck’s antlers change significantly with age, especially after the age of 3. Most mature bucks will have more antler mass, non-typical points and larger racks until they pass their prime.

2. The body type. Aging deer on the hoof is a popular discussion point today among hunters. After a buck makes it to 3½ years of age, its head begins to widen and its neck and shoulders become more massive.

3. The tracks. Although track length can play a role in determining the maturity level of a buck, I’ve found that track width is a far better indicator of age because hoof tips break and wear off, especially in country with rocky gravel soils. In most cases, a buck’s hoof widens with age, therefore track width tells me more about age than length. A yearling buck’s hoof is roughly 2 inches wide, about the same as a mature doe. A 2½-year-old buck’s track will be anywhere from 2¼ to 2½ inches wide. With age, a buck’s track will increase slightly as it becomes heavier. Also, as a buck ages, its front hoofs tend to show more of an indent on the back of the hoof’s pad than the hoof’s toe when it walks and makes a track. In addition, after a buck passes 4½ years old, its front hoofs begin to toe out as it walks.

4. The behavior. As a buck ages, it will most certainly become more and more nocturnal, especially in populated areas. Any buck that reaches 4 years of age is the ultimate survivor and knows that nighttime is the best time to move around because it’s quieter and void of human activity.