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Mountain Home Magazine

Branching Out

Most of today’s hunters are very much aware of the scoring system developed in 1950 known as Boone & Crockett. While some hunters have studied the proper techniques to make reasonably accurate Boone & Crockett measurements of their big game trophies, others either don’t have a clue or have only a vague understanding of the procedure.

The Boone & Crockett system of measuring was designed for native North American big game animals only, which includes thirty-eight species in twelve categories, using antlers, horns, skulls and tusks as the trophy characteristics. Antlers are the branched, deciduous, bone-like structures of the deer family, which also includes elk, moose, and caribou. Horned game includes sheep, goats, bison, muskox, and pronghorn.

Bears and cats are recorded using skull measurements, while the tusks of the walrus are considered that animal’s trophy character.

With the whitetail deer not only regarded as North America’s most popular big game animal, but also the foundation of the hunting industry, their antlers are measured more than any other big game species. What’s unique about antlers is the unlimited variety of configurations into which they can grow. Because deer antlers have been known to exhibit some crazy abnormalities during the growing process, they are differentiated by either a typical or a non- typical category. One category awards points for the abnormalities, while the other considers them a penalty.

Symmetry—one beam being a near-perfect image of the other—is the key to high scoring antlers regardless of the configuration. Even non-typical antlers must have a reasonable amount of symmetry, or deductions will incur against the net or final score.

The net score is derived from an equation consisting of the total of the inside spread, the length of the main beams, the length of the points, and the circumference measurements of the beams in specific locations, subtracted by the total of the differences between each antler’s lack of symmetry. For example: if one beam is twenty-four inches in length, and the opposite beam is only twenty-two inches, that’s two inches of deductions. If the second point on the right beam (G-2) is eleven inches long, and the G-2 on the left beam is eight inches long, that’s another three inches of deductions...and so on.

For hunters who want to perform their own Boone & Crockett measurements on deer antlers, they should invest in three tools of the trade: a quarter-inch wide flexible steel measuring tape; a round, flexible steel cable (bicycle brake cable, for example), and a folding carpenter’s rule with a brass slide. Score charts can be downloaded at, or you can take advantage of their online scoring calculator.

The folding carpenter’s rule is the ideal tool for measuring the inside spread. Position the rule so that it is parallel with the skull plate, then use the brass slide to find the widest distance between the two beams. Be sure to position the rule in the center of the beams, not near the bottom or the top.

To establish the base lines for determining point lengths, attach a piece of masking tape to the outside edge of the antler where each point connects the main beam. Now, by using some sort of flexible straightedge, lay it across the top of the main beam while pressing it against the point. The idea is to draw a line on the tape, at the bottom of the straightedge where the point and beam connect. Picture the beam without the point even existing, while maintaining the proper width of the beam as you look at it from the side.

Once the base lines have been established, start one end of the steel cable at the outside center of the burr (antler base) near the skull plate, and press it against the center of the beam as you continue along the outer edge all the way to the beam tip. The baselines that you established for the points will help you to stay in the middle of the beams as you proceed.

Upon reaching the end of the beam, mark the end by pinching it with your fingers, or use an alligator clip, then lay it on your stretched-out carpenter’s rule or a yardstick to determine the beam length. Repeat the process for the opposite beam.

Next, measure each one of the points along their outer center from the tips to the baselines. Extremely curved points may require the use of the cable. To be considered a point, they must be one inch long and longer than the base is wide.

There are four circumference measurements taken on each beam. Wrap your flexible steel tape measure around the beam to find the smallest circumference between the burr and the brow tine or G1, the smallest between the G1 and G2, and so on until all four have been determined. In the case of only three points on a beam, the last circumference measurement is taken halfway between the center of the third point and the beam tip.

Add the beam length, point lengths, and the four circumference measurements together to arrive at a total for each antler. To determine the lack of symmetry, total up the differences between the beams, points, and circumferences. These are the deductions or penalties for the measured material.

Add the inside spread, the right antler total, and the left antler total plus any abnormal points to arrive at a gross score, then subtract the total deductions plus abnormal points to arrive at your net typical or final score.

One should keep in mind that the scoring procedures outlined here are to help anyone perform the very basics. Measurements such as tip-to-tip and greatest spread are supplementary data only and are not calculated into the final score. As I mentioned before, antlers come in a nonstop variety of configurations. Therefore, questions are certain to arise and stump the novice measurer because of issues with webbing, short points, drop tines, forked points, etc.

Remember, the reason you are performing the basic measurements is twofold: to determine the approximate score, and to find out if it may be a record book contender. If you arrive at a score that meets or exceeds a record book minimum, contact an Official Measurer in your area to set up an appointment to have it scored. All antlers must air dry at room temperature for sixty days before official measurements can be conducted. Shrinkage does and will occur, so it’s best to have them scored as soon as possible after the drying period.

Antler scoring provides wildlife officials with vital information associated with quality habitat, age structure, and other data. Antler scores from one county can be compared to those of another, while the highest scoring antlers in the state can be compared to other states and provinces. These records also serve as an essential guide for the hunter who travels to other parts of the country in pursuit of trophy-class animals.

Keep in mind that scoring antlers is a necessary procedure in order to conduct a rank, but scores should never undermine the visual appeal that most hunters consider when sizing up one buck from another. 

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