Canadian hunter Jeanette Hall took this handsome 150-inch-plus buck back in September, but the real surprise came when the animal was aged at 9.5 years. Although relatively long-lived animals, whitetail bucks rarely live beyond the age of 10 in the wild, with does averaging about the same. With lower hunting pressure and the absence of disease, a healthy deer usually dies of old age around seven or eight years old.

Captive deer generally live longer, and animals living well into their second decade of life have been reported. Elderly deer can suffer from a number of maladies, however, and the most common is often extensive wear to their teeth. A deer with flat teeth will find itself unable to properly digest food, as the lingual crests they need to nip foliage have been completely worn away. In the wild, this could mean a slow death.

But because tooth wear is constant as deer age, it remains one of the most reliable methods of find out a deer’s age. The technique is far from perfect, however, and biologists from the Pennsylvania Game Commission calls it “more of an art than science.”

At about one-and-a-half years old, the deer’s first permanent premolars should be coming in to replace their “baby teeth.”

Deer teeth at 1.5 years of age.
Deer teeth at 1.5 years of age. Image courtesy TPWD.

By year three, the deer should already be experiencing slight wear on its teeth.

Deer teeth at three years of age. Image courtesy TPWD.
Deer teeth at three years of age. Image courtesy TPWD.

At the end of an eight-year lifespan, the animal will likely have worn its teeth down to the gums.

Deer teeth at 8 years of age. Image courtesy TPWD.
Deer teeth at eight years of age. Image courtesy TPWD.

Wild whitetails rarely die of old age, and those that do prove to have an exceptional talent for survival. As such, hunters usually treat these long-lived animals with a special, solemn respect.

“It was an incredible feeling and an honour to be able to take him with my bow,” Hall told the Boone and Crockett Club regarding her Alberta buck. The animal was taken on September 19 after Hall patterned the deer for two weeks.

What is the oldest whitetail you’ve ever taken?

Want to learn how to age deer yourself? Read here for some tips from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Featured image courtesy Boone and Crockett Club

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