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Deer scoring: Numbers add up for big bucks

Various club scoring systems offer best shot at the record books
By Lynn Burkhead
ESPN Outdoors associate editor

The score of a whitetail is the inches of antler that the deer grew, either in a typical or non-typical fashion. Until recent years, a certain outdoors writer — yours truly — didn't like numbers or mathematics very much. Sure, I survived high school and college higher math classes. But when the degree plan at the University of North Texas indicated that I didn't need to take another class involving numbers to obtain my degree, I didn't. In fact, I've joked that I disliked doing math so much that I married a math teacher to do it for me. Just kidding deer … I mean, dear.

I may not have liked numbers then, but I do now. And it's a good thing. After spending time last fall at a Texas Big Game Awards measurer's school and this summer at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo., at a Pope and Young Club measuring school, both organizations have entrusted me to be an official measurer for their programs.

Hey, if only my math teachers had surrounded me with the antlers or horns from white-tailed deer, Rocky Mountain elk, caribou, moose, bighorn sheep, or musk ox, I might have been interested in taking a few more classes dealing with numbers!

All kidding aside, what's in a number? Well, when it comes to deer hunting and big bucks, the answer is plenty.

Based upon the principles of rewarding mass, length, and symmetry, the score of a white-tailed buck is basically the inches of antler that the deer grew, either in a typical or non-typical fashion.

These measurements are obtained by using a quarter-inch steel tape measure, a carpenter's ruler, a carpenter's square and a measuring cable. A scorer then adds together the deer's tine lengths, inside spread measurement, main beam lengths, and four circumference measurements per side to obtain a gross score for the buck's rack.

Once a gross score has been obtained from the antlers, it is then time to do the math and come up with a final net score. Symmetry differences and abnormal point lengths are deducted to obtain a final net score for typical whitetails, while abnormal point lengths are added into a non-typical deer's final score.

With early archery seasons opening across North America, here's a rundown on the three basic trophy buck scoring systems used and their respective requirements:

Boone and Crockett Club

The Boone and Crockett Club Record Book is deer hunting's biggest shrine, containing the records of the biggest of the big bucks taken with any type of weapon. It almost literally takes a one-in-a-million buck to qualify for B & C since the minimum entry score for a typical whitetail buck is 170 net inches or 195 net inches for a non-typical buck.

In case you haven't noticed, those bucks don't grow on trees in very many places. In fact, those bucks are so scarce that even in my home state of Texas, where the annual deer harvest averages 405,835 deer, only a handful of B & C bucks are shot each year. In a normal Texas deer season, hunters can expect 5-10 Boone & Crockett qualifiers to be reported. In an exceptional year, that figure could rise to 15-25 bucks.

As an old west Texas rancher is apt to say, "Them is pretty tough odds." And the odds aren't much higher in other whitetail Mecca's like Canada, the upper Midwest, or the Deep South, either.

Pope and Young Club

This is the archer's holy grail, to arrow a buck big enough to qualify for the P & Y Club's record books. The scoring system used by Pope & Young is based upon the Boone & Crockett system, but all bucks entered into P & Y must have been harvested using a bow and arrow.

One requirement that hunters need to pay attention to is the club's requirement that insists that bucks be harvested with bows possessing no more than 65% let-off. Due to the multitude of one-cam, high speed bows with high let-offs that are in vogue today, this requirement can literally keep world-class bucks out of the P & Y book.

If making the Pope and Young record book is important to you, make sure that your bow qualifies for the let-off requirement by taking it to a local pro shop.

One such buck was Mike Beatty's monster non-typical buck taken last November in Ohio. That 39-point buck, which was panel scored at 304 6/8 inches, would have been the new Pope and Young non-typical world record.

Alas, the Xenia, Ohio, bowhunter used a bow with too much let-off for the deer to be recognized by P & Y and will not be recognized as the new Pope and Young world record. (The Beatty buck is eligible for the Boone & Crockett Club's record book and should be the number three all-time B & C buck after panel scoring at the next B & C convention).

If making the Pope and Young record book is important to you, make sure that your bow qualifies for the let-off requirement by taking it to a local pro shop.

Given the inherent difficulty in arrowing a mature white-tailed buck, Pope and Young entry scores are lower than Boone & Crockett entry scores. To qualify for the archery record book, the minimum net scores are 125-inches for typical bucks and 155-inches for non-typical bucks.

Buckmasters BTR

If there is a knock against the Boone & Crockett scoring system, some hunters would say it's the addition of the inside spread measurement between a buck's antlers.

The reason? Critics claim that the measurement is merely a measurement of air, not grown antler. A second knock against the B & C system is its penalization for symmetry differences, which sometimes lowers the score significantly on an otherwise exceptional rack.
The Buckmasters BTR scoring system seeks to rectify those perceived wrongs, giving the deer credit for the headgear that he grew, not the air that surrounds the rack. The BTR also eliminates penalties for symmetry differences on a buck's rack.

The BTR measuring system is otherwise similar to Boone & Crockett and Pope and Young systems, although minimum entry scores are significantly lower due to the elimination of the spread credit.

For archery and crossbow killed bucks, the minimum BTR entry score for typical and non-typical bucks is 105-inches. For firearm kills, the minimum entry score is 140-inches of antler.

With that brief synopsis of what each scoring system does, what should a lucky hunter do when he or she harvests a big buck this autumn? Simple - contact a scorer and get the rack initially scored for potential record placement.

Scorers generally like to work with just the rack and skull plate, not a mounted head or a smelly carcass. But hunters here should take special care - if a skull plate is broken, a rack cannot be officially measured.If the buck is being scored for Pope and Young or Boone and Crockett, a 60-day drying period will be observed following the kill. Once the rack has dried, a final official gross and net score will be measured and recorded. No drying time is required for BTR entries.

If the buck qualifies for the appropriate record book, the hunter fills out the proper forms, mails in any required entry fee and waits on his or her certificate and eventual placement in the record book(s).

Who said numbers are boring? When it involves big antlers from big bucks, certainly not me!

Want to view the original article by:

Lynn Burkhead as it appeared on IM_Outdoors Web Site?

Additional articles will be posted each month on this web site. Discussion and comments are welcomed on the:
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Joe R. Bumgardner, M.D.
Immediate MBA Past President/Web Master/Web Coordinator
Mississippi Bowhunters Association