Aging and Scoring White-tailed Deer (FBCEC)
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.
Indoor or outdoor classroom
Fred Berry Conservation Education Center, Yellville, AR
Education Program Coordinator, 870-449-3484
1 -2 hours (Choosing to include only aging or scoring will shorten the duration of this lesson.)
Suggested Number of Participants:
Up to 30
- 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.
*See glossary for definations
- “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
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.
- Ask the class about their own hunting or deer-watching experiences.
- Briefly summarize the history of white-tailed deer in the state including population decline and management practices that helped the species recover.
- Review the most current issue of AGFC’s “Arkansas Deer Season Summary” and discuss how and why deer data are collected.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spend some time aging deer, and then move to scoring the antlers.
- Discuss the characteristics and growth of white-tailed deer antlers. Discuss the burr, spread and difference between nontypical and typical tines.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
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