Aging and Scoring White-tailed Deer (FBCEC)

Summary:

This lesson is for older participants. They will view a short PowerPoint presentation on using teeth to field-age white-tailed deer and get hands-on practice. They will learn how to score deer antlers by scoring real antlers in the classroom.

Grade Level:

8 -12

Recommended Setting:

Indoor or outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Fred Berry Conservation Education Center, Yellville, AR

Contact:

Education Program Coordinator, 870-449-3484

Duration:

1 -2 hours (Choosing to include only aging or scoring will shorten the duration of this lesson.)

Suggested Number of Participants:

Up to 30

Objectives:

  • Determine the age of several white-tailed deer using their jawbones.
  • Identify factors that contribute to a large set of antlers on a buck.
  • Understand how to accurately score the antlers of white-tailed deer.
  • Understand the history of deer population changes in Arkansas.

Key Terms*:

Antler

Buccal crest

Burr

Dentine

Enamel

Infundibulum

Lingual crest

Molar

Nontypical tine

Pedicle

Premolar

Spread

Tine

Typical tine

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

  • “AGFC Deer Season Summary” (current issue)
  • “How To Age White-Tailed Deer” posters 
  • “Deer Aging” PowerPoint
  • Measuring tape/rulers and/or string or narrow, flexible steel tapes
  • Several sets of deer antlers
  • Several sets of teeth and jaw bones (Replicas can be purchased from wildlife education vendors.)
  • Antler scoring sheet

 

Background:

Biological data such as weight, age, antler size and lactation rates are routinely collected at deer check stations during hunting season. The most reliable method for field-aging deer is by examining the lower jaw teeth. Teeth wear at a characteristic rate. Antler measurements reflect a buck’s health as well its genetics and, to a much lesser degree, its age. Boone and Crockett scoring method (used in this lesson) is the most popular for scoring white-tailed deer and other North American big game. Pope and Young is the method most archers use.

Procedure:

  1. Ask the class about their own hunting or deer-watching experiences.
  2. Briefly summarize the history of white-tailed deer in the state including population decline and management practices that helped the species recover.
  3. Review the most current issue of AGFC’s “Arkansas Deer Season Summary” and discuss how and why deer data are collected.
  4. Show the “Aging Deer” PowerPoint presentation, and then cover the method of deer aging by lingual crests, buccal crests, dentine, enamel, infundibulum, molars and premolars.
  5. Give participants, in groups of two or three, sets of deer jaws to practice aging. When they think they know the age, they should explain their guess.
  6. Spend some time aging deer, and then move to scoring the antlers.
  7. Discuss the characteristics and growth of white-tailed deer antlers. Discuss the burr, spread and difference between nontypical and typical tines.
  8. Begin the scoring section by discussing what can be learned about a deer from its antlers. The buck’s health, nutrition and genetics will impact the size and shape of the rack. This will, in turn, influence breeding with does.
  9. Give participants a score sheet and go over the scoring procedure with them. Place antlers at their stations and let the participants score them. When they are finished, instruct them to compare results.

Modifications:

 

Review:

  • Compare the teeth of a fawn with an adult white-tailed deer.
  • Determine the age of a white-tailed deer by observing a jawbone.
  • List the factors that impact the size and shape of a buck’s antlers.
  • Explain the difference between horns and antlers.
  • What factors caused the drastic decline of white-tailed deer in Arkansas around the turn of the century?

Resources:

Glossary:

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

Buccal crest – the crest of a molar located next to the check

Burr – a rough protuberance on an antler

Dentine – soft, dark material beneath the surface enamel of deer teeth; visible dentine indicates an older deer whose teeth have worn

 

Enamel – a hard calcareous substance that caps the tooth

 

Infundibulum – the dark area that lies between the buccal and lingual crests of a deer tooth

 

Lingual crest – the crest of a molar next to the tongue

 

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

 

Nontypical tines – mismatched tines; abnormal points from an antler

 

Pedicles – the “button” formations in the early stages of deer antlers

 

Premolar – tooth found in front of the molar

 

Spread (antler) – the measurement between the inside of the main beams of a deer antler at the widest point; measured perpendicular to the centerline of the skull

 

Tine – the slender projecting part of an antler

 

Typical tine – point that projects from the top of the antler’s beam