How To Tell The Age Of A Deer By Its Antlers

By: Mario
How To Tell The Age Of A Deer By Its Antlers

There are many different reasons why you might want to determine the age of a deer, perhaps you’re simply curious, or maybe you’re a gamekeeper trying to make harvest decisions.

But regardless of your why you need to know how to go about it. After all, it’s not as if you can exactly ask them when their birthday is. 

Well, typically, it is encouraged that harvest decisions are made based on the age of the deer rather than the antler’s size. But with that being said, antler size is a pretty good way to determine how old they are.

It’s important to keep in mind though, that several other factors should also be taken into account such as their body size and shape, the appearance of distinct features, and their muscle tone.

But for the most part, you can age a deer based on its antler size. Let’s take a look at how you can determine the age of a deer by observing their antlers. 

How To Tell The Age Of A Deer By Their Antlers 

There are two main telltale signs for the age of a deer based on their antlers, so let’s take a quick look at them both now. 

Antler Length

Try to observe the deer from the side and check the length of how far the antlers extend in front of their face.

Older bucks’ antlers often protrude almost as far as their nose and typically extend up to around 20 inches (or 50.8 cm) from their faces.

While much younger bucks have antlers that come out nowhere near as far. 

Antler Spread

Try to observe the deer face-on, or get a direct photograph, and examine the spread between the antlers.

Bucks aged 2.5 and younger never really exceed a measurement of around 14 inches (35.56 cm.)

Once aged 3.5 and older, the antler spread will increase to over 15 inches (38.1 cm) or more as they continue to age. 

Antler Issues

Determining a deer’s age by antlers alone can be a tricky process, especially for new hunters. Keep in mind that deer replace their antlers each and every year.

Usually, it is best to try and determine the age using antlers and other factors such as body weight and shape which changes as the years pass.

Technically, you could also determine their age by cutting through their antlers and counting the annual rings…a little bit like you can with trees.

But good luck with that one…I wouldn’t really recommend it. 

Ageing Bucks – Frequently Asked Questions

Estimating age of a deer by looking at its antlers

How Old Is An 8 Point Buck?

Provided they’ve got good genetics and have had the appropriate nutrition, an eight or more point buck will usually be around the age of 2 years old.

However, it is important to keep in mind that bucks that have poor antler genetics or who are malnourished may reach maturity without developing more than seven points.

How Old Is A 4 Point Deer?

In well-managed herds, whitetail bucks will reach physiological maturity at around the age of 4 and a half.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part you can expect any buck who is aged four and older to have already experienced 90% of his lifetime antle growth.

How Old Is A Spike Buck?

Spike bucks are male deers who have antlers with only one point. These are often referred to as unbranched antlers since they have no smaller points that branch off from the main one.

These kinds of deer are usually around 2 years old or younger.

How Old Is A Forked Horn Deer?

Forked horn deer are male deers which have a singular branched antler on each main antler. The second spike is typically found on the upper two-thirds of the main antler.

You can typically expect any deer with these kinds of antlers to be fairly new to life at just one to one and half years old. This is because their full antlers are still undeveloped.

How Old Are Big Bucks?

Usually, a whitetail buck will reach maturity at the age of around 3-5 years old. The overall lifespan of a buck will really vary depending on their habitat and overall health.

Though usually the males will live until the age of about 6-7 with the females living around 2 years longer.

Of course, they have the ability to live much longer lives but other factors such as predators, hunters, habitat quality, disease, famine, or accidents shorten the time frame considerably.

What Is The Most Effective Method For Aging A Deer?

Though you can certainly determine the age of a deer, at least roughly, from their antlers, there are more effective methods that can produce more accurate results.

For example, many gamekeepers will opt for the cementum annuli technique. This is where the bottom two front teeth, called incisors, are cut out using a pocket knife.

The teeth are then sent to a lab and the growth rings of the teeth are counted to determine age. Kind of like you do with trees.

Final Thoughts 

Deer antlers are constantly changing as they grow older, and so they can be a really great indicator as to how old your deer is.

However, as you’ve seen from this article, for the most part it allows you to roughly gauge the age of the deer.

For more accurate results, you’ll need to also consider several other factors to get a more precise estimate of their age.