Illinois Outdoors

Kevin Chapman of Blue Mound measures a buck at the 2008 Illinois Deer & Turkey Classic in Bloomington.

Not all antlers measure up

September 21, 2008 at 01:00 AM

Deer scoring details

Scoring hunting trophies dates to 1932 when the Boone and Crockett Club published its first records book. Boone and Crockett was founded in part by hunters hoping to record information about species of North American big game thought to be vanishing. Instead of vanishing, many big game species are flourishing today — most notably whitetail deer. To qualify for Boone & Crockett, trophies must meet minimum standards. The minimum for whitetail deer with typical racks is 160 inches for the awards book and 170 inches for the “Records of North American Big Game” edition. Non-typical minimums are 185 inches and 195 inches, respectively. Bowhunters can also enter bucks with The Pope and Young Club, founded in 1961 to promote bowhunting. For Pope and Young, the minimum score for a typical deer is 125 inches and 155 inches for non-typical. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has a Big Buck Recognition Program. Deer taken by firearm must score at least 140 inches typical, 160 non-typical. Deer taken by bow or crossbow must score at least 115 inches typical, 130 non-typical. All three programs have scoresheets on their Web sites.

If there isn’t already enough disappointment in deer-hunting to go around, Tim Walmsley says just stick around. There’s more.

Let’s just say that for once, the big one did not get away. In fact, a buck with an impressive rack strolls into a clearing within sight of a hunter’s tree stand.

And no sooner is the deer on the ground then the back-slapping begins. The guide, the outfitter and everyone involved all measure the antlers and declare it one for the record books.

Then it’s taken to Walmsley for the final word.

“It happens all the time — these poor guys,” said Walmsley. “Sometimes I feel sorry for them. The outfitter or taxidermist told them this or that.”

What Walmsley is trying to say is that scoring a deer’s antlers is a little like opening the paycheck every two weeks. The first numbers look good, but the amount left to spend leaves something to be desired.

That’s because the initial numbers are a gross score. To get at the real score, think of how Olympic gymnastics is judged. Start off with a perfect score and then take away bit by bit for little mistakes and imperfections.

He says deer often score 20 to 25 inches smaller than the gross score — the one used to initially boost a deer-hunter’s confidence.

“The biggest mistake they make is when they add up all the points and then come out with a gross score,” says Walmsley. “And they think they’ve got this huge deer.
“They do not deduct for the typical frame symmetry of the antlers. They also don’t deduct for abnormal points on a typical deer.”

On a “typical” rack, abnormal points, stickers and drop tines are subtracted. They can count if the rack is judged to be non-typical.

But even if the deer is being scored as non-typical, the rack has to have a bunch of abnormal points for them to do much good when the final score is tallied.

Both the Boone and Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club — keepers of trophy records — go by net and not gross score.

“Those two things beat a deer down tremendously,” he says of frame symmetry and abnormal points. “These two are by far the most important.”

The Boone and Crockett Club offers an online worksheet for hunters wanting to see if their deer approaches the size needed to be entered into the record books. If the “green score” is good enough, the club provides contact information for 25 certified volunteer measurers in Illinois including Walmsley.

For Pope and Young, the minimum score for a typical white-tailed deer is 125 inches. For a non-typical, the minimum is 155.

Antlers must dry for a minimum of 60 days before being officially measured. Points have to be at least one inch from the surface of the beam to count.