Gerald Almy: How to score a deer’s antlers

Gerald Almy

If you ever bagged a deer that had better-than-average antlers, you may have wondered what it would score. Or maybe you’ve already found a shed antler this winter and are curious about its measurements.

Rather than trying to track down a scoring expert or taxidermist, this week and next we’ll look at how you can quickly and easily find out what a deer’s rack would score by yourself. All you’ll need is a pen, paper and tape measure.

Several proven scoring systems are available, including Buckmasters, Burkett, Safari Club International, and most popular of all, Boone & Crockett. The one drawback of the B&C system is that the final net score penalizes asymmetry and extra kicker points if a deer is measured in the typical category. Because of this, most hunters and wildlife managers focus on the gross score — the tally before deductions — since that counts every inch of bone, and does not reduce the score if two sides of the rack don’t exactly match.

How it works: The score is made up by tallying four types of measurements — three of the antlers and one of the inside spread between the two antlers. 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 whitetail buck using the Boone & Crockett system.

Tools: Flexible ¼-inch wide tape measure, pen and paper or a Boone & Crockett score chart.

Optional: yardstick or folding carpenter’s rule for a more accurate way of measuring 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 head. Measure the widest point between the main beams in the middle of the two antlers.

Step Two: Measure the main beam. Place the tape at the burr edge 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 with 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 eight-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-point 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 and continue with the other points. Now repeat this 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.

Next Week: The final steps for scoring your buck.