Estimating the age of roe bucks

Roe deer also known as European deer is one of the most common and widespread game in Europe. As hunters we must do our best in taking our older animals who have more or less done their part in the population. Even the most experienced hunter might make a “mistake” and take out out a perspective young buck, but we should try to avoid this by all means necessary. In order for successfully estimating the age of roe buck we are spotting or observing a few guidelines might be useful.

I do not consider myself an expert on roe deer management. But at least what I try to do is to learn and become better. I think that is something we should all consider. When I am observing a roe buck in the nature I mainly focus on the following things:

  • Head and neck shape.
  • Antlers.
  • Color and hide condition.

Taking everything into account and combing all of this guidelines we can still only estimate if a roe buck is young, middle age or old. Specific age can be only estimated by looking at the usage and form of their teeth. We shall look at that in a different article.

If we look at the body shape the younger roe bucks tend to be smaller. The shape of their head still reminds us of the shape the shape fawns have. The head is small and has a round shape. Older roe bucks have a more robust head shape. Another helpful indicator is the neck size. Younger animals tend to have a smaller and more slim neck versus old bucks where the neck is much more stronger.

Head shape and small antlers clearly indicate a young animal.

Head shape and neck indicate a mature buck.

Estimating the age of roe buck by the antlers can be tricky. Shape and size of the trophy can be very different depending on the environment of the animal. Often a two year old buck in a good environment can be stronger then a few years old one in a tough environment. Trophy quality should not mislead us especially a trophy from an old roe buck is often weak and declining a few years already. However often one aspect on the roe buck trophy always comes hand in hand with the age and that is the coronets of the trophy. Younger bucks have coronets horizontally while older bucks coronet is stronger, wider and inclining.

Clearly an old animal as we see by the inclining coronets.

One also useful factor in estimating the age of roe bucks is observing them in the spring time when they clean the velvet from their antlers. Older roe bucks grow their antlers faster and therefore clean them faster as the young ones. If you are observing a particular roe buck you could compare him to others and this might be helpful. The general rule regarding the change of fur is that younger bucks change their fur sooner than older bucks.

Old roe buck from my trail camera. Poor trophy quality and inclining coronets.

As with all things in life we are constantly learning. So go out enjoy nature, observe and try to learn as much as possible.

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