Estimating Age and Antler Size of Photographed Bucks
Accurate, cost-effective data collection from free-ranging deer populations has great benefits for managers. Antler measurements can be used as indicators of your success in meeting your management goals, but you must have a large sample size to reliably estimate the population's true antler size. And, your sample of the population cannot be biased by selective harvest decisions that are mandated by state or club regulations or based on personal choices of the hunter. In addition, 22 states used some form of antler-based harvest restrictions in 2011, with guidelines including antler spread and main beam length. Such widespread use of antler-based harvest restrictions has created a need for an educational tool with potential to train hunters in visual estimation of antler characteristics.
Antler and age data collection is currently limited to harvested animals, which may be biased due to antler-based harvest restrictions and hunter selection. However, remotely-triggered camera photographs could provide less-biased, non-lethal samples of male population age structure and antler size for biologists and an educational opportunity for hunters.
We developed methods to estimate antler measurements, gross Boone and Crockett antler score, and age of male deer from photographs. This technology is commercially available in software called BuckScoreTM , which is available at BuckScore.com.