Field Judge Score of Whitetail Deer

Many times, a hunter must make a decision to shoot or not in a matter of seconds. It is impossible to get a deer to hold still while you break out the measuring tape and tally up his score while you make this decision, so how do you make the right choice, fast? Learn to field judge the score of whitetail deer antlers; that’s how.
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Getting a fairly accurate score, quickly, is not that hard really, but it does take some practice before you’ll be really good at it. What I like to do is to quickly judge mounted trophies and then actually put a tape on it to see how far off I am. After a hundred or more of these, you will find that getting within 5 score points (inches) is pretty easy. Almost anyone can be within 10 inches after just a few dozen test runs. But what do you do if you can’t access several dozen mounts? Well, here is a fast, very general way to get an approximate score.
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First, look at the smaller half of the rack. Almost all deer antler sets will have some asymmetry. In other words, one side does not look exactly like the other. Try to use the smaller side if possible. Why the smaller side? BEWARE OF GROUND SHRINKAGE! Antlers almost always tend to look bigger when in the air above a live deer’s head than they do on the ground by a dead one. By using the smaller side to start this process, you build a bit of ground shrinkage into the system. Now, add up the total tine length on that one side. You can use the ear of the deer as a reference. They are generally 7 to 8 inches in total length from where they join the head to the very tip. Now double that score and add either 80, 90 or 100 for the rest of the rack. A decent buck, with normal looking antlers, will generally score about 80-85 inches of base score (main beam, spread and mass combined). If the rack looks pretty heavy, the beams reach his nose in a side view, and are as wide or a bit outside the ears, but doesn’t look HUGE, he will generally get a score of about 90-95 for the base score. A deer that has it all; width, long main beams and real good mass, will score 100-105 base score. Mass is very important in this computation because it is measured 8 times total, so just one inch in circumference at each measurement can add 8 inches of score. Normal mass is about 4 and 1/4 to 4 and 1/2 inches at the C-1 (first mass measurement made at the smallest point between the base and first typical point). As a reference, the eye of a deer is roughly this same circumference. Spread will fool ya if you’re not careful. Add just 3 or 4 inches of spread and most people will guess an added 10 inches or more in score. Usually, if they get spread, they give up mass or beam. If they get mass, they give up spread or beam, and so it goes, but it all averages out real close to the totals given. ONLY the deer that has it ALL will get that 100-105 base score. Don’t get fooled!
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And, there you have it, a five second way to get a rough score on a whitetail.
8 +7 + 5 + 3 = 23 x 2 = 46 + 90 to 95 = 136 to 141 gross B&C ( a pretty darned nice buck)

Actual score wound up being 138 1/8 gross B&C.

How to Officially Measure a Deer Rack

Use the Right Tools To Measure

Official scorers use a 1/4 inch wide steel tape measure to make most measurements. A steel cable and alligator clip may also be used quite effectively. While these may be the most consistent ways to get an exact reading, you can get close enough for personal satisfaction using only a cloth tape measure similar to those used by a seamstress. Have a pencil, calculator, and your score sheets handy.

Making the Measurements

It is generally best to do one antler at a time, making all the measurements for that side, then switching to the other side. It is a benefit to have a partner writing down each measurement as soon as you make it. Record all measurements to the nearest eighth of an inch to ease adding them up later. In other words, I would read off a measurement of 7 and a half inches as 7 and 4. My partner would know to record 7 and 4/8 inches.

Measuring tines: The first step in measuring a tine (aka, point) is to determine where it begins. You’ll need a pencil to mark this location.

On points that come off the main beam you first have to make a mark across the base of the tine that approximates the top of the beam. This is generally done by using the measuring tape to span from the low points along the top of the beam on either side of the point. This is done on the outside of the rack. Make a mark on the tine and go to the next one. Measure from these marks to the very tip of the tine, following the centerline of the tine.

When measuring nontypical points that come off other points, you follow a very similar procedure. First determine where the edge of the typical point would be if the nontypical point were not there. Use the same method as if this typical point were the beam, and the abnormal point was a tine off that beam. Make a mark here and measure from this mark along the centerline of the abnormal point out to its end.

If there are several non-typical points (tines off other tines, tines that drop off lower side of main beam, beauty points around the base or front of the main beam), or a few large non-typical points, use both typical and nontypical score sheets to see in which category the buck will score higher.

The main beam is measured along its centerline from the lowest point on the base, above the eye, all the way to the tip. Measure the length along the outside of the rack. It is necessary to twist the measuring tape as you follow the centerline of the beam. A partner is helpful here to keep the pivot point from moving while you are twisting.

Measuring circumferences: Regardless of the number of points the buck has, you get four circumference measurements on each beam. Circumference is often referred to as mass because it indicates the bulkiness of the rack. All circumferences are taken at the smallest point between two tines or at designated locations along the main beam if the buck has 8 or fewer typical points (4 per side).

The first circumference is taken at the smallest point between the base and the brow tine. The second is taken at the smallest point between the brow tine (called the G1) and first primary typical point (called the G2). If the brow tine is missing, take the measurement at the smallest point between the base and the G2. Record that as both the first and second circumference measurement. If the beam only has this one typical point (two total with the tip of the main beam) The third measurement is made 1/3 of the way between this point and the tip of the beam, and the fourth measurement is made two thirds of the way between. If the beam has only two typical points (G1 and G2, or G2 and G3)(three total with the tip of the main beam) get the first two measurements as indicated above. The next measurement is taken 1/3 of the way from the last point to the end of the main beam, The fourth is taken 2/3 of the way out. If the beam only has three points (four points total with the main beam tip) get the first three measurements as indicated above, then the fourth circumference is taken half way between the last point and the end of the main beam. If the beam has four or more typical points (5 points total with the main beam tip), you only record the first four circumference measurements.

Measuring inside spread: Inside spread is the greatest distance between the beams when measured parallel to the bases. In other words, you can’t angle the tape in hopes of making the score higher!

Greatest spread is also measured and recorded, but it is not calculated into the score. Hunters frequently say they shot a 20 inch spread, and actually did, but wind up with about 18 inches in inside spread on the actual score.

Judgment calls; There always seems to be a few of these involved when deciding what tines are typical and which are nontypical, and what do you do if the end of the main beam turns downward? Is that a drop tine or a continuation of the main beam?

A clue can be had by observing the blood lines on the antler. When it was in velvet, many blood vessels flowed alongside the calcium deposits that made up the antler. These leave lines in the hardened antler after the velvet is shed. In the case of the main beam dropping; if the blood lines smoothly turned with the beam, I would call it a part of the beam. If the blood lines split to form this downturn, I would call it a drop tine. Just use your best guess for now, and if it’s close enough to the minimums for the book, an official scorer will have to tape it anyway.

Gross Score Versus Net

Net score is what you wind up with after you deduct for asymmetry. In other words, in the record books, they consider it important that the two sides of the rack be nearly identical (symmetrical). The net score is the score that will be recorded if you get high enough to go into the books. However, the gross score of a deer more truly reflects how much antler material the buck actually grew, and is what most Texas hunting ranches use when determining a buck’s trophy quality. It’s the highest possible score for any set of antlers, and hunters naturally like the bigger number better.
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Please consider this though; it is our opinion that a buck’s score isn’t intended to be the yardstick for measuring the success of a hunt. The thrill of the hunt, the enjoyment of being outdoors, the camaraderie of the deer camp, and great campfire cooking should be the terms that truly define the success of an outing. Antler scoring has an important place in deer hunting, though. It gives hunters a common way to talk about a buck, using terms that others can understand and visualize.