Month: June 2019

The Whitetail Rut | What, Why, and When is it?

The whitetail rut, also known as the best time of year. We wait all year to be able to get into the woods during this prime time, so we can get those big bucks and make stories that we can tell a thousand times over again. But do you know the specifics of the rut? What exactly is the rut? Why is there a rut and what triggers it? When is the rut, or how long is it? We will explore these questions and see how we can use them to your advantage in order to make you a better hunter.

Photo: Deer & Deer Hunting

The rut is known as the mating season for mammals. Unlike humans, all animals cannot mate year round so they have a strategic season, normally during fall, so offspring can be born during springtime when food is plentiful. The rut is triggered by the photoperiod, which is the ratio of daylight hours to darkness hours throughout the day. For whitetail deer, the rut starts in late October and ends in early December, but it can vary by a few days between populations. We can also break the rut down into different phases: pre-rut, early rut, full rut, post-rut, and the second rut.

What is The Rut

According to biologists, the rut is a broad term for the mating period of mammals. We mostly only hear of the term “rut” when we are talking about members of the Cervidae family, such as deer, elk, or moose. The rut causes males of the species to increase testosterone levels, this increases their aggression and interest in females. During the rut, males perform many displays or actions in order to entice females. This causes males to become more active and reckless, putting themselves in situations they normally would not.

In whitetails we see that they will fight each other, make a scrape or rub in order to spread their sent and unconsciously start to swell their necks throughout the rut in order to look bigger and more intimidating. They will also start to heavily urinate on their tarsal glands causing staining and a strong scent.

RELATED POST: WHY DO BUCKS RUB TREES?

Photo: Bowhunter.com

It turns out that there is much more to the rut than just the time of year! Check out this total guide to the whitetail rut from Omega Outdoors.

Why is There a Rut

Most every species has a rut, but why? Humans mate year round and produce offspring year round as well. What keeps other animals from doing the same thing? My theory, the seasons and temperatures. If a species gave birth during fall or winter, odds are it will be very difficult for that baby to survive the winter. Especially in deer where fawns move around, but also hide in one spot for hours. This behavior could lead to many offspring freezing to death. Not to mention the availability of food throughout the winter is significantly less that it is in the spring. So because of those factors, the odds of survival are much higher if a species give birth during a warm and fruitful season, also known as spring. So The rut is timed perfectly to accommodate the gestation period of a whitetail doe, which is about 7 1/2 months long.


Hi, I’m Patrick, the sole author of Omega Outdoors. I work on this blog whenever I get a chance in between school and my different jobs, but I would greatly appreciate it if you subscribed to my email list so I can keep you updated my content and giveaways.


When is The Rut

Generally the entire rut will go from October to December. There are also a few different phases to the rut as well, and we see different behavior in each phase. This means we need to hunt each of them different and study our deer to see how they are behaving. What are these phases and how can you use them to your advantage?

Phases of The Rut

Pre-Rut

This period is around the second week of October, to the third week of October. During this period bucks start to roam into their fall ranges and patterns. they start to change their behaviors slightly and will cover more ground. Bucks are still in bachelor groups, and does are still in family groups. The two groups will often mix together at food sources. Buck testosterone levels are slightly increasing.

Bucks are not chasing quite yet. These bucks are laying down a lot of sign through rubs and scrapes. Hunting pressure has likely pushed these bucks back into more wooded areas that are safe and have plenty of food.

It is important when you are scouting to find an area that will fit this bill. It will likely be a secluded area with a few trails and acorn trees. They love the thick areas, so if you can find one with a good about of acorns and general deer sign then that is a good spot for pre-rut hunting.

Early Rut

This period is the last week of October and maybe the first day or so of November. Some does are starting their estrus cycles, and bucks are breaking up from their bachelor groups and are becoming more reckless. They are experiencing high levels of testosterone .

There is a heavy amount of buck sign now. Bucks are starting to move much more but they are still not chasing quite yet. You may see a young buck chasing but not any bruisers. Bedding areas are probably your best bet for a good hunting spot during this week.

Full Rut

The best two weeks of the year, The first two weeks of November. Bucks are going crazy, and chasing does hard. Buck testosterone is at its peak, most does are in or coming into estrus. Bucks increase their ranges even further and are moving at all hours of the day.

A good strategy during this period is to hunt tree lines and trails, doe bedding areas are also an effective strategy. Now your rattles and grunt calls will be really effective. This is the best time to be in the woods and is your best chance of getting a nice buck.

Post Rut

This period occurs during the last week of November. The rut as a whole is slowing down and most does are already bred, but some does will come into estrus during this week. The deer are feeling a lot of pressure from hunters around this time, they are trying to stay in the safest places possible.

Buck activity is slowing down and they will not come out as much in the daylight. Bucks will be harder to hunt than the last two weeks, but bedding areas that are in thick secluded areas are a good place to look, but your normal rut stands will still be really effective.

Second Rut

Hunting is much tougher after the post-rut, the second rut occurs during the first two weeks of December. Mature does that were not bred are now cycling back into estrus, as well as young does that are now big enough to be bred. You may get a few days that will remind you of the full rut, many of the same tactics will work once more.

gruntingbcuk

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Why Do Bucks Rub Trees?

When roaming through your neck of the woods, you have probably seen a tree with the bark rubbed off of one side. Depending on where you live, this is likely to be a type of deer. Have you ever stopped to think why deer make these, or how you could use rubs to your advantage as a hunter? While this post will focus on whitetail deer, many members of the deer family Cervidae also make rubs in a similar fashion.

Why Would Deer Make Rubs?

Whitetails rub trees for two main reasons, during the pre-rut bucks do this to remove the velvet from their antlers around early september. The second reason is to secret their scent in the area. This is a act of dominance showing other bucks what he is capable of. Because of this, frequency of rubs sharply increases during the rut, and studies show that dominate bucks make three times more rubs that younger bucks.

Photo: Deer & Deer Hunting

Do you know exactly why whitetails rub trees? Check out this post about rubs from Omega Outdoors.

What is a “Rub”?

A rub is when a male whitetail uses his antlers to scratch the bark of a tree. This is an intentional act from the deer. They are very thorough and may scratch all the way around the tree or just one side. During September or pre-rut the purpose of this is to get the velvet off the deer’s antlers once they start to harden. During the Rut the purpose is to secret their scent on the tree and surrounding area, they are basically saying ” Hey ladies I am here!”. While simultaneously saying “Hey other bucks look how much I can tear this tree up, that could be you”.

Velvet Coming off the Antlers, Photo: Bruce MacQueen

When do Bucks Make Rubs?

When deer antlers start to harden, it does not take very long for them to get rid of the velvet, maybe a few days at most. This process could start around late August and will probably be over for your local population by mid September. So you will start seeing rubs around this time frame, with an increased frequency during the rut.

Which deer make rubs?

While all bucks will rub to remove their velvet, during the rut, the majority of rubs will be made by more mature bucks rather than yearlings. In a population with a good amount of mature bucks, young bucks aging 1-2 may not get as many opportunities to mate and will likely get bullied around by older and bigger bucks. That being said, rubbing trees is an act of dominance around a certain area. So, it only makes sense that studies show mature (dominate) bucks are three times as likely to make rubs than younger bucks.

RELATED POST: HOW TO AGE WHITETAIL DEER

How to tell the difference between new and old rubs?

A common mistake for novice hunters is to mistake a year old rub for a new one. While it could prove useful to see old rubs, we are generally interested in the recent ones that tell us where the deer are this year. Older rubs will be darker and greyed out while new rubs will be light brown or whitish with a bit of moisture to it.

New Rub, Photo: Realtree.com

What Makes a Good Rub?

As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the better. Smaller rubs can be on one side of the tree, but the holy grail of rubs is one that is rubbed all the way around, a rub like this says there is a buck coming back to this spot often. Some rubs can be on trees that are up to a foot around. Most of the rubs like this are communal. So this is a regularly visited rub by different bucks and could be a good place to do some extra scouting. Many times you will know a good rub when you see it just by sheer size, but another variable to think about is quantity. If there is a area around ten yards with multiple rubs, there is a good chance that is a high traffic area that you should definitely consider.

How Big is a Deer From The Rub?

As we discussed, all bucks rub trees to remove velvet; however, most of them can tear up the middle of a tree and look like a giant buck to the untrained eye. The majority of the damage done is going to be from the two browtines the buck has. These tines are the closest together and are around the same size as the tree that they would be rubbing. So just keep it in the back of your mind that a 2-1/2-year old deer can tear a tree apart as well as a bigger buck.

Do not give up, there is one difference between the two. While the middle is likely torn up in both cases, a mature deer rack has one advantage here that can help us differentiate between trophy and small racks. HEIGHT. Look at the very top of the rub, and the branches close to the ground. These can have small nicks or cuts, they will not be very large but only deer with taller racks can reach these spots, so the taller the nicks the taller (and bigger) the buck.

Around three feet is a normal height for a rub, if you are using this method try to look around four or four and a half feet tall.


Hi, I’m Patrick, the sole author of Omega Outdoors. I work on this blog whenever I get a chance in between school and my different jobs, but I would greatly appreciate it if you subscribed to my email list so I can keep you updated my content and giveaways.


When Should I Hunt a Rub?

If you have identified a large rub and it is close to a few trails or a major trail, that is probably a good spot to hunt. Throw some corn out 10 yards away and see what happens (if your state allows it).

Better yet if you have found a cluster of rubs, close to a food source or major trail, I would mark that down as a stand location. Some hunters prefer to hunt in one spot for their entire season, but if you like to move around, Going from rub location to rub location can be a viable option for you.

What about the tree?

There is no doubt that the tree gets the short end of the *stick here. If it is only a small rub then the tree will likely recover but with a nasty scar and probably will lean to one side. If the rub is all the way around the tree has a really good chance of dying.

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Can Hunting Be A Job?

Everyone dreams of doing what they love for a living. If you could get paid to be a hunter would you do it? Of course! But it is a lot harder than it may sound. Many professionals in the industry have spent years working very hard for little or no pay. So if you are in it for the money and not because you just deeply enjoy the outdoors and the community around it, you are looking in the wrong place.

The dream job of getting paid a decent living to only hunt does not exist. There are, however, many jobs in the outdoor industry. The outdoor industry is broad but you could find careers related to hunting, fishing, conservation, videography, marketing, and biology. The opportunities are endless and the only limitation is you and the amount of work you are willing to put in.

The Tv Hunter – Being Realistic

If you are here searching how easy it is to start your own hunting show, the answer is not hard at all. But you will not make very much if any money. If you think about some of the “celebrity” tv show hunters and how their business plan is actually laid out, they make their money from sponsorships or selling their own products. The hunting is just entertainment so they hope they can grab your attention long enough to advertise to you. This market is extremely competitive and flooded. If you wanted to buy a set of arrowheads or new arrows or maybe a new set of hunting boots, think of how many brands you actually have to choose from for those products. Now think of the following you have to build to just get people to watch your show. This would take 10+ years of very hard work with zero profit just to start making anything at all, but hey, if you are willing to do it nothing is impossible.

Deerhunter TV

Have you ever wanted to hunt for a living? I have, check out this post on the topic from Omega Outdoors.

Getting Started In The Outdoor Industry

What do you actually have to do to get started in the outdoor industry? Get Involved! Be active on social media, go to trade shows and community events. Do not forget about job sites like Indeed or Glassdoor. Search for the companies that you like or would like to work for and see if they have any job postings. Even if it is not something that you are crazy about, getting into a company and making connections can boost your success and opportunity for the job you really want. This advice also stands for any other industry as well, you just have to put yourself out there and sometimes even work for free just to get in and get experience and connections.

Six Job Examples In The Outdoor Industry

Property Management

Being a property manager is an amazing job for someone who loves wildlife. Technically a property manager can manage anything from wildlife to agriculture, or eco-tourism. With one quick search, I found a listing on indeed.com for a position labeled ” Whitetail Outfitter & Ranch Operations”. This type of job is for a veteran outdoorsman that knows all about the outdoors and how to handle it.

Here is the description of the job I mentioned: ” role requires the individual to have significant deer, and turkey hunting, guiding, and calling experience. They are responsible for all aspects of the hunting experience; including, but not limited to: deer habitat management, deer stand management, food plot implementation, and management, pre and post-hunt experience management, game processing, significant people skills and ability to interact with guests, demonstrate good hunting morals, ethics, and knowledge of local and federal regulations. Outfitters are required to interact and guide guests in shooting, fishing, and other miscellaneous event activities. Outfitters are also responsible for the facility, vehicle, and all general upkeep, cleanliness, and maintenance. ”

Summary

  • Average Salary: $107,798/ yr – Glassdoor.com
  • Education required: Highschool, Some college preferred, Extensive wildlife knowledge.
  • Housing included
Northern Sikes Guided Goose Hunt

Hunting Guide

A hunting guides job is to take the customer to a successful location and guide them to a successful harvest. They make sure everything is carried out in the proper way, including but not limited to: ensuring all harvests are legal, firearm safety, locating wildlife, upkeeping camp, and providing a fulfilling experience for the customer. Many hunting guides own their own property but is possible to work for a property manager and carry out hunts on their behalf. Many managers hire guides to take customers out on paid hunts not only to increase revenue but also harvest mature deer from the population.

RELATED POST: HOW TO AGE A MATURE WHITETAIL IN THE FIELD

Summary:

  • Average Pay: $1,500 – $2,500/Month
  • Education Required: Hunting Guide School
  • Housing and Food Included

Wildlife Biologist

If you are a scientifically inclined person that loves the outdoors, you may want to consider being a wildlife biologist. A wildlife biologists duties can be very broad depending on the employer and the location. They perform research and help better manage wildlife populations. Wildlife biologists can work for private parties but many of them work at the state or federal level where their findings can influence regulations and seasons.

Wildlife biologists also tend to specialize in a specific species. So you may spend years studying bears of Idaho, tracking these animals and analyzing the data flowing in from hunters. You may add collars to captured animals to track their movement or study food plots to see how animals react to certain foods and which food groups can best benefit them. These are just some examples and every job will vary, but it is a hands-on outdoor job and if that is what you are passionate about you should go for it.

Summary:

  • Average Pay: $51,483 – payscale.com
  • Education required: Bachelor’s degree in Biology

Influencer

What the heck is an influencer? An influencer is anyone that builds a following in a certain niche, ours being hunting and the outdoors. Influencers use social media to share content with others who like what they like. This is not an easy job. Large influencers have a lot of influence (hence the name) in their industries, and companies see them as an amazing marketing opportunity. So they may pay a certain influencer to use their product and tell their followers about their experience. To be an influencer you have to really love your industry and be in it for the long run because you will be in the trenches working really hard for years before you start to make any money.

The best thing about being an influencer is you can do it on your own time, as much, or as little as you want. However, your income will directly correlate with the amount of time and effort you put into your craft. You also do not need any formal education for this job and could even do it on the side after your boring nine to five job.

How do you make money as an influencer? Influencers have multiple ways of monetizing their audience, and they should use more than one method. You can make youtube videos which generate ad revenue, you can do sponsorships on social media or podcasts, or you can place ads on a blog (like this one)

Wildlife Conservationist

A wildlife conservationists job is to protect wildlife and the habitat that supports it. They work to make sure the ecosystem is in good health and not in danger to any diseases or invasive species. They will also check the soil to see if there is possibly any pollution or runoff affecting the area.

Another responsibility of a wildlife conservationist is to advocate for wildlife and the environment. They also educate the public. As a matter of fact, 79% of wildlife conservationists work for government agencies (bls.com) where they can better communicate with the public about these topics. While working for these government agencies, many conservationist advocate for things like green energy, climate change, national forests, habitat conservations, and regulations relating to wildlife and the environment.

Summary:

  • Average Pay: $63,800/yr – bls.com
  • Education Required: Bachelors degree in wildlife biology, agricultural science, or environmental sciences
Oklahoma Game Warden Ryan Walker

Game Warden/ Conservation Officer

Game wardens do enforce laws in the wilderness to ensure the safety of the habitat, but that is not their only job. They actually do a lot more than you may think. Game wardens are responsible for issuing licenses ti hunters, running hunter safety and education classes, performing search and rescue, provide backup to law enforcement, conduct investigations of game harvesting operations, and also maintaining the census of wildlife populations. These are just the bulk of their duties, as with any job other duties may arise.

Obviously, this is a hands-on job for outdoor lovers. You are outside in the thick of every situation, and you are the determining factor of how it all goes down. If you are instrested in this career I would highly suggest checking out gamewarden.org.

Summary:

  • Average Pay: $49,400/yr – bls.com
  • Education required: Bachelors degree in one of the following fields,
    • Wildlife and/or Natural Resource Conservation
    • Wildlife Ecology
    • Biological Science (Specifically Wildlife Biology)
    • Environmental Science
    • Fish and Wildlife Management
    • Criminal justice

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Complete Guide To Aging Whitetail Deer

Aging a whitetail in the field can be an important aspect of your hunt. Trying to hold out for a mature buck has become an increasingly popular management strategy. Every single buck is different though. Many of the attributes that we will soon learn that help us age a buck, can vary from deer to deer. This is why many hunters struggle to age deer correctly; although, most anyone can tell a mature deer apart from a yearling, let’s dive into how to judge the middle stages.


What do we use to Judge age?

To quickly judge the age of a deer in the field we can use four major attributes, the body/estimated weight of a deer, the belly and how low it hangs, how thick the neck is, and lastly if the antlers are spread outside the ears or not. It is recommended to not look at the antlers themselves to determine the age, focus mainly on the body. The bigger the neck, lower the belly, the older the deer. Make sure to follow through on your estimate after the shot with a jaw bone method (seen below).

Mature vs young deer body size, Photo: Startribune

Choosing the Right Picture on Cam

If you are not in the field and are judging bucks off of a trail camera picture, it is very important to choose the right pictures and not just ONE picture. You need pictures where you can clearly see all the physical features of the buck. We will use his features to judge him and choosing a picture with a bad angle or shadows can complicate the aging process. The QDMA ( Quality Deer Management Association) posted this picture to show the ideal stance of a buck.

Photo: QDMA

Do you know how to age a whitetail just by looking at its body? Or how to age them by their teeth? Check out this total guide from Omega Outdoors.

The Body

When judging the age of a deer you really should act like they have no antlers at all, and just focus on the body. If you look at a young deer you can really see just how slender they are. They are very sleek and skinny looking, deer take a few years to fill out. Just like humans, you can see the difference in the weight and muscle mass between a 13-year-old boy and a 25-year-old man. Year after year deer start to pack on the pounds, so it is not unusual to see a super skinny young deer. When you see a mature deer, around 4 1/2, there will be no doubt that you know he is a mature buck just by how big his body is. A mature buck that is over 200lbs will appear to have shot legs with his belly hanging down. His neck will look short and fat.

The Belly

Hanging belly, Photo: Kruger Farms

If whitetail have good available nutrition, over the years they will pack on the pounds. Fatter deer are more likely to be older. Just looking at the belly you can tell a young deer from a mature deer quite easily. Young deer will have level bellies or even curved upward. While a mature deer will have a lower or even hanging belly, the lower the better. This causes old deer to appear short or stubby.

Thick swollen neck

The Neck

The neck is one of the first things to look at when aging a buck. Combined with the muscle on the shoulders, the size of the neck can be a good sign of age. How swollen a buck’s neck is can also change with the season. During the rut, the neck swells up to show dominance. Around age 4 1/2 a bucks neck and shoulder muscles have fully developed and will appear to be short and thick. While in young deer the neck appears sleek and slender.


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Hi, I’m Patrick, the sole author of Omega Outdoors. I work on this blog whenever I get a chance in between school and my different jobs, but I would greatly appreciate it if you subscribed to my email list so I can keep you updated my content and giveaways.


What to expect at each age

1 1/2 Year Old Whitetail Deer

At this age, bucks are just starting to grow their first set of antlers and are probably the easiest deer to age. They are long and lanky and look like they are all legs. They are very slim with a small waist. These deer have a distinct line of separation between their neck and shoulders with little muscle definition. Most of the little weight they do have will be shifted towards the back of the deer. They will also have very light staining of the tarsal glands. At this age, if you were to strip away their antlers it would be difficult to tell a yearling buck apart from a doe.

Yearling bucks antlers are most likely small and are inside the width of the ears, but on well-managed properties, yearlings can be larger and have a respectable rack. That is why we try to disregard the antlers and focus on body features instead.

2 1/2 Year Old Whitetail Deer

These bucks are still slender looking with a thin waist. They have developed some muscle in their shoulders along with a little swelling in the neck but not very much. Their belly will still make a straight line and will not hang down. Most of their weight is still in their back half. With good nutrition, their antlers can be as wide or slightly wider than their ears. They likely have small mass but should be showing the framework of how their rack will look in years to come. These bucks can have moderate staining in their tarsal glands during the rut, especially if only a few mature bucks are in the population.

3 1/2 Year Old Whitetail Deer

For these bucks, their legs are finally the right length and they have built some muscle in the shoulders and torso. These bucks are still somewhat lean but are also built, so they are small and fast while also being big and strong. These bucks are close to their prime and have a lot of testosterone flowing and tend to have a badass teenager attitude which a lot of the time gets them killed. Their belly is still straight and they still have a defining line separating their neck and shoulders. Many of these bucks are starting to develop a very nice set of antlers. They should be outside the ears and starting to accrue a nice amount of mass. According to the QDMA, “most bucks have achieved 50 to 75 percent of their antler-growth potential” by this stage.

This is the average age a buck makes it to in the wild. Most unmanaged properties (especially public lands) do not have many bucks past this age. This is mainly due to their hormones and attitudes at this stage. It is bucks like these that can teach you about the trouble that chasing women can make.

4 1/2 Year Old Whitetail Deer

After 3 1/2 it gets much harder to tell the exact age in the field, but it is still very possible. 4 1/2 is the age most management systems believe that hunters should harvest bucks. At this age, bucks are very developed throughout the body and they are in their prime. Their legs now appear to short for their bodies. The bucks shoulders are filled out, their neck is much bigger and swells during the rut due to increased testosterone levels. You can no longer see a defined line between the neck and brisket, they are now one mass. Their belly will not hang by much but they will not be completely flat. Now you can see significant staining on the tarsal glands as well.

According to RealTree “By this time in their life, bucks will display 80 to 90 percent of their antler’s potential”. Bucks by now have large antlers and a large amount of mass. Bucks in this age range account for many of the trophies taken.

5 1/2 – 6 1/2 Year Old Whitetail Deer

Bucks rarely get past 5 years old in free range areas. These bucks are as big as they are going to get and if you are lucky enough to take a buck that makes it to this age you will be able to immediately tell that this is a mature deer. Deer at this age regardless of antler size are a true trophy, these bucks have been around the block a time or two and have most likely outsmarted or barely escaped a hunter before. If you have ever heard of the term “roman nose” these are the bucks they are talking about. The bucks nose begins to round off as he gets older and looks less pointy like a doe.

Now their bellies are starting to sag, the back may even sway down. The chest is deeper and larger, and the brisket may sag as low as the stomach line. The neck is extremely large and swollen. The legs appear very short compared to the rest of the body and there is very heavy staining on the tarsal glands.

7 1/2 – 8 1/2 Year Old Whitetail Deer

You can think of these deer as the elderly old men of the deer world. For deer to be this old is very rare. These deer are on the decline and are losing weight. Their antlers will start to get smaller and they will become less active and probably will not chase does, and if they do, they will not chase as hard as a younger buck. A chin flap may also be present as the deer shrinks from its former size.

To help you remember all these rules The QDMA has a poster with examples that you can get here from Amazon.

The Follow-up – Aging Whitetail By Teeth

It is very important to check your age estimates after you take the shot. This way you can audit your own performance and better manage your property.

Photo: fffnj.com

Where do you start?

Aging deer by the teeth is a game of elimination. The whole concept is that if this jaw passes certain criteria then it must be older than X amount of years. We will use two processes in this technique, tooth replacement, and tooth wear. during these processes, we will use the number of adult teeth coupled with the amount of wear on the molars to get an accurate estimate of the deers’ age.

Tooth Replacement

Just like humans, a whitetail has baby teeth that fall out and get replaced periodically. An adult whitetail has six teeth on each jaw, three premolars, and three molars. These are the teeth we will be looking at to assess age. Using this method we can quickly tell the difference between a fawn, a 1 1/2-year-old, and a 2 1/2 & older whitetail.

Fawn

Judging a fawn is the most simple of the ages. Deer are born with three temporary teeth and one molar. The other two teeth are soon to come around the age of 1 1/2. So easily enough, if a jaw has less than six teeth it is a fawn.

1 1/2 Year Old Whitetail Deer

A 1 1/2 deer has grown six molars on each side. You can tell a jaw belongs to a 1 1/2-year-old deer is by his third premolar. The third premolar will still be a baby tooth and have three cusps to it. if you can verify that it has three cusps, you can confirm it is a 1 1/2-year-old whitetail.

1 1/2 year old whitetail jaw bone
Photo: Wisconsin DNR

2 1/2 Year Old Whitetail Deer

Much like the last strategy, check that the jaw has six teeth. Then go to the third premolar and check if it only has two cusps. If your deer only has two cusps on his third premolar you can confirm the whitetail is at least 2 1/2 years old.

To get a visual representation of this information the QDMA has some really good videos on this topic.

Tooth Wear

Using the tooth wear method you can tell the difference between 3 1/2-year-old deer all the way up to 6 + years old. This technique looks at the enamel(white outer layer) and dentine(dark inner layer) of the whitetails fourth molar to start. We use the fourth molar in this case because it is the oldest tooth the deer has. The main question we will be asking is how wide is the dentine strip on the TOP of the crest compared to the outer layer of enamel.

2 1/2 Year Old Whitetail Deer

If we have concluded that a deer is at least 2 1/2 using the tooth replacement strategy, we can now look at the wear of the fourth molar to confirm it is 2 1/2 and not older. We can see an inner strip of dark dentine and we can ask the question, is the inner strip on dentine twice as thick as the outer strip of enamel? If the answer is no, then your whitetail is 2 1/2 years old.

3 1/2 Year Old Whitetail Deer

Using the same strategy on the fourth molar, we can ask is the dentine or dark material twice as thick as the outer layer of enamel? If the answer is yes, the deer is at least 3 1/2 years old. We then have to slide over to the fifth tooth and ask the same question again. If your answer is no then you can confirm your deer to be 3 1/2 years of age.

4 1/2 Year Old Whitetail Deer

Now we are on the fifth molar, asking is the strip of dark dentine on the top of the cusp twice as thick as the enamel next to it? If your answer is yes, then the deer is at least 4 1/2 year old. Now we go to the sixth and last tooth. We ask the same question and if your answer is no, then you can confirm your deer to be 4 1/2 years of age.

5 1/2 Year Old Whitetail Deer

If you get to the last molar and ask the same question, Is the dentine twice as wide as a strip of enamel, and your answer is yes, then the animal is at least 5 1/2 years old.

6 1/2 + Year Old Whitetail Deer

After your deer jaw has passed all the criteria to be at least 5 1/2 years old, we can start looking at the fourth molar again. We then ask a new question. Is the fourth tooth beginning to flatten out or dish? if the answer is yes, then the whitetail is at least 6 1/2 years old.

After 6 1/2 this method loses its reliability, and aging up to 6 1/2 is adequate for most management strategies. However, any deer that is 6 1/2 years of age or older, regardless of antler size is a true trophy that anyone would be proud of.

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