How can we educate ourselves on how to accurately estimate the age of bucks on the hoof?

By Grant Woods,

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← Grant's AnswersDeer Management
My friends and I have 1,000 acres in the delta region of Mississippi that we have long term leases on. We are constantly looking for advice to get our bucks bigger and bigger. We know that allowing a buck to reach maturity is the key to maximizing his size. Our problem lies with not being able to correctly age bucks in the wild good enough to implement this as a club rule. Is there any advice you could give us to learn to pass those 3.5 year old bucks and is there any club rules we could do antler size wise that would protect the majority of the 3.5 year olds while allowing us to still have success? Also we were looking into supplemental feeding so any advice on that would be appreciated too.

Thank you,
Travis “Dustin” Matthews


I’m not aware of any shortcuts to learning how to accurately estimate the age of bucks on the hoof.  It can be difficult especially in a moment of excitement!  I strongly prefer my clients do a camera survey and use those pictures to identify and learn which bucks they wish to tag and more importantly which bucks they wish to pass!  We often make booklets so clients can study which bucks to pass.  This system has worked very well for me and my clients!

There’s no doubt that a well ran supplemental feeding program can help. Most folks focus on protein.  However, usually quality sources of energy are in much shorter supply than protein.  Good feeding programs require substantial resources (dollars and labor).  Feeders need to be moved and cleaned frequently.  Non target critters such as squirrels, raccoons, bears, etc., can literally remove 50% or more of the feed.

However, if implemented correctly a feeding program can increase the health of a deer herd!

Enjoy creation,