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Darin
DARIN
DeNEAL

Stay on Target

The Results Are In

Mon, March 30, 2015

Last fall, I shot a buck with my shotgun, and I believed him to be pretty old.  I had several trail cam pictures of him, and his body indicated he was very mature.  After I harvested him, I noticed he had the blackest hocks I had seen from any buck I had shot.  I had heard that this was indicative of age, so I became very curious about how many years my buck had wandered the woods.  After careful examination, it occurred to me that I might know exactly how old he was.  In late November, 4 years earlier, I had passed a buck that I thought was 2.5 years old.  I also captured a trail cam photo of him a few days later.  In that photo, the 2.5 year old buck looked strikingly similar to the buck I had just shot, and it was from the exact same area.  The location is heavily wooded, and butts up to hundreds more acres of Shawnee National Forest land that is also solid timber.  Because of this, it was not uncommon to only see a buck a few times and never again.  Also, sheds in this area are extremely difficult to locate, so it would not be surprising that I had never found any of his antlers. 

I had read that cementum-annuli was by far the most accurate way to age a deer over 3.5 years old.  The way I understand it, a new cementum layer is produced in the teeth of the deer each year, similar to rings on a tree.  So, I extracted the front teeth from my buck, and I sent them to Wildlife Analytical Labs (deerage.com) in Burnet, TX.  For a fee of $25, they would go through a process of examining the teeth and send me the results.  I also submitted the teeth of another 2014 buck that my friend Jeff Morgan had shot with his recurve bow.  We had estimated Jeff’s buck to be 5.5 years old.

When the results came in, we were correct on both mine and Jeff’s buck.  My buck was 6.5 years old and Jeff’s was 5.5. 


This is a side by side pic of my buck, and the 2.5 year old buck from 4 years earlier


The tarsal glands from my buck


Jeff’s 5.5 year old trophy


Our letter from Wildlife Analytical Labs confirming the age of our deer

So, for $25 per sample, we had our deer aged.  Overall, it was a very neat process.  I am glad we found out our guesses were correct, but even if they had been wrong, it is always great to know.  I would definitely recommend this to anybody that is inclined to do it.  I will use this lab in the future.

Comments

Awesome read darin, And those are 2 awesome deer…..

Posted by WhitetailFreak on March 30

I don’t understand who Mike is in the letter from deerage.com.  Was that a typo?

Posted by buckbull on March 30

Buckbull,

Ha ha, good catch.  I was hoping people wouldn’t notice.  Yes, Mike was apparently a typo.  I’m guessing he just personalizes a form letter, and forgot to change a “Mike” or he just wrote the wrong name.
-Darin

Posted by shootist on March 30

Good article D.  Thanks for sharing it

Posted by Andy Meador on March 30

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