Most hunters are thrilled to see a 3.5-year-old deer in the wild. A buck that makes it to a few more years may become a record-book trophy.
However, if you had a buck in the safety of your backyard, how old would it grow before perishing of natural causes? Aging deer is a challenging skill, but it can be done scientifically through the analysis of a deer’s teeth.
This post by Kip Adams on the QDMA website answers a question that many hunters ask: How old do whitetail deer get?
Most hunters consider a 5½-year-old buck to be really old. I agree with them, as only a small percentage of bucks live that long in the wild. In general, however, it’s not the “wild” that’s hard on them. It’s humans that determine longevity of most wild deer, and we are very adept at removing a high percentage of bucks at young ages. Research in Pennsylvania and elsewhere shows that hunter harvest is the primary mortality source for deer 1½ years old and older. We are also serious predators outside of the hunting season, as State Farm Insurance Company estimates there are approximately 1.5 million deer/vehicle collisions in the United States annually. Throw in severe winters, droughts, floods, diseases and predators, and there are plenty of opportunities for deer to die. However, they are tough critters, and if we don’t hit them with an arrow, bullet or Chevrolet, there is a strong chance they’ll be alive the following deer season.