The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Telling the age of a deer from its teeth

Iain Watson advises a stalker

Will inspects the shot mutjac deer

What’s the age of my deer?

Q: Is there any set way for me to estimate the age of the deer I take? I have looked at suggestions in books and online but struggle to decide based on wear on the teeth.

A: It can be a difficult to age animals by tooth wear, particularly if it’s something you only do on an occasional basis. A good starting point is to know the difference between juvenile and adult dentition and when one changes to the other.

Age of deer from teeth

Try to build up a jaw board showing examples of wear

Keeping clear diagrams on the larder wall is a good idea, along with an example of a cleaned juvenile and adult jaw from the species you are dealing with. Bear in mind that young to early middle-aged animals will likely make up the majority of those you take, so will be less than a year to two to three years old.

Learn what these look like and start by looking at the whole animal, its form and body structure and build up a picture. Old wild animals have a different body structure and mass from those that are younger or in their prime. Take out the bottom jaw and wash it. As they age, ruminants often lose some of the incisors found at the front of the mouth, so it’s useful to check if all are still present or if the animal is broken-mouthed.

When trying to decide on the likely age of the animal, the molars and premolars are examined for wear, which will be influenced by diet and environment. Try to build up a jaw board showing examples of wear, and remember you will learn something new on a regular basis. (Read more on telling the age of deer.)