Older bucks make round-trip “excursions” outside their home ranges, but dispersal typically happens only once in a lifetime. It means the mature buck you are after this season probably wasn’t born where you are hunting him.
It explains why a yearling buck is one of the easiest deer in the woods to see and kill. In the October/November 2017 issue of Quality Whitetails, I compiled what we know about yearling -buck dispersal from the numerous scientific studies that have examined this behavior, including those tracking GPS-collared bucks.
To be sure you always get the full stories on whitetail knowledge like this, and get it first, become a member of CDMA today. Estimating the age of a deer by studying the tooth wear and eruption patterns on the lower jawbone is not an exact science, but it’s free, you can perform the task yourself, and nearly anyone can learn the basic criteria for distinguishing each age class.
By assessing tooth eruption patterns, which is to say, the way in which a deer’s teeth have emerged from the jaw, hunters can definitively separate deer into three age classes: fawns, yearlings, and those two years old and older. Don’t bet your house or even your favorite hunting hat on your aging precision for deer older than two, but the technique is fine for general purposes.
Astute observers can attempt to separate this group into individual age classes by studying wear patterns on the teeth. As deer age, their teeth wear down, and more dentin (the brown you see on the tooth) is exposed.
Estimating age from jawbones is fun and useful, and I strongly encourage all successful hunters to try it for themselves. The next time you shoot a deer, along with the venison and memory, be sure to collect a jawbone.
Kip Adams is a certified wildlife biologist and the Quality Deer Management Association’s (CDMA) northern director of education and outreach; CDMA is a national nonprofit wildlife conservation organization. The North American spike buck is an amazing creature, yet it has been much-maligned and under-appreciated in recent years.
In 1969, a physician by the name of Robert Butler coined the term “ageism” to describe stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. Unfortunately, throughout his otherwise successful career he was not able to stamp out age discrimination by hunters as they passed up perfectly good bucks in their quest for older individuals.
I suppose the shift in focus by some hunters from the hindquarters to the antlers is simply a by-product of our incredible success in conserving whitetails throughout all of their historical range. The Rise of Pedophiles Somewhere along this progression of successful conservation we might have lost our heads in the quest to mount theirs.
There is an undeniable increase in the number of hunters who should be registered as “pedophiles.” This perception is exaggerated by internet forums and social media, but today a hunter’s reputation seems to be more related to the content of a forum post than a meat pole. Stores display shelves of glossy-paged pornography magazines with large-racked individuals on their covers that most hunters could only dream of laying their hands on.
This all gives the average hunter a warped sense of reality and causes nothing but disappointment when they return home. This all leads to hunters feeling like they need to make excuses when they shoot a spike.
We hear things such as, “It was the last day;” “I’m really busy at work;” “It was close to the road;” or simply, “I was hungry.” I pity the kid who wants to shoot her first deer and is told by a parent to wait for a bigger one, as if that is important somehow for ethical or conservation reasons. Spikes are perfectly legal in most places and a legitimate trophy to take home for steaks, roasts, jerky and sausage.
At about the age of 4 months, they experience a rise in testosterone which causes the growth of small platforms, called pedicles, on the skull. At this point, the ends of the pedicles are not polished and therefore not shed; they remain dormant until the buck’s second spring.
These small fuzzy knobs earn these animals the unflattering nickname of nub bucks. Hunters are better informed these days but there is still a lot of misunderstanding about spike bucks. The pedicles provide the structural base for the future development of antlers.
Although testosterone is necessary for the development of pedicles, large amounts of this hormone are not needed to grow antlers. However, in yearlings the first three premolars (top and bottom) are very worn “baby teeth” that will be replaced when they are 2 years old.
According to Keith McGuffey, Wisconsin DNR deer researcher and manager for more than three decades, there are very few animals older than yearlings with spikes. Sometimes a late-born fawn doesn’t have enough time to catch up to the others before winter, and it can result in having only spike antlers the next year regardless of genetics.
Some of this is related to nutrition, often exacerbated by extreme weather (drought or severe winters) and some the result of genetics. We have realized for a long time that antler size and shape are inherited, but there has been a lot of confusing and contradictory advice given about how genetics relates to anything practical on the ground.
Starting in 1973, Texas researchers began a series of experiments on the effects of genetics and nutrition on antler and body size in whitetails on the Kerr Wildlife Management Area. The truth is, spikes produce smaller-antlered offspring on average, but most of them will be bucks most people would be proud to take home and many would incur a taxidermy bill if harvested in the peak antler-growing period of 5 to 7 years old.
The real question is whether you can realistically change the gene pool of a wild population by removing those with inferior antler size or characteristics. Researchers conducted a very intensive culling experiment to see if the antler genetics of a free-ranging population could be improved.
In other words, they compared deer of the same age on the same habitat and the culling produced no noticeable change in the genetics. Yearling bucks are the most numerous age class in the population, having grown up from the huge fawn crop the year before, and they are also the least experienced in evading hunters.
But sometimes late-born fawns simply don’t have enough time to catch up to the others before winter, which can result in only spike antlers the following year, regardless of genetics. Spikes are a great renewable resource. If we are not harvesting spikes because they are too small and waiting until they are 5 years old, we are wasting that resource because most will die before reaching that age.
It is the poster child of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and should grace the covers of all the hunting magazines. Keith McGuffey often brags that the antlers of most bucks he has shot will fit in a 3-pound coffee can.
I wish more hunters spent time in the tree stand thinking about filling a coffee can rather than a trophy room. Even if spikes have a slight genetic disadvantage in the antler growth department, it is not anything you will notice through a rifle scope or peep sight.
Location: Tinley Park, IL I've always called 1-1/2-year-old deer “yearlings” and if they are born that same year (6-8 months old by hunting season) I call them “fawns”.
But sometimes I hear or read 6-month-old deer called yearlings” and “fawns” only if they have spots. The last topic we want to cover is age-structured reproduction, which is important to understand white-tailed deer population dynamics.
Of course, as with the previous graphs, the shape of these curves depends on habitat quality. Another, and more complete, way of looking at this age-structured relationship is to include survival of deer as density increases.
Also keep in mind that fawns are actually contributing to reproduction in this scenario, but their offspring are born the following summer when they are classified as yearlings. Compare reproduction and survival in Figure 24 when either habitat quality is poor, or when deer populations are greater and approaching carrying capacity.
Notice the production of offspring by fawns and yearlings is very low, or even absent in some cases. Younger deer are the most sensitive to habitat quality and environmental events, thus reproduction and survival of fawns and yearlings can be a good indicator of habitat quality, or deer density relative to carrying capacity.
The biggest thing that helps me to not pull the trigger is to look at the deer's forehead and nose. If the forehead is round rather than sloping, it is a very young deer.
If you are hunting with a scope checks it head and look for buttons. Most fawns are born in June to ensure that they will be large enough to survive a winter.
A small deer by itself at this time of year could be a 5-month-old separated from its mother due to any number of circumstances or could be a 17-month-old likewise separated from its normal running mates. Does will chase this year's fawn away for a short time during estrus, but will normally get back together with them afterward.
Bucks at this time of year, especially those in the 17-month-old category, will be with bachelor groups of 2-5 animals as a general rule. The bachelor bucks will begin to break up into singles in the next week or so depending on the area of the country you live in for the rut.
The advice in the other posts is excellent information on aging deer on the hoof and experience will help. There is an issue of the American Whitetail (I believe) that has a good pictorial layout of deer, bucks in particular, at various ages which could be helpful to you.
Toastie, here in NW FLORIDA, the rut doesn't come in till late January into early February- so your theory on when fawns are born may be a little suspect for our region. I have seen plenty of mighty little fellas in late September while getting food plots prepared.......
ORIGINAL: beulahboyCoastie, here in NW FLORIDA, the rut doesn't come in till late January into early February- so your theory on when fawns are born may be a little suspect for our region. I have seen plenty of mighty little fellas in late September while getting food plots prepared.......
Alabama and Arkansas also are noted for having late ruts, but in general, the rule holds. Deerhunter1224 is from Indiana, if they have a late or second rut it will likely occur in December which still allows the Does' body to allow the embryo to be implanted (depending on her physical condition) in the uterus in January which results in a birth in June.