Deer Data Collection Q&A

Questions & Answers About Deer Data Collection

Since the mid 1950s DNR has collected data from hunter harvested deer. When you take your deer to a meat processor, you may have seen staff members from DNR's Wildlife and Heritage Service measuring antlers and examining their teeth. Here is some information that will help you understand what the wildlife biologists are doing and why.

  1. Why do wildlife employees examine hunter harvested deer?

    Information gathered from a sample of muzzleloader and firearms killed deer across the state provides a picture about the status of the deer herd in each county. This information is important in assisting in the establishment of seasons and bag limits. The information is equally valuable in evaluating any changes made to Maryland's deer seasons. For example, the number of 17-month and 18-month yearling bucks in the annual harvest is monitored specifically to ensure that too many bucks are not being harvested during the early muzzleloader and bow seasons prior to the rut in early November. A rise in the number of 17 month or younger yearling bucks in the harvest would suggest that does were being bred later in the season - possibly as a result of excessive buck harvest in September and October that left too few bucks available for breeding in November.

  2. What information is collected from each deer?

    All deer are sexed, aged and examined for any evidence of a deer disease called hemorrhagic disease (HD). Bucks have the number of points counted. Yearling (1 1/2 year old) bucks have the circumference of the base of each antler measured. A basic guide to aging deer jawbones can be found here.

  3. How can the age of a deer be determined?

    Young deer from 6 months old (button buck) to yearlings (1 1/2 years old) are aged primarily by the replacement of milk teeth. Milk teeth correspond to human "baby teeth". By age of 19 months all permanent teeth are in and the wear on the lower jaw teeth are utilized. Dark bands (dentine) on the upper surface of the teeth broaden in comparison to the light bands (enamel) as the deer ages.

  4. How is HD observed? Is the deer safe to eat?

    Hooves are examined for evidence of past HD infection. Flaking hoof tissue or grooves on the hooves may indicate that the deer contracted the disease in late summer or early fall and survived. These deer do not have HD and are safe to eat.

  5. Why is the antler circumference only recorded for yearling bucks?

    Yearling bucks are indicators of any recent changes in the habitat or deer herd. The size of the antler base informs wildlife managers about herd health and potential reproduction. Any changes from the long term average would indicate a change in deer habitat or herd health condition.

  6. What does the age structure of the deer sampled indicate about deer populations?

    The sample age structure is entered into a model that estimates deer numbers and for each year. These estimated deer population numbers indicate the changes in statewide or regional deer populations in response to hunting seasons and bag limits.

For additional information about white-tailed deer in Maryland, contact:
Brian Eyler, Deer Project Leader
Game Program
Wildlife and Heritage Service
Maryland Department of Natural Resource
Phone: 301-842-0332