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#3450966 - 11/13/13 03:24 PM New Field-judging buck age examples
BSK
Jerkasourous of the non-typical kind
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Registered: 03/11/99
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Loc: Nashville, TN

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First, let me emphasize that field-judging age is an art and not a science. Although I've been perfecting my skills for many years, I still only get 4 out of 5 buck ages right. Let me also emphasize that deer from different geographic regions will have different body conformation characteristics by age. All of the following pictures are TN bucks. In fact, they are all from just one property in western Middle TN. However, most TN bucks (and those in northern AL and MS, as well as AR, VA, and much of KY) will follow these body conformation rules. Body size by age is definitely latitude linked. Bucks farther south or north will display different body conformation per age-class.

Second, when field-judging buck age, always, always, ALWAYS ignore the antlers. I've seen 80-class yearlings and 80-class 5 1/2 year-old bucks. Antlers will fool you more often than any other feature. Just look at the body.

The two most important body characteristics which most consistently indicate age are: 1) the length of the legs in comparison to the vertical thickness of the body; and 2) the juncture of the neck with the front of the shoulders. Those two characteristics seem to be the best for judging TN bucks.

Also remember that the aging characteristics most often used are best assessed only around the rut. In fact, most bucks will not fully display these chest/neck musculatures until within 30 days of peak breeding for the local area.




Yearling (1 1/2 year-old) bucks:

Yearling bucks are best described as "does with antlers." They have the gracile necks of does, and the long bodies of does. Some yearling bucks will have body musculature greater than does, but the almost always have legs that look very long for the thickness of the body.

Notice in the following pictures how narrow the bucks' necks are, even where they join the shoulder. A very clear distinction between the base of the neck and the beginning of the shoulders exists. Also notice how long these bucks' legs look in comparison to the vertical height/thickness of the shoulder and body trunk. Viewed from the front, yearling bucks are also very doe-like in how narrow their bodies are from side to side.
















The below buck is a good example of not letting antlers fool you. This healthy yearling has a respectable 8-point rack:


Another 8-point yearling buck:
_________________________
"Know where you stand, and stand there" --Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan

"There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." --Clive James

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#3450976 - 11/13/13 03:36 PM Re: New Field-judging buck age examples [Re: BSK]
BSK
Jerkasourous of the non-typical kind
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Registered: 03/11/99
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2 1/2 year-old bucks:

By 2 1/2, bucks are really starting to put on considerable muscle. They are usually noticeably larger in body than yearling bucks. The best way to differentiate a 2 1/2 year-old buck from a yearling buck is the thickness of the neck. 2 1/2 year-old bucks have noticeably enlarged necks near the rut. Their bodies will often look substantially larger than a yearling.

However, as much larger as their necks are, a fairly strong distinction still exists between the base of the neck and the beginning of the shoulders.

Their legs are starting to look less "long and gracile" compared to a yearling buck's.

Seen end-on, 2 1/2 year-old bucks are considerably wider than yearling bucks, especially through the hams and shoulders.














Don't let this 2 1/2 year-old buck's small antlers fool you. The depth of his chest and the thickness of his neck, both at the jaw-line and where the neck meets the chest, indicate his real age:
_________________________
"Know where you stand, and stand there" --Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan

"There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." --Clive James

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#3451020 - 11/13/13 04:06 PM Re: New Field-judging buck age examples [Re: BSK]
BSK
Jerkasourous of the non-typical kind
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Registered: 03/11/99
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3 1/2 year-old bucks:

Bucks begin to look "big" once they hit 3 1/2. At 3 1/2, they have very heavy necks, especially down at the base where the neck joins the shoulders. Only a slight distinction between neck and shoulder will exist. Seen head-on, a 3 1/2 year-old buck's neck will be thicker than his head is wide, making his head look out of proportion to his neck.

A 3 1/2 year-old buck really looks like a Thoroughbred race horse. They are very muscular in shoulders and hams. They look like they are at the peak of their game. Viewed from the front, their bodies are starting to look thick from side to side.
















3 1/2 year-old bucks can also tend to look "front-heavy," in that their chests are deeper and heavier than their hams, like these bucks:







Again, don't let antler size fool you. Even before he broke off the end of his left beam, this 3 1/2 year-old buck's 6-point rack probably wouldn't have gross scored out of the 50s.

Another 6-point 3 1/2 year-old. But look at that neck and chest!
_________________________
"Know where you stand, and stand there" --Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan

"There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." --Clive James

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#3451077 - 11/13/13 04:36 PM Re: New Field-judging buck age examples [Re: BSK]
BSK
Jerkasourous of the non-typical kind
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Registered: 03/11/99
Posts: 65979
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4 1/2 year-old bucks:

Bucks are considered mature at 4 1/2 years of age, not only because their behavior is that of a mature buck but because their bodies are fully filled out.

At 4 1/2, bucks will have massive necks. Almost no definition will exist between the base of the neck and the beginning of the shoulders. The huge neck will appear to nearly flow seamlessly into the shoulders.

4 1/2 year-old bucks usually have body-trunks as wide from side to side as as they are tall vertically. They are truly brutish, muscular, thick animals.

At 4 1/2, bucks have legs that look noticeably short in comparison to the vertical height of the body. In essence, the front legs look about as long as the shoulder section of the body trunk is vertically thick.

Everything about a mature buck's body will make your brain scream "STUD!" the instant you see one.


















_________________________
"Know where you stand, and stand there" --Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan

"There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." --Clive James

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#3451104 - 11/13/13 04:54 PM Re: New Field-judging buck age examples [Re: BSK]
BSK
Jerkasourous of the non-typical kind
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Registered: 03/11/99
Posts: 65979
Loc: Nashville, TN

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5 1/2+ year-old bucks:

5 1/2 year-old and older bucks are the true bulls of the forest. Their distinguishing characteristics are their massive over-all size. Their necks have become so thick that they flow directly into the top of the shoulders and deep brisket of the chest with no definition.

The massive necks of these age bucks will be so thick at the jaw-line that they will make their faces look short and blocky.

Bucks of this age will look and act like no other deer. They will even walk differently than younger bucks, with a more horse-like plodding gait. At times they will even swing their front legs foreword in a sideways arcing motion.




























_________________________
"Know where you stand, and stand there" --Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan

"There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." --Clive James

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#3451643 - 11/13/13 09:26 PM Re: New Field-judging buck age examples [Re: BSK]
jmb4wd
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Registered: 10/03/07
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Loc: Christiana, TN

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Thanks Bryan! It's always helpful to see these examples and thanks for presenting it so nicely!
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#3453283 - 11/14/13 09:52 PM Re: New Field-judging buck age examples [Re: jmb4wd]
CAW
6 Point


Registered: 09/12/10
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Loc: Huntsville, AL

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Good stuff Bryan! Thanks for putting this together.

Question for you - I have a tough time aging bucks in the late summer before they fill out for the rut. Have you ever thought about putting something together to age bucks during that time of year? Is it even possible?

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#3453861 - 11/15/13 10:50 AM Re: New Field-judging buck age examples [Re: CAW]
primos32
6 Point


Registered: 12/26/07
Posts: 863
Loc: Savannah, TN

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Thank you for taking the time to put this together! Very helpful!
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#3453891 - 11/15/13 11:12 AM Re: New Field-judging buck age examples [Re: CAW]
BSK
Jerkasourous of the non-typical kind
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Registered: 03/11/99
Posts: 65979
Loc: Nashville, TN

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 Originally Posted By: CAW
Question for you - I have a tough time aging bucks in the late summer before they fill out for the rut. Have you ever thought about putting something together to age bucks during that time of year? Is it even possible?


Yes, it's possible but much more difficult. Because the bucks are not filled out for the rut, you cannot use neck musculature as a guide. The very best criterion of buck age with summer body conformation is chest depth.
_________________________
"Know where you stand, and stand there" --Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan

"There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." --Clive James

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#3461264 - 11/19/13 09:28 PM Re: New Field-judging buck age examples [Re: BSK]
CAW
6 Point


Registered: 09/12/10
Posts: 944
Loc: Huntsville, AL

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 Originally Posted By: BSK
 Originally Posted By: CAW
Question for you - I have a tough time aging bucks in the late summer before they fill out for the rut. Have you ever thought about putting something together to age bucks during that time of year? Is it even possible?


Yes, it's possible but much more difficult. Because the bucks are not filled out for the rut, you cannot use neck musculature as a guide. The very best criterion of buck age with summer body conformation is chest depth.


Thanks Bryan. I'm glad I'm not the only one that finds it difficult to age in the summertime!

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