I was talking today with a friend about ageing deer on the hoof, and he asked how old can whitetails reach in the wild. I did a search here and did not find much. I am sure this has been covered here before because we cover everything here from Genius to politics.
I know that the life span of a Michigan buck is 1-1/2 years. And 2 -1/2 if it is lucky. If a mature buck could life out its days out in the bush of Canada, how old would it average?
In addition, what is the life span of a pen raised Buck with a less stressful life. I am not talking about a high fence game ranch with a 1 to 1 buck to doe ratio with a short prime life span, but rather a hobby or breeder farm buck.
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Eight to 12 years for wild deer. Notice, he said "deer" as many states share the buck lifespan you spoke of which is even MORE reason to practice Quality Deer Management. The oldest recorded whitetail that he was aware of was a doe that lived in captivity for 19.5 years.
From a personal perspective, Willow, the buck that was my own personal nemesis, lived in a pen until he was 16.5 years old. His very best rack was when he was 10. At 11, it digressed continually until, for some reason at 13, it picked back up with kickers and stickers and drop tines. At 15, he was a big rag horn and the rack he died with was a sad commentary of his life. He was in excess of 325 pounds live weight and he died of exploded lungs while trying to fight a wild buck through the chain link fence. He got his antlers twisted in the wire in a place where a large gum tree prevented him from breaking free. I caped him out for a mount and when I severed the head, blood simply poured out of his trachea. His skin was red with petechia as he litterally imploded physically. His teeth were aged against wild deer as only being about 7 years old, but he'd lived on pelletized food along with apples and fresh soybeans. He dearly loved cigarettes.
i used to raise whitetails here in pa. I dealt with a breeder in Lehighton, Pa, that had a doe that hit 23 years of age. She was nothing to look at with her teeth worn to nothing and her hooves worn also. But she did produce a pair of fawns at 22 years old. I would not believe it if I had not seen this myself. This was 10 years ago, and at that time he had a 11 year old buck. I'm curious now and will have to see what his oldest buck was.
When I used to raise deer I had a 20 year old doe and a friend of mine had a 22 yr. old doe. She had twins every year until she died, but he bottle fed them for the last few years. They both died because they no longer had teeth to eat with. I know of two bucks that went 12 and 13, and a mulie buck that went 14.
I would expect the lifespan in the wild to be less due to the harder diet. Pelletized feed for tame deer means they don't have to chew the harder foods, like corn, that the wild deer do. Obviously there are other factors in the wild that will contribute to the shorter lifespan.
Our Fish $ Game was requiring for several seasons the teeth of our harvested deer here in the CA desert along the Colorado River and some were aged at 19 and even as old as 22 yrs old.
Our desert here has summer temp's that average 105-110 and if we get a heat wave it can go into the 120's
Seems incredible that they can even survive much less thrive here (low numbers though) I have never seen a tick or flea on any of them and perhaps that's why they can live so long.
But I will be the bubble buster. Since the first line of your post said "Aging deer on the hoof" I will Interject. Although one can gather from generalities weather a deer is immature, or mature. aside from that, it is almost impossible to ascertain the actual age of a deer unless you examine it's teeth. and in instances as George stated captive deer break some of those rules. deer like people have individual characteristics that may give them a youthful, or aged appearance. and things such as gray faces, of roanig of the neck do not depict age.
Tooth wear for aging is simply a guesstimate beyond 3 or 4 1/2 anyway. Its based on development and some wear. Cross sectioning is supposed to be the only certain way. My oldest buck was 12, and Ive heard of some of these older ages these guys have mentioned, too. Its amazing!