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Question on deer hoof growth

Old 04-26-2004, 11:22 AM
  #1  
Typical Buck
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Default Question on deer hoof growth

Okay, here's a tough one. Does anyone know the general growth pattern of deers' hooves?

1) Is it like a fingernail that grows constantly from birth to death?

2) Is it like the skeletal system, growing until about age 5 or 6, then stopping entirely?

3) Is it some blend of the two, where it grows throughout the deer's lifetime, but grows at a much slower rate as the deer gets older?

I'm trying to build a reliable system for predicting a buck's age by measuring the width of its track.
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Old 04-26-2004, 05:34 PM
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Default RE: Question on deer hoof growth

I would imagine that their hooves will grow in proportion to their body growth. They would have to in order to support themselves. In other words, the hooves of a 80 pound doe will not support a 300 lb buck. If that's true, two bucks, both 6 years old with one weighing 300 lbs, and the other weighing 200 lbs will have different sized hooves, specific to their own body growth.

I do know that once you put an arrow thru the lungs, they don't grow at all.
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Old 04-26-2004, 05:36 PM
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Default RE: Question on deer hoof growth

http://www.whitetaildeer.com/howto/tracks/ Scroll down half-way.
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Old 04-27-2004, 01:23 PM
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Default RE: Question on deer hoof growth

Interesting, thanks for the boost. That said, I purposely chose track width vs. track length. Bigger measures mean more room for random variance, and most tracks don't leave a dewclaw imprint.

If anybody cares, I've been running around all winter and spring measuring deer track widths by the hundreds. I've found much less variance among age classes than I originally thought I would. Without going into all my treasured data, here in western MT a track >2" is about 95% likely to be a buck. Anything, over 2 1/4" wide is a buck worth getting interested in.
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Old 04-27-2004, 02:04 PM
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Default RE: Question on deer hoof growth

Dirt,

Your in Western Montana? What area??? just curious, we are pretty close, I am just a hop-skip and a jump across the border here in the Idaho panhandle....our whitetails are pretty similiar, I'd be real interested in your findings...


Shed
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Old 05-06-2004, 03:13 PM
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Default RE: Question on deer hoof growth

Hi, shed33. Sorry, my e-mail's all screwed up, so I got your message but couldn't get a reply to go.

Each year, I try to dream up a new project to keep learning about the outdoors, not get stuck in a rut. This year it was the track measuring thing. I've measured a few hundred tracks in the snow and soft dirt this winter and spring. Any deer I see, I try to estimate their age, then run up to where they were standing and measure tracks. I measure track width, not length, for unsplayed tracks. Also, I look for tracks where the hind foot fell perfectly into the front footprint, not bothering with the "double prints" where the hind foot falls off to the side or ahead or behind. When I started the project, I expected so much variance in hoof size that the data wouldn't really tell me much. However, after all the measuring I've done, I am coming to believe there is actually little variance, so that the measure seems to be a very accurate method for aging a buck (e.g. I have yet to find a 1 1/2 yr. old buck leaving a track typical of a 2 1/2 yr. old buck).

I'd like to make it clear I am not going to adamantly defend my ideas against all comers, not yet anyway, I could still be wrong. That said, I am willing to say that in my area, any track over 2" wide is almost certainly a buck. Yearling bucks and does up to about 2 1/2 yrs. old seem to measure around 1 3/4". Bucks 2 1/2 yrs. old and really big does measure about 2", and 2 1/8" at the most. Bucks 3 1/2 yrs. old come in at 2 1/4". I don't yet have enough data on bucks older than that to make more than an educated guess, but I'd peg 4 1/2 yr. old bucks at about 2 1/2", and 5-plus yr. olds at 2 3/4" or so. These measures are for November, i.e. hunting season. Seems to me bucks grow about 1/4" per year, but I'll bet that rate slows down or even stops by about 5-6 years old.

This spring I've found two bucks leaving tracks of 2 1/4" and 2 5/16" in my areas, which I estimate to be coming onto their fourth b-days this June. This finding is a big deal for me, since I've killed 3 bucks in the last 4 years, all exactly 3 1/2 years old. I'd love to break that barrier with a 4 1/2 year old! Gotta pattern those two.

I believe track width can be converted into a fair estimate of body weight by taking track width squared times a factor of 35. See below:

1 1/2 y.o. buck 1 3/4" squared equals 3.06" times 35 makes 107 lbs.
2 1/2 y.o. buck 2" squared equals 4" times 35 makes 140 lbs.
3 1/2 y.o. buck 2 1/4" squared equals 5.06" times 35 makes 177 lbs.
4 1/2 y.o. buck 2 1/2" squared equals 6.25" times 35 makes 219 lbs.

I think that makes sense, because our yearling bucks will go 95-110 lbs., two year olds 130-150 lbs., and three year olds 170-200 lbs.

By this scale, a buck leaving a track 3 1/4" would weigh about 370 lbs. I mention this because I keep reading these guys like the Benoits who say they won't even go after a buck unless his track is at least 3 1/4" wide! There's something wrong with their logic. (By the way, a cow elk that leaves a 3 1/4" wide track is 3-plus years old and will weight right around 400 lbs., probably more. My brother killed a huge old cow a couple years back that had 3 1/2" tracks, and weighed 420-something field dressed.)

Anyhow, shed33, I live in the Bitterroot valley. I spent two full summers in my youth backpacking for fun in the Idaho Selway country, mostly in the White Cap Creek area. Spent 60 nights out there in '88. Also, spent two years in the Frank Church on a bighorn study. I got a degree in wildlife management at Univ. of Idaho in '93, not that I've ever worked in that field since college. I'm starting to cook up the idea of a backcountry whitetail hunt in Idaho, probably be a couple years at least before I get serious about it.
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Old 05-06-2004, 03:25 PM
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Default RE: Question on deer hoof growth

Dirt,

Thanks a ton, I really appreciate that info and all the work you put in. From everything you have there in regards to tracks, your #s seem right on with the bucks I have backtracked here in the winters and harvested in the hunting seasons. I killed a 7.5 year old last archery season, I believe I still have his hooves. I will get a tape on them for you, by putting his track in the dirt. I will be interesting what he measures. As for the 3.5 year olds here and 4.5 year olds here that I have weighed on the hoof and field dressed your #s are very similiar, very very close.

I'd love to keep in touch with you on this and start measuring more in my area. Let me know when you want to do that whitetail hunt here, I'd be glad to help out, who knows maybe we could hook up someday and do some bowhunting.

Thanks again I'll get that bucks track measured. The biggest bucks I have personally seen on a scale here went 278 and 306 whole, not gutted and each buck was 5.5 or older...

Take care thanks again...very interesting, oh I have a degrees in biology/kinesiology...sounds like we have some common interests.


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Old 05-08-2004, 01:16 AM
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Default RE: Question on deer hoof growth

Interesting topic.

I have all the benoits books and video's and never heard anything about them only going after bucks with tracks 3 inches or wider...... I think I saw 2 1/2 inches wide a couple times and 5-6 inches long they go for. They also look at the distance between the left and right tracks. Anything better then a foot is a good buck because as bucks get older their chests get wider.

I hope Shed33 posts again how large his deers hooves were. Remember though there will be some shrinkage. Maybe you guys could share how large the trees are these bucks your shooting rub on??
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Old 05-10-2004, 01:51 PM
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Default RE: Question on deer hoof growth

My info on Benoits is filtered through Outdoor Life, maybe they misquoted the track width idea.

For rubs, my personal opinion (I haven't done anything as far as actually measuring the things) is that it's highly variable. A big buck may whack hell out of a thumb size tree and a forkhorn may tear into an 8" tree. I have observed a lot of elk rubbing trees in my September hunts, and a big bull seems just as likely to tear up a little bitty willow shrub as tackle a big tree.
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Old 05-11-2004, 10:20 PM
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Default RE: Question on deer hoof growth

Dirt2,


Have you ever witnessed a forkhorn buck tearing up the trunk of an 8 inch tree? I was disappointed to hear this since I was under the impression it takes a pretty good size buck to do this and all my research pointed that way. I think your researched on hoof size and age is prety darn good by the way.
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