Each buck is different, we can’t always rely on antler size to base our decisions on. The key to deciphering a whitetail buck’s age lies in the body structure and proportion.
1 1/2 Years
These young bucks are easy to identify by the length of their legs. Simply put, they are “all leg” with most of their weight and definition focused on the back half of their bodies.
2 1/2 Years
Bucks will still be very leggy and closely resemble does. Minimal muscular definition. Antlers likely won’t be greater than 16 in. wide.
3 1/2 Years
Neck, chest, and shoulders should begin to swell with a definitive line separating neck and shoulder. Impressive antler sets are possible, though these deer are not yet in their prime.
4 ½ Years
Deer will be the most active in this age class. Hunters should begin harvesting bucks at this age. Neck and shoulders should form one large mass of muscle.
5 ½ Years
The buck has reached full maturity and may start to show signs of a sagging belly and/or swayed back. Neck swell will be very large. Bucks in this age class provide impressive antler potential.
6 ½ Years
Few bucks will reach this weight class, think of them as elderly men. The chest will be very deep and muscular, and the deer may develop a rounded off “Roman nose”.
As a hunter, it is important to know how to age a buck in the wild. Passing on younger animals will increase the likelihood of nabbing a large, potentially high-scoring deer in the future.