You Can Shoot a 20-Year-Old Whitetail Doe

matt ross old doeMost of us who shoot a 5- or 6-year-old doe with bow and arrow think we’ve done something, and we have. A doe that lives that long in the wild is crafty, one of the smartest deer in the woods.

Imagine a doe that lives 10 or 15 years longer yet!

This Instagram post from wildlife biologist @MattRossqdma caught my eye:

Camel Doe…throwback to the absolute oldest deer I will ever kill. September 18, 2002. She was easily in her late teens, if not older…my friends said she looked just like a camel. She tasted fine to me!

Matt went on to say that he based the New York doe’s age on his experience of having aged thousands of jawbones from the Northeast over the past 15 years, “including many that I have also gotten cementum annuli analysis on.”

“Plus, the overall appearance of the doe was pretty rough,” he noted. “Cataracts, both ears missing significant portions of the tips, etc.” She was skinny and boney, hence the camel look.

This begs the question: What is the lifespan of a whitetail doe? In captivity does have been documented to live 18 to 25 years (14 years for a buck).

What about the wild whitetails you hunt? Recent data from Pennsylvania confirms 3 does to have lived at least 13 years, maybe longer.

While I wouldn’t hold my breath, you could conceivably see an old, skinny doe that resembles a camel sneaking toward your stand this fall. That would be pretty cool.