How do stains on a buck’s tarsal gland help indicate his age?

By Grant Woods,

  Filed under:

← Grant's AnswersDeer Biology
Hi Grant,

I noted in your last episode when you said that the buck you were aging in the field did not have staining on his tarsal glands. I was curious how the tarsal glands are used to indicate age? Also, it did look like they were stained to me, so I was wondering what you are looking for when you are talking about staining? Just trying to educate myself a little more!

Thank you for your informative show. I think I have watched every show for about the last two years!



Almost all bucks urinate on their tarsal glands.  Mature bucks don’t seem to make any effort to remove the odor or urine from their tarsals. Immature bucks often lick off the urine.  This is probably to reduce the amount of odor and not attract other bucks during the rut.  

Hence mature bucks often have urine stains several inches below their tarsal glands.  If there is any stain on immature bucks it will often only be the tarsal gland and there won’t be any stain below the gland.  This is a good indicator, but not absolute evidence of a buck’s maturity or dominance status.

Enjoy creation,


November 23, 2015