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Is it possible to age bucks from trail cam photos?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: Bob, what's the best way to age a buck from trail camera photos? I'm including a photo of a buck on my place, which I guess to be 2 1/2 years old based on face, neck and legs. Can you tell me if I am correct? - Steve B. from Tipton, IA

Is it possible to age bucks from trail cam photos?ANSWER: It is possible to age deer on the hoof with reasonable accuracy - SOMETIMES.

Knowing the date and location makes the job easier. A buck can look quite different in October than it will in November. That also applies during peak of the rut as opposed to a month or two prior to the rut. Also, a northern deer will be very different from a southern deer. Still, there are some common characteristics to look for. Here are a few things that generally indicate a buck's age:

1 1/2-years-old
- Appears dainty, with thin neck, resembling a doe with antlers
- Legs appear long and slender
- Antler development is highly variable, but beams thin and short
- Tarsal glands small and lightly-colored

2 1/2-years-old
- Gangly and awkward
- Legs appear too long for the body
- Thin waist and shoulders
- Limited neck swelling
- Tarsal glands may be dark, but very small and round.

3 1/2-years-old
- Fuller, thickly-muscled neck
- Chest appears deeper than hindquarters (racehorse appearance)
- Back and stomach are still straight and taut
- Neck is still distinct
- Tarsal glands are dark but small, and staining doesn't extend down the leg to the hoof.

4 1/2-years-old
- Fully muscled neck blends into deep chest
- Rump appears full and rounded
- Stomach and back do not sag
- Jaw skin is tight
- Legs may appear slightly short for the body
- Tarsals will be noticeably large and dark.

5 1/2-PLUS-years-old
- Stomach and back have a noticeable sag
- Neck and brisket appear to be one continuous muscle
- Legs appear short
- Tarsals noticeably large and very dark with staining down the inside of the leg to the hoof. Thickly muscled neck

I would estimate the buck in your photo to be 2 1/2-years-old, so you were correct! It would be a big-bodied buck in most places, but considering it is in Iowa, this buck fits the bill for a 2 1/2-year-old.

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