Aging Deer: Old vs. New Methodology

Aging Deer: Old vs. New Methodology

Author: Bowhunter Magazine
Published: July 22, 2022

Back in college, my wildlife professor had us take a quiz on aging 10 deer jawbones. We were using a technique developed in 1949 by deer researcher Bill Severinghaus from New York, based on tooth wear and eruption. To this day, this method has been the standard in aging deer for all wildlife biologists, and I was very proud to see an “A+” on my quiz.

Aging deer has become somewhat of an obsession for many hunters. How cool is it when you know the exact age of your buck! One of my all-time favorite bucks only scored in the low 150s, but he was 9½ years old. Obviously, having a deer live this long, let alone being fortunate enough to tip him over, is something I’ll most likely never get to experience again.

Although all wildlife students and professional deer biologists are familiar with the tooth replacement and wear technique developed by Severinghaus, through the years, various research papers started to question the accuracy of this aging technique. The initial study only used a small sample size of 26 known-aged deer between 2½ and 10½-plus years old. This is not a slam on the classic research, but as you can imagine, getting a sample size of known-aged deer in 1949 had to be very difficult. In fact, even today, an adequate sample size of known-aged deer is still challenging.

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