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Offline Onin24Eagle

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Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« on: October 05, 2018, 01:44:30 PM »
Been a while since my last post on here.

I have over the years read many articles on quality deer management and deer in general.  The basic idea that has been ingrained in my head during all of these years of gathering information and knowledge about deer hunting is that a deer enters maturity somewhere around 2-4 years of age and will "peak" somewhere between 4 and  7 years of age.  This is the basic idea that I have come to believe over the years by reading internet and magazine articles and books on the subject.

I would like to propose that this idea is dead wrong.

Some of you that have been on this forum for several years may remember that I used to post quite a few trail cam pics.  I did an extensive study that I posted here a few years back comparing the quality of several brands of trail cameras that I had tried by putting two cameras on the same tree at the same time and then showing the differences.  The point I'm trying to make here is that I have quite a bit of experience with trail cameras and in fact am quite addicted to them and have been for over a decade.  It's one of my favorite hobbies.  Today, I have exactly 18 cameras out as I type this covering approximately 400 acres of private land.  I have looked at literally tens of thousands of deer pictures over the past 10-15 years.  I know the best spots to put them and when to put them there.  I have also had the pleasure of watching certain deer grow over the years and this is where my post comes in today.

I have seen this on several deer, but there's on in particular that I will focus on right now.  I will try to get the pictures up as soon as I get home.

There is a particular buck that I had been chasing for several years.  I have photos of him from dating back to 2010.  In 2010, he was a shooter.  Not gigantic but definitely a trophy to most hunters and by most I mean more than 90%.  That year he was a solid 10 point.  You can tell by looking at his face that he's relatively young and if you go by the conventional wisdom you might guess his age at 2-3 years old from the pictures.  Since I'm throwing conventional wisdom out the door here I'm going to propose that maybe he's already 4, 5 or even 6 years old at this point (maybe more but let's not get too carried away...).  I would go back further in my photos but unfortunately I deleted many of them (I had thousands saved on my computer, had to clear space at some point) and the oldest one I can currently find is from 2010.  Even if we assume the deer is say 2 1/2 at this point, he should peak in size within the next 2-4 years and then decline.  If he makes it to 8 or 9 years old, he'll be an old fart by then and would be considered to have lived to a nice ripe old age.  Antlers would be getting smaller, he'd be showing a lot of grey, body size would be declining....this is the assumption anyway if you follow conventional wisdom. 

Now this particular deer did not show up on any of my cameras last year.  Not once.  Because of this I had assumed that he had simply passed on.  He was probably so old he didn't survive the winter of '16-'17.  The last picture I had of him was working a scrape about 80 yards from my stand during the deer season at 11:00 in the morning on Thursday while I was at work :angry2:  Missed my chance there.  After that, he disappeared.  As I mentioned, I did not seem him at all in 2017 and I had not seen him at all in 2018...until yesterday.  I pulled the cards and as I'm going through them...."WHOA! Where did you come from?"  Upon closer inspection of the photos, I realized that it was my old friend.  He has brow tines that are unmistakable.  Not only that but the shape and curvature of the antlers is a perfect match.  I went back through my photos and found as many as I could of this deer from the past several years.  Somehow, I must have deleted my entire cache of 2016 photos as I can't find a single picture of any deer, let alone this one, from that year anywhere on my computer.  Even so, the photos I did find are proof positive.  It's the same one. 

From 2010-2016, all of the previous years I have pictures, he's a solid 10 point buck.  The 2013-2016 he's probably in the official "trophy" category.  I would put money on it that in any of these years he would have easily scored high enough to make it into the Minnesota Boone and Crocket registry (only needs to be 140" for state, 160" for national).  Right now, he's a brute.  Full fledged typical 12 point buck with the thickest main beams I've seen on him to date.  I will admit that the height of his tines may have come down a tick as they do appear slightly shorter than the last time I saw him on camera but the width is wider, the mass is much thicker. 

Now if he was a "shooter" in 2010.. EIGHT YEARS AGO.. with a nice 10 point rack (not at all "spindley")  How old is this deer today?  If I were to only have ever seen one picture of him from this year and had never seen any others....and if I had gone with the conventional wisdom regarding how old deer actually get... I would probably assume he's between 5-8 years old right now.  Only problem with that is he would have been a fawn in 2010 if he's 8 and it's fairly obvious that is far, far from the truth.

Has anybody else observed anything similar to this?  I know deadeye shares my passion with trail cameras, maybe he's seen similar circumstances.  I don't know.  I just can't help but wonder if all of the deer I've taken or even just seen over the past several decades are in fact quite older than I had originally thought them to be.

Sorry for just the text.  As I said earlier, I will try to get the photos up later today.

Edit:  Rather than reply I will just update the original post.

I got a little sidetracked and I had saved the pics on a USB and accidentally left that plugged into my brother's computer at his house this afternoon when I went to show him the latest pics.  Sorry about the late update but I had to then go through my files again and try to find pics to post.

Hopefully this works (fingers crossed)....

2010:



2011:



2012:



2013:



2014:



Here he is in 2015:



And here he is this year:



Another view:



« Last Edit: October 05, 2018, 10:52:56 PM by Onin24Eagle »
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Offline glenn57

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2018, 02:08:54 PM »
super great read. enjoyed it!!!!!! :happy1: :happy1: :happy1: altohugh i wouldnt have a clue other then guessing ages of deer. enviroment plays a huge part in it.

if its anything like the DNR aging teeth of bear..................i wont believe it!!!!!!! :rotflmao:

looking forward to pictures though!!!!!
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Offline Boar

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2018, 02:37:29 PM »
cool!

Offline Steve-o

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2018, 02:39:02 PM »
Can't wait to see the pics.

Two thoughts:

I think rack size goes both ways.  I've hunted public land between Remer and Longville my whole life.  The woods are thick and there are plenty of tamarack swamps for big bucks to hide.  It takes a lot of work and a bit of luck to even spot a big rack.  However, over the years we've seen (and shot) plenty of bucks with racks that barely forked out.  These were "older" bucks.  I can't say if they were 3 or 5 or 7, but they definitely weren't 18-month-old spikes fawned the season before.  I think some bucks are blessed to be well endowed from the get go and other bucks are destined to have to get by on personality their whole lives.

My second though also probably flies in the face of conventional, accepted wisdom, but here goes.  Can it be that racks aren't as unique as fingerprints?  Can brother bucks or cousin bucks or father/son bucks have nearly identically shaped racks more often than we think?  Perhaps experience from game farms tells us that this just isn't the case and I'm way off base.  But you have to admit, we have a built-in prejudice to want a sequence of photos over a period of years to be the same deer.  We look for reasons to believe rather than doubt.

I'm not trying to flame you - I'm just thinking out loud.

I'll defer to you guys who have been running cameras all these years.  You have more experience at studying bucks than I ever will.

Offline glenn57

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2018, 03:05:34 PM »
steve-O, first off i wouldnt compare game farm deer with wild deer no how. just simply no comparison to how each have to survive.

not sure about genetically linked deer can have similar racks but i truly believe if you have a buck with good genetics that produce big racks there offspring has that same chance. i personally believe mother nature has alot to do with it. hard winters, and which part of the state are they at being the 2 main ones.

i totally agree with your first thoughts. :happy1: i've hunted in farm country and see bigger deer, but the bulk of my hunting is further north of you up in itasca county near bowstring lake/winnie/sand lake area and yes we have seen and got nice deer. 10 and 11 pointers being the biggest. i dont recall bigger deer to often even from other hunters at registration stations or on the back of vehicles. 
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Offline Leech~~

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2018, 03:08:21 PM »

It will be interesting for sure to see your pictures.  Hope their pretty clear to change years of conventional wisdom by Wildlife Bio's and all.  :confused:

May be some Deer are like Christie Brinkley and just keep looking better every year!  :hubba:   :rotflmao:
« Last Edit: October 05, 2018, 03:11:59 PM by Leech~~ »
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Offline Steve-o

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2018, 03:12:04 PM »


It will be interesting for sure to see your pictures.  Hope their pretty clear to change years of conventional wisdom by Wildlife Bio's and all.  :confused:


Offline glenn57

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2018, 03:17:44 PM »

It will be interesting for sure to see your pictures.  Hope their pretty clear to change years of conventional wisdom by Wildlife Bio's and all.  :confused:

May be some Deer are like Christie Brinkley and just keep looking better every year!  :hubba:   :rotflmao:
:sleazy: :hubba: :smoking: UFFDA..........like to get dat in my crosshairs!!!!!!!!!!! :hubba: :hubba: or is it get her hair..........er never mind!!!!! :banghead: :banghead: :oops1: :offtopic:
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Offline LPS

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2018, 04:08:51 PM »
I hunt SW MN farm country a lot over the years and absolutely there are times when you can see a buck your buddy shot and figure out where that shape of racks live.  Not all of them by any means but sometimes it works.  Maybe even not many of them but sometimes one will stand out. 
« Last Edit: October 05, 2018, 04:10:42 PM by LPS »

Offline HD

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2018, 04:57:44 PM »
I have a few racks on the wall that look very similar in length and thickness. I would assume they were brothers or uncles.  :deer:
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Offline glenn57

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2018, 08:41:59 PM »
I have a few racks on the wall that look very similar in length and thickness. I would assume they were brothers or uncles.  :deer:
Reb wants me to ask if your sure they might not be a sister or aunt possibly too!!! :rotflmao: :rotflmao: he was afraid to ask!!! :confused: :rotflmao: :rotflmao:
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Offline Onin24Eagle

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2018, 11:04:48 PM »
I updated the original post.

I do realize the 2015 photo is at a bit of a distance but I'm fairly certain that's the same deer.  I'll dig some more and see if I can find a better one.

There's a 120 acre field that this land surrounds.  Last year was the first time since the 1990's that corn was planted there and it wasn't harvested until after the season.  My theory at this time is that he basically parked in the corn and never came out.  Why should he?  He has food, water (there's a slough in the middle of the field), shelter....and since he has all 3 the does will practically come to him.  At least that's my theory why I never saw him last season.  I didn't get my cams out until October last year and even this year I was late and didn't put them out until the end of August.  Usually have em out around 4th of July.
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Offline glenn57

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2018, 07:47:56 AM »
 :happy1: :happy1: THAT is a big buck!!!!!!!!!
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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2018, 07:53:27 AM »
I just don't see (pardon the pun) how you can identify a deer as possibly the same one from those pics years later......it IS a great deer, though!  :laugh:
« Last Edit: October 06, 2018, 08:03:34 AM by Rebel SS »
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Offline Onin24Eagle

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2018, 10:04:04 AM »
I just don't see (pardon the pun) how you can identify a deer as possibly the same one from those pics years later......it IS a great deer, though!  :laugh:

Actually you do bring up a good point.  It would be hard for me to convince people when I'm the only one that has seen every single picture taken from every single camera I have out there.  This made me realize that there are other observations I haven't mentioned that made me come to the conclusion that this is the same deer. 

One is that these may look like normal brow tines to anyone that sees them and in general I would agree.  As far as just a picture of a deer those look like pretty normal deer tines to me.  However in my little neck of the woods here, these are actually quite unique.  That doesn't mean there there aren't two or three bucks with brow tines like that in the area but the general local population tends to have much shorter and more spread apart brow tines if any at all.  Also, the slight curve at the tip of the left tine with the right tine being slightly shorter is consistent.

Location is another thing.  This land has a road going through the middle of it.  It's basically divided in half.  Every single pic of this deer (or at least every pic that I THINK is this deer) have come from the same area.  I have never gotten a single pic from any cameras West of the road that I thought might be this buck.  Not one.  I have never gotten a single pic from the North half of the land that's East of the road that I thought might be this buck.  Not one.  If you were to take a map of the property and simply draw a line dividing it into NW, NE, SE and SW quarters, every picture I've ever gotten that I even thought was this deer came from the SE quarter.  I would say even a slightly smaller area that that but in general that's where he hangs out.  Pretty much confined to maybe 40-80 acre area and my 18 cameras cover over 400.  It may be "circumstantial evidence" but it's evidence nonetheless.

There are other factors as well but I'm getting a little long winded here and the missus is bugging me to go get some stuff at the grocery store so I guess I'll leave it at that for now...
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Offline Leech~~

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2018, 11:38:34 AM »

Dude I think you should be happy that you have another nice Buck around.

The G 5's on the first older Buck pictures is way larger then on the last newer buck pictures and the G 3's on the first deer pictures is way smaller then the last buck pictures. Also the width of the last buck is wider then the first.  To me you have two different deer from the same family lines.  Even in year changes the G points should not have changed that much.  Have fun hunten um.  :happy1:
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Offline Rebel SS

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2018, 06:51:24 PM »
So, yer saying that's the G-spot?  :scratch: :evil:
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Offline Leech~~

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2018, 07:29:18 PM »
So, yer saying that's the G-spot?  :scratch: :evil:

Um, you need an Outdoor mag. Your looking at the Wrong Rack there!  :doofus:   :crazy:
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Offline HD

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #18 on: October 06, 2018, 07:42:54 PM »
So, yer saying that's the G-spot?  :scratch: :evil:

Really?  :doah:  :offtopic:
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Offline glenn57

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #19 on: October 07, 2018, 09:52:12 AM »
So, yer saying that's the G-spot?  :scratch: :evil:

Really?  :doah:  :offtopic:
yea HD, there's that seks thing again!!!!!!! :doofus: :pouty: but whadda expect from Reb? reading the bible???????? :rotflmao: :rotflmao:
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Offline HD

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #20 on: October 07, 2018, 10:58:07 AM »
So, yer saying that's the G-spot?  :scratch: :evil:

Really?  :doah:  :offtopic:
yea HD, there's that seks thing again!!!!!!! :doofus: :pouty: but whadda expect from Reb? reading the bible???????? :rotflmao: :rotflmao:

Nope, I just found this topic very interesting....
I like reading what folks have to say about what they are seeing, or doing outdoors.
This member is very animate about trail cameras and the deer he's taking pictures of, and asking us what we think.

But like everything else...it all goes south.....  :banghead:
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Offline glenn57

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #21 on: October 07, 2018, 11:23:29 AM »
yea this is an interesting read for sure. :happy1: :happy1: :moose105:
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Offline Boar

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #22 on: October 07, 2018, 12:02:55 PM »
i find it very interesting!. i have a trail cams out ants always interesting to see what out there. im not into deer like yu are, but also agree with yur therory on age. very interesting.

Offline Onin24Eagle

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #23 on: October 07, 2018, 12:09:43 PM »

Dude I think you should be happy that you have another nice Buck around.

The G 5's on the first older Buck pictures is way larger then on the last newer buck pictures and the G 3's on the first deer pictures is way smaller then the last buck pictures. Also the width of the last buck is wider then the first.  To me you have two different deer from the same family lines.  Even in year changes the G points should not have changed that much.  Have fun hunten um.  :happy1:

I read this and was a tad confused.  However I think i can explain one thing.  The "G5's" on the newest pictures are obviously going to be much shorter.  That's because they aren't G5's, they're G6's.  This buck sprouted two new points.

As to the G3's and the width being smaller on the first pics vs the last, I agree.  But this makes perfect sense since the deer would be older.  Over the years they tend to get bigger.

Though I do not doubt the possibility of different deer from the same genetic line, as I have seen that in quite a few deer, I'm still leaning heavily towards the idea that these pics are all from the same one. 

There's also the possibility that a new deer just showed up out of nowhere.  That's happened before as well.  the pics below are case in point.  The first one is the only picture I ever got of that deer.  The second are the only two I ever got of that deer, and both in the same year.  However in both of these cases I scoured through all of my past pics and couldn't find one even remotely close.  The one above I've found quite a few that are to me more than close.




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Offline LPS

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #24 on: October 07, 2018, 02:38:02 PM »
Real nice deer!

Offline deadeye

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #25 on: October 07, 2018, 06:47:54 PM »
great story but I don't see any pictures???

I see them now.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2018, 09:52:03 AM by deadeye »
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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #26 on: October 08, 2018, 10:16:12 AM »
This is a great topic Onin24Eagle!

We hunt near Waskish (we hunt mostly public land) but do own 40 acres that is surrounded by State Forest land. I've been hunting in this area every year since I was 12 yrs old. This fall will be my 33rd year.

My aunt shot a buck a few years ago that we had been documenting and getting pictures of for 7-8 years. This was back when we had to have the trail cam film developed at the store before digital cameras & memory cards. Our old buck used the same scrape line, rubbed some of the same trees each year, but was nearly always nocturnal during the hunting season. We'd get a glimpse of him here or there while hunting. Someone might kick him up and then another might see him run by their stand with no chance of getting a good shot off. Then came the day that he was harvested, he walked out by three of our stands and two of our hunters didn't have a clear shot, but when he came by my aunt she did and she didn't miss. He is the biggest body deer we have ever had to drag out of the woods. His antlers were on the down side of his peak years, but they were still wide, just not tall. His teeth were all wore away in the back. I would guess that he had to be more than ten years old since we had pictures of him from over the previous 7-8 years.

So, it may be rare, but I do believe that the buck in your photos could be the same one that you first documented in 2010. It's not the norm and I am sure it would be extremely rare, plus if he is the same buck, he falls outside all the average numbers (average life expectancy, peak antler time period, and so on) that the experts share. But I think that it is defiantly possible.

So, thanks for sharing this on MNO and your trail cam photo's with us!

« Last Edit: October 08, 2018, 10:17:30 AM by Outdoors Junkie »
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Offline glenn57

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #27 on: October 08, 2018, 10:23:54 AM »
This is a great topic Onin24Eagle!

We hunt near Waskish (we hunt mostly public land) but do own 40 acres that is surrounded by State Forest land. I've been hunting in this area every year since I was 12 yrs old. This fall will be my 33rd year.

My aunt shot a buck a few years ago that we had been documenting and getting pictures of for 7-8 years. This was back when we had to have the trail cam film developed at the store before digital cameras & memory cards. Our old buck used the same scrape line, rubbed some of the same trees each year, but was nearly always nocturnal during the hunting season. We'd get a glimpse of him here or there while hunting. Someone might kick him up and then another might see him run by their stand with no chance of getting a good shot off. Then came the day that he was harvested, he walked out by three of our stands and two of our hunters didn't have a clear shot, but when he came by my aunt she did and she didn't miss. He is the biggest body deer we have ever had to drag out of the woods. His antlers were on the down side of his peak years, but they were still wide, just not tall. His teeth were all wore away in the back. I would guess that he had to be more than ten years old since we had pictures of him from over the previous 7-8 years.

So, it may be rare, but I do believe that the buck in your photos could be the same one that you first documented in 2010. It's not the norm and I am sure it would be extremely rare, plus if he is the same buck, he falls outside all the average numbers (average life expectancy, peak antler time period, and so on) that the experts share. But I think that it is defiantly possible.

So, thanks for sharing this on MNO and your trail cam photo's with us!
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Offline Leech~~

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #28 on: October 08, 2018, 11:14:17 AM »

Though I do not doubt the possibility of different deer from the same genetic line,
There's also the possibility that a new deer just showed up out of nowhere. 


Well will have to agree to disagree.
But, I'm glad your agreeing to some possibilities they are different Deer.   ;)
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Offline deadeye

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Re: Are we wrong in estimating the age of a deer?
« Reply #29 on: October 09, 2018, 07:06:55 PM »
These two deer were shot years apart but in the same general location.  They could easily be seen as the same deer on trail camera photos.





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