How Old Is That Deer?: Jawbone Talk with the QDMA

How Old Is That Deer?: Jawbone Talk with the QDMA

January 14, 2010 - Joel

In recent years, the technique of aging deer based on tooth replacement and wear patterns has come under scrutiny, with experts questioning whether the method is reliable.
Meanwhile, research has shown the cementum annuli method, where the calcium layers that form an incisor tooth are analyzed in a lab, to be more reliable for aging older deer. But it can’t be done in the field, and it comes with a price tag.

So, is it still a good idea to collect jawbones from every deer you harvest? Yes! You can confidently
sort deer into three groups based on tooth replacement patterns alone: 1) fawns, 2) yearlings (1½ years old), and 3) adults 2½ and older. After that, you can separate adults into young and
old adults based on tooth wear patterns. The resulting information will be useful in all QDM programs, and it is particulary useful for does. That’s good, because few of us would pay to have a doe’s incisor tooth analyzed by a professional lab. But the greater precision in estimating the age of adult deer is very useful for mature bucks.

Here’s an overview of the tooth eruption and wear patterns that can be used to identify fawns, yearlings. middle-aged adults, and mature adults.

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