Aging White-tailed Deer on the Hoof

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Video how to age deer on the hoof

Learning to estimate the age of a white-tailed deer on the hoof is an invaluable skill for any serious deer hunter or manager, especially as it pertains to buck harvest. Whether you want to estimate the age structure of the whitetail population found on a property or want to make specific determinations regarding the harvest of particular bucks, it takes time to get good at aging live deer. This article is designed to start you on the path to accurately aging deer on the hoof.

Aging deer on the hoof

Most hunters do not have access to free-ranging deer of known ages, so this makes the learning process more difficult, but not impossible. Just about everyone is using motion-triggered cameras nowadays and these game camera photos provide excellent opportunities to practice. Whether you use your trail cameras to conduct surveys to estimate your deer population or just to gather snapshots of bucks using the area, accurately estimating ages is paramount to assessing the progress of a management program.

Aging of Bucks is Important

Harvesting bucks at the optimal age is an important aspect of white-tailed deer management. Research and experience has revealed to biologists that whitetail bucks reach maximum antler growth between 5 and 7 years of age. There may be some hunters that insist on allowing bucks to get even older (and sometimes bigger), but annual mortality is always an issue with bucks, especially once their mature.

From my experience, free-ranging bucks that are 5 years old are old enough and will not increase substantially in antler size. Furthermore, research has found that a 4 year old (whitetail) buck’s antlers represent 90 percent of the buck’s potential for total antler growth. You will have some really good bucks even if the goal for the property/deer you manage is to get them to 4 1/2 years of age.

See also  6.5mm Creedmoor for Hog Or Wild Boar Hunting? Best Ammo (Round, Load, Cartridge) for a Successful Hog Or Wild Boar Hunt Hunting Calibers 04 Apr, 2020 Posted By: Foundry Outdoors Is the 6.5mm Creedmoor a viable caliber/load/round/cartridge for hog or wild boar hunting? The accurate answer is “it depends”. However, the goal of this article is simply to address the question of whether the 6.5mm Creedmoor is within the ideal range of suitable calibers to harvest hog or wild boar. As with anything, the devil is in the details. To answer the question completely, we would need to evaluate the downrange distance to the hog or wild boar, the bullet type, the grain weight of the bullet, the physical condition of the firearm, the size of the hog or wild boar in question, the shot placement, the local wind conditions, the expected accuracy of the shooter, the ethics of the ideal maximum number of shots – the list goes on. [Click Here to Shop 6.5mm Creedmoor Ammo]What we can do is provide a framework to understand what average conditions might look like, and whether those are reasonably viable for a shot from the average shooter to harvest a hog or wild boar in the fewest number of shots possible, i.e., ethically. Let’s dive right in. In the question of “Is the 6.5mm Creedmoor within the ideal range of suitable calibers for hog or wild boar hunting?” our answer is: Yes, the 6.5mm Creedmoor is A GOOD CHOICE for hog or wild boar hunting, under average conditions, from a mid-range distance, with a medium grain expanding bullet, and with correct shot placement.Let’s look at those assumptions a bit closer in the following table. Assumption Value Caliber 6.5mm Creedmoor Animal Species Hog Or Wild Boar Muzzle Energy 2300 foot-pounds Animal Weight 195 lbs Shot Distance 150 yardsWhat is the average muzzle energy for a 6.5mm Creedmoor? In this case, we have assumed the average muzzle energy for a 6.5mm Creedmoor round is approximately 2300 foot-pounds. What is the average weight of an adult male hog or wild boar? Here we have leaned conservative by taking the average weight of a male individual of the species, since females generally weigh less and require less stopping power. In this case, the average weight of an adult male hog or wild boar is approximately 195 lbs. [Click Here to Shop 6.5mm Creedmoor Ammo]What is the distance this species is typically hunted from? Distance, of course, plays an important role in the viability of a given caliber in hog or wild boar hunting. The kinetic energy of the projectile drops dramatically the further downrange it travels primarily due to energy lost in the form of heat generated by friction against the air itself. This phenonemon is known as drag or air resistance. Thus, a caliber that is effective from 50 yards may not have enough stopping power from 200 yards. With that said, we have assumed the average hunting distance for hog or wild boar to be approximately 150 yards. What about the other assumptions? We have three other primary assumptions being made here. First, the average bullet weight is encapsulated in the average muzzle energy for the 6.5mm Creedmoor. The second important assumption is ‘slightly-suboptimal’ to ‘optimal’ shot placement. That is to say, we assume the hog or wild boar being harvested is shot directly or nearly directly in the vitals (heart and/or lungs). The third assumption is that a projectile with appropriate terminal ballistics is being used, which for hunting usually means an expanding bullet.Various calibersA common thread you may encounter in online forums is anecdote after anecdote of large animals being brought down by small caliber bullets, or small animals surviving large caliber bullets. Of course those stories exist, and they are not disputed here. A 22LR cartridge can fell a bull elephant under the right conditions, and a newborn squirrel can survive a 50 BMG round under other specific conditions. Again, the goal of this article is simply to address the question of whether 6.5mm Creedmoor is within the ideal range of suitable calibers to harvest hog or wild boar - and to this question, the response again is yes, the 6.5mm Creedmoor is A GOOD CHOICE for hog or wild boar hunting. [Click Here to Shop 6.5mm Creedmoor Ammo]This article does not serve as the final say, but simply as a starting point for beginner hunters, as well as a venue for further discussion. Please feel free to agree, disagree, and share stories from your own experience in the comments section below. Disclaimer: the information above is purely for illustrative purposes and should not be taken as permission to use a particular caliber, a statement of the legality or safety of using certain calibers, or legal advice in any way. You must read and understand your own local laws before hunting hog or wild boar to know whether your caliber of choice is a legal option.CoinPriceIQ Bitcoin, Eth, USDT Job Flyer. Find an Accountant, Electrician, Cleaning, Painter etc.Foundry Outdoors is your trusted home for buying archery, camping, fishing, hunting, shooting sports, and outdoor gear online.We offer cheap ammo and bulk ammo deals on the most popular ammo calibers. We have a variety of deals on Rifle Ammo, Handgun Ammo, Shotgun Ammo & Rimfire Ammo, as well as ammo for target practice, plinking, hunting, or shooting competitions. Our website lists special deals on 9mm Ammo, 10mm Ammo, 45-70 Ammo, 6.5 Creedmoor ammo, 300 Blackout Ammo, 10mm Ammo, 5.56 Ammo, Underwood Ammo, Buffalo Bore Ammo and more special deals on bulk ammo.We offer a 100% Authenticity Guarantee on all products sold on our website. Please email us if you have questions about any of our product listings. 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Aging Deer on Hoof

Besides, if you’re managing for 4 year old bucks then you will undoubtedly have some 5+ year old bucks on on your hunting grounds. Once a buck grows older he gets a bit smarter too, so he may become a live target at 4 years old but drop off the radar come hunting season, only to re-emerge a year or two later, if you’re lucky.

Regardless of whether the goal is to harvest bucks that are at least 4, 5 or 6 years of age, it still takes hunters that are proficient at aging deer on the hoof to get there. Dead bucks don’t get any older.

Deer Management Means Learning to Age Whitetail

Whether you plan on harvesting bucks at 3 1/2 or 6 1/2 years of age you need to be able to estimate the age of deer on the hoof. The ability to rank a buck’s antler quality (compared to his peers) depends on property aging, too. There are three factors that influence antler size and development in whitetail bucks: age, genetics and nutrition.

The age of a buck is important for developing quality antlers and must be considered in combination with nutrition with some amount of genetic input. In fact, I find many properties are focusing way too much on genetics when efforts would better used enhancing deer habitat and simply allowing bucks to get older before they are shot.

The majority of hunters would be tickled pink to shoot a mature buck on quality habitat. It takes active management to provide good cover and food, as well as having a trigger finger that exhibits patience.

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Improve Deer Aging Skills Through Backtesting

It’s not easy to age free-ranging deer when you’re starting out, but you can greatly improve “target recognition” through backtesting. This involves using game camera photos of bucks that you or others have harvested previously, off of your hunting grounds. Deer body sizes vary from place to place, so you want to learn using the deer that you will be hunting. It would not help much your management program if you could accurately age deer in Central Texas but were managing deer in Ohio. They look completely different.

Key points for aging deer on the hoof include:

  1. Shape of head – a mature buck’s appears short, deep
  2. Body size – younger bucks are thin, doe-like
  3. Neck – fills out deeper into shoulders as bucks age
  4. Depth of body – deeper body on older bucks
  5. Leg length – older bucks appear short-legged

Start a backtesting program on your hunting lands by maintaining game cameras prior to the hunting seasons. As bucks are harvested, age the bucks based on tooth wear and replacement. Over a few years you will start to get a good handle on what bucks of different ages look like. This is especially helpful when particular bucks can be tracked over several years.

Aging Bucks on the Hoof

Say a deer is shot at 5 1/2 years of age, well then if the buck is readily identifiable you can go back to your photo vault and see that same deer in prior years, say at 3 and 4 years of age and see how his physical and antler characteristics have changed.

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Of course, I must mention that aging deer based on tooth wear is not an exact science either, as wear also varies from area to area based on soils. The teeth of deer that live in sandy soils wear down faster than the teeth of deer living on clay soils. The overall idea is to use tooth wear from harvested bucks and physical characteristics of those deer in photos to build the best photo library of “known-age” deer on your hunting grounds.

Aging Deer in the Field: It’s Not Perfect!

Aging deer on the hoof is an inexact science, but it’s all that we’ve got. Aging deer accurately beyond 2 1/2 years of age based on tooth wear (with the jawbone in hand) can be tricky enough for those just starting out, but estimating the ages of live deer in the field can be downright difficult.

My advice is to be patient and get photos of the bucks in your area prior to the hunting season. Start by sorting bucks captured on camera into groups such as young (1-2), middle-aged (3-4) and mature (5+ years old) and then see how those estimates play out come hunting season, once those deer are tagged.

As you will see, aging deer is not always clear-cut. Whether you are exactly right is not as important for your deer management program as whether or not you, or the other hunters where you hunt, can differentiate between older deer and high quality younger bucks with a lot of potential. Mistakes will always be made, so don’t waste them, learn from them.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>