Trophy hunting may not be the primary reason most hunters bring a rifle into the wild, but the prospect of bagging a record-breaking buck hangs in the back of every hunter’s mind.
Those antlers can grow impressively large. However, they are twisted and have points all askew.
How are you expected to turn a deer’s features into a numerical score?
Thankfully, the first conservationist organization in the United States, the Boone and Crockett Club, has had over a hundred years of practice scoring deer.
Though the Boone and Crockett Club’s system is the most well known, the basic methodology can be used for other scoring methods, such as those from the Pope & Young Club and states’ fish and game departments.
We’ll start with the basic terminology you’ll need to know in order to properly score a whitetail deer. After that, you’ll learn how to score a deer properly, then how to estimate a deer’s score in the field.
Deer Scoring Terminology
Beam – An antler’s beam is the long, curving, central antler from which the other points grow.
Burr – An antler’s burr is the part right above the skull where the antler flares out. A bony rim, it’s the base of the antler.
Points and Tines – Points are the parts of the antler which come to a tip. The beam tip is counted as a point.
Tine – This is a term for points that grow from the beam.
Frame – A deer’s frame is the number of points on either side. For example, the average whitetail deer will have five points on each side, which is described as a five-by-five frame.
G1, G2, etc. – Tines are counted from the skull outward, with G in front of the number. The first point above the burr is G1, the second one is G2, and so forth.
H1, H2, etc. – H is used to denote a circumference measurement. This is how wide the antler is around, a measurement taken between points or between the burr and G1 in the case of H1.
The Difference Between Normal and Abnormal Points
Deer antlers don’t always grow perfectly.
Normal points are the tines that grow off the beam.
Abnormal points are the smaller tines that grow off of a normal point. Abnormal points can also grow off the burr too. Tines growing downward instead of upward are also abnormal.
Typically, abnormal points have to measure one inch or longer in order to count and are longer than they are wide at the one-inch mark. Small bumps don’t count for the number of points!
Officially Scoring Your Deer
Bucks can be measured in points. Some states only count one of the antlers, while others count both antlers.
Hunters who dream of scoring a 30-point buck generally use one of these simple methods.
More advanced scoring methods, such as that used by the Boone and Crockett Club, take into account antler length, spread, width, and symmetry to score the deer. This can result in 200 points or more!
However, you can’t properly score your deer immediately after harvesting.
The Boone & Crockett Club requires an intact, nonmodified deer skull that’s been drying for at least 60 days.
Why is that?
That’s because antlers, despite being bone, shrink slightly after coming off the deer. Sixty days is enough time for the antlers to settle into their final size.
They have to be attached to an intact skull; otherwise, you could “accidentally” move them apart slightly for inflated results.
The deer has to have been taken legally under your state’s laws, a concept known as “fair chase.” Though, found antlers can be scored, too.
The Boone and Crockett Club measures down to one-eighth of an inch using a one-quarter-inch steel measuring tape, so your measuring tools will need to measure that small.
A flexible steel cable can be used to measure certain parts, too, because antlers love curving.
How to Measure Your Deer for Scoring
Once you have a 60-day-old deer skull with antlers, a yardstick, a flexible measuring tape, and a writing utensil, you can score your deer.
You can download a score sheet from the Club or your state’s hunting agency, or just use a piece of paper for your own records and bragging rights.
Count the Points
The first step is to count the points.
Count the beam tip, all of the normal points, and all abnormal points that are one inch or longer on one side. Then, count the other antler.
Measure Beam Tip to Tip
Next is the tip-to-tip spread.
Put the measuring stick at the middle of one beam’s tip and lay it across the other beam’s tip. Record this to the nearest one-eighth inch.
Measure Widest Spread
Look the deer skull face-on, as vertically as possible, and find the parts that are the farthest out on either side. These can be tips, or they can be part of the beam, depending on how your deer’s antlers grew.
Imagine there’s a vertical line coming from the center of the skull upward between the antlers. Put your yardstick perpendicular to that line and measure from the outside of one side to the outside of the other side.
Measure Inside Spread
Now look at the beams only. Find the widest part, where the beams are as far away from each other as possible.
Use the yardstick, again perpendicular to the skull’s centerline, and measure from the center of one beam to the center of the other beam.
Measure Abnormal Point Lengths
Now measure all of the abnormal points. Use the steel tape to measure from the base of the tine to the tip along the middle of the tine, following the curve if necessary.
The base is where the underlying tine’s edge would be if the abnormal point didn’t exist.
Then add up all of these lengths.
Length of Main Beam
Use your flexible measuring tape for this one!
Start measuring from the bottom of the burr, at its lowest edge. Follow along the outside of the beam until you reach the tip to find the main beam length measurement.
Do this on both sides. You can use the steel cable here.
Spread credit is the higher of either the main beam length or the inside spread width.
Measuring Normal Points
Remember how we measured the length of the abnormal points?
Normal points are a little different.
Instead, you want to record each normal point’s length separately. Also, measure around the outside of the curve, which will give you a slightly longer measurement than measuring along the inside of the curve. This can be done with the flexible steel cable.
Measure G1, G2, G3, and so on until you run out of points on one antler. Then repeat with the other antler.
Circumference is measured where the beam is the smallest in between two points or the burr and first point.
Wrap your measuring tape around the beam and move it up and down to find the smallest point.
Start with H1, then H2, and so on, then repeat with the other antler. Remember, H1 is between the burr and the first point (G1), H2 is between G1 and G2, and so on.
All deer need four circumference measurements even if they have fewer than four points per antler, in which case you’ll have to take them equidistantly.
Scoring with the Measurements
Now that you have the base measurements, let’s do the math necessary to finish scoring your deer.
Don’t worry, it’s only addition and subtraction!
Now, add up the length of the beam, all the points, and all the circumferences taken from one antler. Repeat with the other antler, separately.
Add both of those measurements to the score credit, and you have your deer’s gross score. Congratulations!
Deductions and Net Score
However, we’re not done yet! Asymmetrical deer antlers are penalized under the Boone and Crockett Cub system.
Take the biggest of all the measurements (right antler’s beam and left antler’s beam, right antler’s G1 and left antler’s G1, etc.) and subtract the smaller measurement from each one and record these differences.
Add all the differences together along with the total length of the abnormal points to get your deduction total.
Subtract your deductions from the gross score to get the net score, which is your final Boone and Crockett Club score.
The official scoring method is great but obviously cannot be performed in the field on a live deer.
There are ways to estimate a deer’s score, though they are much easier to perform if you’re looking at a deer in pictures taken from a deer cam rather than through binoculars.
Also, this technique applies solely to whitetail deer because it relies on average measurements, which aren’t the same for other species.
You can use the following parts of a whitetail’s deer’s anatomy as a reference to estimate antler size.
Ear Tip to Ear Tip – The average whitetail deer’s ear tips are 13 to 15 inches apart.
Ear Base to Tip – The average whitetail deer’s ears are 7 to 8 inches from base to tip.
Eye Circumference – The average whitetail deer’s eyes are 4 inches around.
Nose Tip to Middle of Eye – The average whitetail deer’s nose is 7 to 8 inches away from the middle of their eyes.
Field Scoring the Front View
If you have a view of the deer looking straight at you, then you can easily estimate the deer’s tip-to-tip spread, widest spread, and inside spreads.
If a deer’s widest parts are approximately half again wider than their ear tips, then you can reasonably estimate that their widest spread is 19.5 inches wide to 22.5 inches wide.
Since normal points angle upward, you can estimate their length as well. If the G1 point is approximately half the length of a deer’s ear-tip-to-ear-tip length, then it’s probably 6.5 inches to 7.5 inches long.
Field Scoring the Side View
Points are often more easily estimated from the side because the ear length or nose-tip-to-eye length is typically closer in length to that of the normal points.
You’ll also be able to see how wide their eyes are, which can tell you whether their antler circumference is bigger or smaller than four inches.
The main beam measurement is harder to figure out thanks to the curve but can still be estimated with some rough work.
Estimating the Buck’s Score
If you have a front and a side picture of a deer, then you can take the time to match lengths and estimate all the measurements you need to score the deer.
With some practice, you can get good enough with these estimations to be within 10 points of the deer’s final score!
Doing this estimation is a lot harder when you’re in the field and looking at deer that are moving around, though.
If you’re trying to score deer in a field to compare two bucks, then make some rough estimations based on their ears. Don’t try to be accurate. Just figure out which deer has the larger rack.
When you go to take the shot, put the rack out of your head.
Deer hunting is an exciting sport. Scoring the deer increases the competitiveness of the sport and can result in you being inducted into the record book.
Your buck doesn’t have to break the record to be notable. It just has to have an impressive set of antlers. For example, the Boone and Crockett Club’s minimum is 160 points in order to be listed in the awards book. That’s a far cry from the record of 213 5/6 points (typical) or 333 7/8 (atypical)!
The most important part of scoring the deer, though, is “scoring” the deer — in other words, taking a well-placed shot.
Keeping all of this information in your head and focusing on the deer’s rack as you take aim can rob your mind of stability, potentially spoiling the shot!
Enjoy deer hunting for what it is. Bragging to your buddies about a high-scoring buck is less important than being calm and accurate.
You don’t have to hunt to collect impressive antlers: