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How Old Is It? (WSJCANC)

TopicHabitat and Management - Species and Habitat Management
Summary
This lesson will show how wildlife biologists determine the age of white-tailed deer. Participants will learn how big-game harvest data guide management strategies using Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s (AGFC) three-point rule. Participants will also practice scoring deer antlers.
Recommended SettingIndoor or outdoor classroom
LocationWitt Stephens Junior Central Arkansas Nature Center, Little Rock
Contact
Education Coordinator, 501-907-0636
Duration45 minutes
Suggested Number of Participants10 - 30
Objectives
  • Learn the typical life span of white-tailed deer in Arkansas.
  • Understand aging techniques using deer jawbones and teeth.
  • Recognize what determines the antler size of bucks.
  • Develop a basic understanding of antler-scoring systems.
Key Terms*

Age class

Amendment 75 of 1996

Antler

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC)

Boone and Crockett

Central Arkansas Nature Center (CANC)

Dentine

Horn

Incisor

Molar

Pope and Young

Trophy deer

Wildlife biologist

Materials

Aging Whitetails on the Hoof DVD (chapter two)

Antlers and antler score sheet

Copies of current Arkansas deer season summary

Deer aging Power Point presentation

Deer jawbone display board and jawbones

Deer teeth aging poster and tool

Measuring tapes

Background

Scientists examine the wear on deer teeth to determine age. In turn, biologists study age data to determine statewide herd health and stability. Deer antlers are a field guide to determine age and trophy status. Two organizations (Boone and Crockett, Pope and Young) register trophy deer based on antler measurements. AGFC’s three-point rule is designed to increase herd health and average buck age.

Procedure
  1. Introduce yourself and the CANC. Explain that it is owned and operated by AGFC and showcases the agency’s mission. Also tell how Amendment 75 of 1996 funds paid for the facility and allow free admission.
  2. Review the Arkansas deer season summary and discuss how and why AGFC wildlife biologists collect deer data.
  3. Show the Power Point presentation and review how to age deer. Also use chapter two from the Aging Whitetails on the Hoof DVD.
  4. Distribute deer jawbones to participants so they can determine age and share their results. Introduce definitions of age class, molar, antler, dentine and incisor.
  5. Show deer antlers and explain the difference between antlers and horns.(Antlers are shed while horns are permanently attached.)
  6. Begin the scoring section by discussing what can be learned about a deer by its antlers. Explain how nutrition, age and genetics influence the size and shape of deer antlers.
  7. Discuss Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young.
  8. Give participants the antler score sheets and show the scoring procedure on a standard set of antlers. Participants should score various antlers and compare their results.
Modifications
  • Use the Arkansas deer season summary to develop math lessons based on white-tailed deer populations and annual harvest statistics.
  • Review the historical white-tailed deer population data for Arkansas. Have participants either write reports or discuss how AGFC restored the population from about 500 deer in 1930 to about one million today. Participants should see how AGFC uses hunting to ensure that the state deer herd remains within acceptable levels based on available habitat provisions.
  • Review Internet websites for information on aging and scoring deer:
  • The above modifications can be added to post-visit teacher packets.
Review
  • What else might biologists use to determine a deer’s age besides teeth? (body size and characteristics, behavior)
  • Is a three-point buck three years old? Why or why not? (You cannot accurately age a buck by the number of antler points it has. Antler growth is determined by genetics and nutrition, not age. However, bucks that have large racks with sizable mass and large spread usually are more mature.)
  • What factors influence a deer’s body size? (genetics, nutrition, time of year, weather)
Related Documents
Glossary

Age class – individuals in a species population that are all the same age or in the same age group; example: the two-year age class of white-tailed deer includes all deer born in the breeding season two years earlier.

Amendment 75 of 1996 – conservation sales tax passed by Arkansas voters in November 1996, which took effect July 1, 1997; designates 1/8th of 1 percent of the state’s general sales tax for Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (45%), Arkansas State parks (45%), Arkansas Heritage Commission (9%) and Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission (1%); also called the conservation sales tax

Antler – fast-growing bony structure shed each year from the head of an adult male deer or elk, female caribou and other cervid; frequently branched with multiple points

Arkansas Game & Fish Commission (AGFC) – the state agency responsible for managing fish and wildlife

Boone and Crockett (Club) – group founded by Theodore Roosevelt dedicated to North American big game management, conservation and hunter ethics; maintains records of big game taken with firearms

Central Arkansas Nature Center – one of four facilities owned and operated by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission to provide conservation education programs, displays and exhibits.

Dentine – soft, dark material beneath the surface enamel of deer teeth; visible dentine indicates an older deer whose teeth have worn
 
Horn – permanent, unbranched bony core covered by a thin layer of keratin atop the head of several mammals; usually grown by both sexes and usually has a yearly “ring” that marks the animal’s age

Incisor (deer) – front tooth for cutting or gnawing; cannot be used to age deer by wear but can be used to age by cross-sectioning and counting annual rings; adult deer have eight incisors

Molar – back tooth of deer used to chew food; can be used to estimate deer age by looking at visible amount of wear or by cross-sectioning and counting annual growth rings; adult deer have 24 molars

Pope and Young Club – bowhunting group dedicated to North American big game management, conservation and hunter ethics; maintains records of big game taken with archery equipment

Trophy deer – deer sought by hunters for the size and dimensions of its antlers

Wildlife biologist – scientist who studies and manages wild animals and their habitats