Perhaps you’ve seen a pretty good buck on your property, or maybe you have game camera photos of a true giant that got your heart racing.
But is it a young buck with great potential? Or is it a mature buck that could be what you’re looking for? Is it a super buck, either way, that has you amped for great hunts to pit your skills against his in the woods?
Want to make an educated guess at the age of that buck? You can, by analyzing the buck’s physical features using Charles Alsheimer’s four-point system:
1. The Rack: A buck’s antlers change significantly with age, especially after the age of 3. Most mature bucks will have more antler mass, non-typical points and larger racks until they pass their prime.
2. The Body Type. Aging deer on the hoof is a popular discussion point today among hunters. After a buck makes it to 3½ years of age, its head begins to widen and its neck and shoulders become more massive.
3. The Tracks. Although track length can play a role in determining the maturity level of a buck, Alsheimer has found that track width is a far better indicator of age because hoof tips break and wear off, especially in country with rocky gravel soils. In most cases, a buck’s hoof widens with age, therefore track width tells me more about age than length.
A yearling buck’s hoof is roughly 2 inches wide, about the same as a mature doe. A 2½-year-old buck’s track will be anywhere from 2¼ to 2½ inches wide. With age, a buck’s track will increase slightly as it becomes heavier. Also, as a buck ages, its front hooves tend to show more of an indent on the back of the hoof’s pad than the hoof’s toe when it walks and makes a track. In addition, after a buck passes 4½ years old, its front hoofs begin to toe out as it walks.
4. The Behavior. As a buck ages, it will most certainly become more nocturnal, especially in populated areas. Any buck that reaches 4 years of age is the ultimate survivor and knows that nighttime is the best time to move around because it’s quieter and void of human activity.