Use these tips to determine if you are looking at an old buck or a young one.
Forget About the Antlers
When most hunters see a buck, the first they look at are the antlers, but antler size can be deceiving when it comes to aging bucks.
A young buck may have an abnormally large set of antlers and a really old buck might have smaller antlers. Take a glance at the rack (we all do it) and move your attention to the body of the deer.
Look at the Legs
Bucks that are 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 years old will have legs that appear too long for their body. If the buck in your scope looks like he is walking on stilts, consider letting him walk.
At 3 1/2, a buck’s legs will seem perfectly proportioned for his body. If a buck’s legs look short compared to his body, you are looking at a buck that is at least 4 1/2 years old. Take the shot.
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Look at the Neck and Shoulders
1 1/2-year-old bucks will have slender necks and a clear line of separation between the neck and shoulders. At 2 1/2, bucks have developed some muscle in their shoulders and may show some neck swelling during the rut.
By 3 1/2, a buck’s shoulders are pure muscle and the neck is swelled during the rut.
Bucks 4 1/2 and older will exhibit major neck swelling during the rut and their shoulders will be large and muscled. If you see a deer coming that resembles a beef cow, you are looking at an old buck. Take the shot.
Look at the Waist and Back
Bucks up to 2 1/2 years old will have a very narrow waist. If a buck’s belly line swoops up behind the ribs, think long and hard before taking the shot.
At 3 1/2, a buck’s waist will still be fairly narrow, but the front end will be fully developed giving the deer a racehorse-like appearance.
By 4 1/2, a buck’s belly line will be flat from front to back and deer 5 1/2 and older will have a pot-bellied look.
Passing younger bucks boosts herd health and old bucks typically have larger antlers. Use these tips to age deer before shooting and reap the rewards of a well-managed herd.