If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to harvest a deer that carried better-than-average antlers, you might have wondered what it would score. Or maybe you’ve found a shed antler or matched set and are curious about their measurements. Rather than trying to track down a scoring expert, wildlife biologist or taxidermist, why not learn how you can quickly and
easily score a deer’s rack by yourself. All you’ll need is a pen, paper and tape measure.
Several respected scoring systems are available, including Pope and Young, Safari Club International and Boone and Crockett. The B&C system is an adaptation of a scoring system invented by big-game hunter Grancel Fitz in the 1930s. The one drawback of the system is the final net score penalizes asymmetry and extra kicker points if a deer is measured in the typical category. Many hunters and wildlife managers focus on the gross score — the tally before deductions — because that counts every inch of bone and does not reduce the score if two sides of the rack don’t exactly match.
How Scoring Works
A rack’s score is made up by tallying four types of measurements — three of the antlers and one of the inside spread between the two sides of the rack. The three antler measurements include the length of each main beam, length of tines jutting up off the main beams, and four mass or circumference measurements on each side.
Here’s how to gross score a typical white-tailed buck using the Boone and Crockett Club system.
Tools: You’ll need a flexible ¼-inch-wide tape measure, pen and piece of paper or a B&C score chart. Optionally, you can also use a yardstick or folding carpenter’s rule for a more accurate way of measuring the rack’s spread.
Before starting, decide which category a buck should be judged in. If a deer has a large number of abnormal points, it should be scored as a non-typical. If it has none or just a few extra kickers sticking out, score it as a typical.
Step One: Measure the inside spread. A yardstick or carpenter’s rule works best, but a tape measure will do. Make sure the rack is straight up and the rule is at a right angle to the length of the skull and parallel to the top of the deer’s head. Measure the widest point between the main beams in the middle of the two antlers.
Step Two: Measure the main beams. Place the tape at the burr edge at the base of the rack and run it along the middle of the main beam on the outside, all the way to the center of the antler tip. Record that measurement and repeat on the other side of the rack.
Step Three. Measure the points. Record each typical upward-jutting point, starting with the brow tine (called the G-1), then the next point (G-2) and so on. On an 8-point buck you’ll have three measurements (since the “fourth” point, the tip of the main beam, is already included in that main beam measurement). A 10-pointer will have four on each side, a 12-pointer five.
Measure from where the point emerges off of the main beam. You can line this up with a piece of masking tape or use a pencil to mark the spot where the measurement should begin. If a point ends bluntly or in a cone, extend the tape measure to the very center of the tip. Measure the point along the outside of the curve. Write down the length of the tine.
Now continue with the other points. After you’ve recorded the tine lengths on one side, repeat this step on the opposite antler.
Separately record all abnormal points. These might grow out of other points, off the bottom of the main beam as drop tines, or in other atypical locations.
Step Four. Measure the mass. This is something hunters usually appreciate more and more as they grow older. The reason is that mass generally correlates directly to age. A deer with heavy mass or higher antler circumference measurements is usually an older animal.
Mass is measured in four places using the flexible tape. Make the first measurement roughly halfway between the burr and first point (G-1), or at the thinnest location in this section.
Measure the antler circumference again between the first and second points (G-1 and G-2) at the narrowest location. Make the third measurement between the second and third points (G-2 and G-3).
The fourth mass measurement is taken between the third and fourth points (G-3 and G-4). If the buck is an 8-pointer and doesn’t have a fourth tine jutting off the main beam, take the measurement halfway between the middle of the third point and the tip of the antler.
Enter all four of those measurements as you go, then repeat on the other antler.
Step Five. The final step for scoring your buck is simple. Just add all of the measurements you’ve taken together. This gives you the final gross score. If you want the net score, deduct for abnormal points and asymmetry between the two sides of the rack.
Tips and Techniques
Only points 1 inch long or longer are counted and should be measured to the nearest one-eighth inch.
The tip of the main beam is considered a point when describing the rack as an 8-pointer or 10-pointer, but it’s not measured as a point because it’s already included in the main beam measurement.
If you’re interested in the net score, any measurement greater than the longest main beam cannot be counted in the inside spread tabulation. Instead, record the length of the longest main beam as the “inside spread” if the spread is actually wider than that.
You can measure the outside spread for your own curiosity, but it’s not counted in the final score.
A rack must dry 60 days before a final score can be made to allow for antler drying and shrinkage. That’s why the term “green score” is used if you measure a buck’s antlers before two months have elapsed.
You can obtain more information on scoring from these organizations: Boone and Crockett Club; Safari Club International; Buckmasters.
Computerized Scoring: For a quick way to score your buck, check out the Rackulator. This instrument gives you the score of a buck electronically by simply rolling its wheel along the antlers to take measurements. Use the tool one time and it gives a score readout in seven different systems and categories. Visit: www.Rackulator.com.
Why Score a Buck?
Maybe you’re wondering what the purpose is of measuring a buck’s antlers. Perhaps you think it’s all about stroking a hunter’s ego?
Well, did you ever measure how long a trout was, or weigh a bass or gobbler? Look at scoring a buck the same way. It’s a good way to give a picture of the animal without actually showing a photograph.
Putting a deer on a scale tells you what its body looks like. Scoring gives you an idea of what its antlers look like.
Just using the number of points it has is too vague. If you said you shot an 8-pointer, it could mean a precocious yearling with tiny, spindly points or a 6-year-old 200-pound buck with 5-inch bases and 10-inch tines that took two men to drag out of the woods.
Just like aging a deer and weighing it, scoring a rack simply adds one more way to paint a picture of the animal you were fortunate enough to harvest or the shed you were lucky enough to find. It also provides important insights on the progress you’re making if you are trying to manage your local deer herd by passing up young bucks, balancing the sex ratio and improving the habitat.
The result of those efforts should be a healthier deer herd with heavier animals and larger-racked bucks. Antler scores will help you monitor how well you are achieving those goals.
— Gerald Almy is an award-winning outdoor writer from Virginia who enjoys improving the habitat for whitetails on his farm as much as he enjoys hunting them.