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How To Age Deer On The Hoof

whitetail deer in field

Have you been wondering if you can age a whitetail on the hoof?

The hoof is one of the best indicators of an animal’s age. It can be used to tell the approximate age of a deer by examining the characteristics on the hoof. For example, a fawn’s hooves are proportionately bigger than that of an adult white-tailed doe or buck in comparison to their body size and will stay relatively unchanged in shape until they reach 4 months old then will start to look more like adult deer hooves as they mature.

What are the parts of a deer hoof?

There are three parts of a deer’s hooves, the bulb, sole and plate.

  1. The bulb is found on the inside of the hoof and attaches to the leg bone in the ankle region. It contains nerves and helps support and cushion the animal’s weight as it stands, walks or runs.
  2. The sole, located on the bottom of a deer’s hoof is primarily made up of hard keratin (the same substance that our fingernails are made from). It is hardened and shaped by wear, weather conditions and the amount of time the deer spends walking on its hooves.
  3. The plate is located on the upper portion of a deer’s hoof. It is made up of soft keratin (the same material as the sole) and connects to the coronary band at its bottom. The keratin in the plate will develop bumps or ridges that can be used to tell a deer’s age.

At birth, deer hooves contain numerous tiny blood vessels that help the hoof grow. Older deer hooves may lack these blood vessels, small changes in the shape of the sole can be caused by a reduction in blood supply to the foot as well.

Aging A Deer On The Hoof

The spaces between the ridges or bumps on a deer’s hoof can help one estimate its age. Brisket bumps are most prominent at birth and tend to continue to increase with maturity ranging from 1 to 3 years.

The amount of brisket bumps on the hoof is an indicator of the deer’s age. From birth to 2 years of age, a deer contains between two to five brisket bumps.

Between 2 to 4 years, a deer will have between 3 and 5 brisket bumps each that take up about one-third of the space on the hoof wall.

From 4 to 8 years, a deer will have between seven and ten brisket bumps each that are broadening and taking up more space on the hoof wall.

At 8 to 10 years of age, the ridges or bumps will continue to widen and there will be an additional bump on the outer wall.

The shape and roughness of the ridges or bumps on a deer’s hoof will help to determine its age as well. The first bumps that appear on deer hooves after birth are smooth and rounded. The bumps will grow rougher over time as a result of wear and weathering.

Conclusion

By looking at a deer’s hooves, one can estimate its age by examining the characteristics on its hoof. A fawn’s hooves are proportionately bigger than that of an adult doe or buck in comparison to their body size and will stay relatively unchanged in shape until they reach 4 months old then will start to look more like adult deer hooves as they mature. The shape and roughness of the ridges or bumps on a deer’s hoof will help to determine its age as well.

Written by Fred

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