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How to: "Age Your Buck"

Have you ever harvested a buck and then debated with your hunting buddies about how old he might have been? Well, you're not alone, this occurs nearly every time my father or I harvest a buck. It's mostly out of curiosity, but it's also a key ingredient in the total education process of mule deer hunting. In this article we're going to talk about aging your buck.

The most accurate way to age deer is by having the teeth cut and then counting the number of cementum rings. This will most often need to be done by a wildlife biologist.

In this article we'll talk about how you can get a rough estimate of a deer's age by viewing his teeth. After caping the head, you'll be able to clearly see both the upper and lower jaws and teeth. At this point, we're concerned with the lower jaw.

This is a large graphic of a deer jaw, be patient!

Fawns typically have three premolars and one molar on each side. (See Fig. 2)

Yearlings will typically have badly worn premolars and will be replace during their second year. The third premolar with three crowns is also present in most yearling deer. It will also be replaced during the second year, but the replacement will only have two crowns. (See Fig. 3)

A two and half year old deer will have a full set of permanent teeth. They'll typically be clean, unstained and sharp (Crown points will show very little wear) (See Fig. 4)

After the third year, age will be determined by the amount of wear on the teeth. This is where aging becomes difficult. As the deer ages, the teeth will continue to wear. Checking the sharpness of the crowns will be the most effective way determining an age, the sharper the crown, the younger the deer. (See Fig. 5)

By the eighth or ninth year of a deer's life, the teeth will show incredible wear, often worn nearly to the gums. (See Fig. 6)

As you can see, aging a deer using the teeth wear method will only give you a rough estimate of age. For a near exact analysis, you'll need to contact a Wildlife Biologist and have the teeth cut. For the average curious hunter such as myself, this method works fine.