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How to Tell an Old Buck from a Young Buck


Use these tips to determine if you are looking at an old buck or a young one.

There are differences between an old buck and a young one and you, as a hunter, should know them in order to have a healthy herd.KCHO-mrec

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.

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How to Tell an Old Buck from a Young Buck