How to Judge a Buck's Age Class

by
posted on December 19, 2014

My husband, Phil, and his buddy lease 48,000 acres in western Kansas that they manage for whitetails. Their rule: Don't shoot a buck unless he's 4-1/2 years or older. That's typically when a buck is considered mature, or fully developed, to the point nutrition goes full speed ahead toward antler production. I've studied many deer through the years and considered myself a good judge of age class—until this small-statured buck (above, left) tricked me while hunting there over Thanksgiving. Here's how he did it.

On my second evening, the buck came in and posed at 20 yards as Rex, Phil's TV show cameraman, and I sat in a blind near a crop circle. I counted his 12 points, looked at the rack, noted he was narrow but heavy, and eyeballed his body proportions. I was about to shoot, then a mature tank of a buck walked up next to him. Dilemma. The buck I wanted was beautiful, but his body was quite small by comparison. I could have shot him multiple times but hesitated for a good minute until I was certain. Of course, by the time I went to draw my Mathews Chill SDX, I no longer had a shot. Wanting to redeem myself, I decided to hold out for him and was fortunate to get him on the last hour of the last day.

The Lesson
Some deer are just physically smaller-statured—even in Kansas where whitetails can weigh more than 300 pounds—compared to the deer I'm used to seeing in states such as Virginia, for example.

The Facts
Have faith that a buck's overall proportions are a solid indicator of age. If a buck's neck appears thick, its head seems short, and its belly is about even with his brisket, you're looking at a mature deer. My buck caused me some hesitation, but looking back, he had all the earmarks of maturity.

The Moral
The better we can field-judge a buck's age class, the better we can manage our deer populations. And because we don't always get a second crack at a given buck, being able to judge them quickly can make the difference in filling that tag!

Latest

Anaconda 4 Inch
Anaconda 4 Inch

#SundayGunday: Colt Anaconda 4"

American Hunter Editor in Chief Scott Olmsted was on hand in December at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Ariz., when Colt introduced its four-inch-barreled Anaconda.

New for 2023: Remington Premier Long Range in PRC Chamberings

Featuring Speer’s revolutionary Impact bullet, Remington has now announced three new PRC loads that will be available in late 2023.

Beretta Launches A300 Ultima Turkey Shotgun

Beretta has announced the launch of a new turkey-hunting shotgun—the A300 Ultima Turkey.

Winchester Awarded U.S. Army NGSW Ammunition Production Contract

Winchester, the largest manufacturer of small caliber ammunition for the U.S. military, has announced that the U.S. Army has awarded the company a contract to manufacture, test, and deliver 5 million 6.8mm Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) cartridges.

How to Build a Home Butcher Shop

Any space including a garage, shop or storage shed can be turned into a game-processing center. Learn about hoists, knives, vacuum sealers, grinders and dehydrators you need to build your own butcher shop.

Head to Head: .348 Winchester vs. .358 Winchester

Between the .348 Winchester and .358 Winchester, which cartridge is the better all-around choice for the hunter? Contributor Philip Massaro examines the pros and cons of each.

Interests



Get the best of American Hunter delivered to your inbox.