Aging Mature Bucks from Camera Photos

Question: I live in southeast Minnesota and I only want to shoot mature whitetail deer on my land, but I’m new to whitetail deer hunting and don’t really know what I’m doing. I have had my trail camera out and have seen 2 nice bucks. One is a 2.5 year old deer I believe and the other is younger. I was wondering if I could send you some pictures of them and have you age them for me and give me some hints on how to do it? Our bow season opens September 19th and I don’t want to have one of the bucks walk under my stand and shoot him just to find out that he is not a mature deer. Your help would be appreciated.

Answer: The 9 point buck looks to be exactly what you thought; a 2 1/2 year old buck. The 8 point whitetail is a yearling (1 1/2 year old buck). By the way, many people refer to fawns as yearlings. Fawns are fawns, yearlings are 1 1/2 year old does or bucks (they have their first set of antlers as yearlings).

With whitetail, some characteristics you can use for aging whitetail bucks on the hoof is to look at antler mass, the chest in relation to the belly, and the shape of the head. In almost all cases, antler mass increases with age. For example, look at the yearling 8 compared to the 2 1/2 year old 9. In addition, as a buck gets older, his belly gets larger and fuller. So does his chest.

With a larger chest and belly, this can cause the back of a mature whitetail to sway downward and make the legs appear shorter. Lastly, play close attention to a buck’s head. As a buck gets older, his head will appear shorter (from left to right) and deeper (up and down).

It’s a good idea to keep good photos of all age “known” age clases of bucks to improve your ability to accurately age deer while whitetail hunting. That way, when you get photos of deer that you are unsure of, you can compare them to your file photos and judge the new whitetail buck based on the above criteria.

Review of Texas’ Deer Hunting Season

Yes, it’s true. Texas’s general deer hunting season is officially over for most folks now with the close of the extended antlerless and spike season. And from the sound of it, it looks like the number of white-tailed deer harvest during the 2009-2010 season has dropped this year. At least that’s what I’ve been reading on the hunting forums and from the state.

White-tailed deer harvest was a bit down over much of Texas. The many deer processors throughout the state have reported that the number of deer they had taken in from hunters was down this year, although some more than others. I suspect the already-slow economy may have decreased the number of trips hunters made during the season. It may have even caused some to process their own deer. However, the improving habitat conditions Texas experienced last year played a role as well. Continue reading Review of Texas’ Deer Hunting Season

Texas Offers Great Deer and Exotic Hunting

Comment: I just wanted to tell everyone that if they ever had the chance to go hunting in Texas that they should! I enjoy whitetail hunting too, but I just returned from my third axis deer hunting trip in as many years from the Texas Hill Country in the Kerrville-Ingram-Harper area. This was a free range hunt, no fences at all and I had one of the BEST times of my life on this trip.

The exotic license price was even reasonable. Although it went up $8 from the previous year. I was successful in harvesting two decent axis bucks. I also got to see many native game species of whitetail and Rio Grande turkey, as well as additional exotics moving and feeding on well-managed food plots during my hunts. Continue reading Texas Offers Great Deer and Exotic Hunting

Hunters Prepare for Texas’ Deer Season

Deer Season in Texas

The beginning of November has marked the beginning of Texas’s general deer hunting season for years. Most gun hunters have waited over 9 months for another shot at their favorite game animal, the white-tailed deer. The deer are still out there, or so says Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). And they should know, they base their county hunting regulations based on deer surveys conducting in late summer and early fall.

And speaking of regulations, I noticed in TPWD’s Outdoor Annual that deer hunting regulations have changed throughout many Texas counties. In many cases, hunting regulations have gotten more liberal, adding crossbows to the Archery season, raising doe bag limits for many places, and adding in the late doe and spike season for additional counties, as well. So read up the regs before jumping in the bind, and good luck! Continue reading Hunters Prepare for Texas’ Deer Season

Are Texas’ Antler Restrictions Working?

Question: Some counties in Texas have antler restrictions on bucks that can be legally harvest. I hunt in one of these counties now, but for you guys that have been in these type counties for a while, is the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s antler restriction program working? Has the whitetail hunting improved? My lease buddies and I just don’t seem to see any increase in buck antler size that is proving to me it is working?

Answer: Yes, the buck antler restrictions are working, and no I’m not being biased. I live and hunt in one of the first counties that were experimental. Yes, it took a few years to see the difference, but the regs did have an impact it on the buck age and antler quality. Before the antler regs, you could not find a buck with antlers no more than the size of your hand with both thumbs overlapping.

However, once implemented, we were still a 1 buck county as the other 5 counties and hunters were not going to use that tag on anything other than either a buck with 6 points on one side, a buck with a 13 inch inside spread or greater, or an unbranched antler (spike) on at least one side. The 6 point on one side was thrown out after the first year or two.

Sure, deer hunters saw numerous whitetail bucks that could have been shot the previous years, and the majority of those were 1.5 to 2.5 yrs old, but as time went on for 2 or 3 seasons, residents and hunters in those original counties were seeing bucks that had better antler growth, better body mass, and older due to letting them walk (because of the regs). Antler restrictions worked in my part of Texas, but it will take some time for them to work.

Hunting to Control Urban Whitetail Deer

Bowhunting can help control urban deer populations

Whitetail hunting can be a safe and effective way to control white-tailed deer populations in urban and suburban areas. However, not all areas are willing to allow hunting to keep deer numbers in check. Many places that once banned hunting are now looking at expanding harvest opportunities for sportsmen. Of course, not all towns and cities are the same. Too many deer can be a big issue, but people that are too narrow-minded can make a big issue even bigger.

When the issue of overpopulation becomes an issue, deer control by some method is warranted. The trapping and removal of deer is very time consuming and, as a result, expensive. Direct harvest, on the other hand, through either gun or archery can help keep local deer densities at managable numbers. However, the killing of animals does not come without critism. 

Source: “For a decade or so, towns, villages and counties in the New York region, similarly concerned about too many deer, have dispatched bowhunters and sometimes sharpshooters to cull the herds. But now the cull is getting bigger, as one of the largest local jurisdictions — Westchester County — allows culling for the first time in its own parkland, and a few towns and villages within that county are considering similar moves. What’s more, these places, more densely populated than many of the communities that currently authorize such culling, are focusing on bowhunting rather than shooting, for safety reasons. That preference is prompting criticism from animal-rights groups, who see bowhunting as particularly cruel.”

Tumors in White-tailed Deer?

Deer with tumors

Question: I came across a photo of a deer with horrible tumors on it’s neck. I’ve seen deer that looked like they had internal tumors on their neck and around their jaw, but the tumors in this photo are huge and external. What is the deal with this deer’s tumors? Is it cancer?

Answer: Wow, that is a lot of tumors on that deer. I’ve never seen a deer that looked that bad off, so I did some looking around and this is what I found. The deer was obviously shot, but I suspect that it would have died either directly from the tumors or from complications because of the tumors.

Source: I’ve never seen tumors that agressive before. And that deer seems to be pretty young, and the tumors seem to have developed at a pretty agressive rate. From what I know about tumors, these cutaneous growths can be malignant and the result of a cancer similar to BPV. It is true that these tumors will somtimes slowly heal somewhat, often times they will eventually kill the deer by blocking their mouth, nose, or eyes.

If the growths around this deer’s mouth get higher or bigger, I think they could easiliy interfere with it’s ability to eat food, resulting in a slow and pianful starvation. Because of this large chance (and the remote possibility of complete healing) I would suggest harvesting this animal. Personally, I would not suggest consuming the meat. Its true that these fibromasts can be contained to the skin, but sometimes they are the result of internal problems. There is no way to know without an autopsy by a trained professional. I think the deer would be more valuable if you donated it to a vet school or research center.

Whitetail Hunting

Hunting white-tailed deer is not only challenging, but it is exciting as well. For centuries, hunters have gone whitetail hunting for food, but more recently deer hunting has also involved sport hunting. In addition to recreational hunting, hunters and landowners have begun to implement intensive whitetail deer management programs to improve the health and quality of the deer and habitat found on their properties. When it comes to whitetail deer hunting, all hunters are looking for techniques that will make them more successful. Whether it be bagging a deer or bagging a mature buck, whitetail deer hunting is a challenge. Continue reading Whitetail Hunting