How to Age a Whitetail Deer
Wildlife biologists and deer researchers agree that analysis of tooth replacement and wear — though not perfect is the most handy and reliable field method for aging white-tailed deer. That’s because, regardless of where they live, whitetails lose their baby "milk" teeth and wear out their permanent teeth on a fairly predictable schedule.
At birth, white-tailed fawns have four teeth. Adult deer have 32 teeth. (12 premolars, 12 molars, six incisors and two canines).
Aging analysis often is based on the wear of the molars, which lose about 1 millimeter of height per year. It takes a deer about 10 1/2 years to wear its teeth down to the gum line. Therefore, its difficult to determine the age of a deer that’s older than 10 1/2 years.
Most importantly, the ability to estimate a deer’s age based on the wear of its teeth is something most hunters can learn with a little study and practice.
(1) Few hunters have difficulty aging a white-tailed fawn, whose short snout and small body are usually obvious when viewed up close. If there is doubt, simply count the teeth in the deer’s lower jaw If the jaw has less than six teeth the deer is a fawn.
Yearling — About 17-18 Months
(2) The giveaway indoor of this age is the third premolar, which has three cusps. This is also the age where deer start to shed their ‘milk teeth,’ They’ll either be loose or gone. In this photo you can see the permanent premolars partially erupted as they push up under the loosening milk teeth.
Yearling — At least 19 Months
(3) At about 1 year, 7 months, most deer have all three permanent premolars. The new teeth are white in contrast to pigmentation on older teeth. They have a smooth, chalk-white appearance and show on wear. The third molar is partially erupted.
2 1/2 Years
(4) The lingual crests of the first molar are sharp, with the enamel rising well above the narrow dentine (the dark layer below the enamel) of the crest. Crests on the first molar are as sharp as those on the second and third molar. Wear on the posterior cusp of the third molar is slight, and the gum line is often not retracted enough to expose the full height of this cusp.
3 1/2 Years
(5) The lingual crests (inside, next to tongue) of the first molar are blunted, and the dentine of the crests on this tooth is as wide or wider than the enamel. Compare it to the second molar. third dentine on the second molar is not wider than the enamel, which means this deer is probably 3 1/2 years old. Also, the posterior cusp of the third molar is flattened by wear, forming a definite concavity on the biting surface of the teeth.
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 Years
(6) At this point, it’s often hard to distinguish between the two age classes. The lingual crests of the first molar are almost worn away. The posterior cusp of the third molar is worn at the cusp’s edge so the biting surface slopes downward. Wear has spread to the second molar. making the dentine wider than the enamel on the first and second molars. By age 5 1/2, wear has usually spread to all six teeth, making the dentine wider than the enamel on all teeth. Because the first molar is the oldest, it wears out first. Also, by 5 1/2. there might be no lingual crests on the first and second molars, although rounded edges might appear like crests. A line drawn from lingual to outside edges of first and second molars generally touches the enamel on both sides of the infundibulum.
6 1/2 to 8 1/2 Years
(7) Segregating deer by a specific age becomes increasingly difficult by this time. By age 6 1/2, wear is moderate on the first premolar, and heavy on the second and third premolars. On the third premolar, infundibulum might appear as a small triangular hole. On the first molar, the infundibulum appears as fine line or chevron, or it might be absent. little or no enamel remains on the first molar. In 7 1/2 or 8 1/2 year-old deer, the first molar might be worn within 2 mm or 3 mm of the gum line on the outside, and 4 mm or 5 mm on lingual side. The second molar is almost smooth and the third molar is worn down until lingual crests are gone.
9 1/2 and Older
(8) Wear is more extreme than in previous photo. Pulp cavity might be exposed in some teeth. Some teeth worn to the gum line.