How to Measure Deer Antlers

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"How to Measure Deer Antlers"
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You have just harvested a 22 point buck and want to know if you set a record.  Or maybe it was only 8 points, but you still want to know how it stacks up.  How do you measure the deer’s antlers?

There are two answers to that question, because two similar but significantly different standards for measuring and scoring deer antlers exist.  The Boone and Crockett club, established in 1887, devised the first method which divides antlers into standard and non-typical categories.  The Buckmasters Trophy Record makes use of a simpler method of scoring, although it utilizes the same measurements.

The older Boone and Crocket method considers aesthetics when scoring, while the newer Buckmasters' method only looks at how much antler actually exists.  The Boone and Crockett method takes the spread of the antlers into consideration as well as deducting for abnormal points, called non-typical points.  The Buckmasters method lets you make measurements immediately after harvest, while the Boone and Crockett method requires 60 days of drying time before laying tape to antler.

The method you use will depend on whether you want to get into a record book and which record book you want to get into.  Basically, both methods measure the same things.  They differ in how you combine the measurements to get a final score and when you can make the measurements.

Regardless of which method you use, you will need certain equipment to do the job.  Kits are available containing everything you need, but most hunters probably have the basics lying around. You must have a ¼ inch flexible steel measuring tape.  This is the only measuring device accepted.  You will also need a thin, flexible steel cable and an alligator clip to hold down the cable.  A pencil and calculator will also come in handy.  A Boone and Crockett score sheet can be useful for recording measurements, but is not necessary

Counting the number of projections on each antler and adding them together gives the number of points.  Each tine, even if it forks from another tine or is located in an unusual place counts as a point, as does the end of the main beam.  A projection must measure at least one inch in length and be longer than it is wide to count as a point.

In measuring deer antlers, it is important to know which points are typical and which are non-typical.  Non-typical points get their designation from being in abnormal locations.  Non-typical points may fork from normal points in whitetail deer, or project downward from the underside of the main beam instead of upward from the top, or be extra projections between the normal pattern of tines on the main beam.  It can take time and experience to determine the pattern of the tines and designate typical and non-typical points, but it is essential to getting a correct measurement using the Boone and Crockett method.

If you do not have a Boone and Crocket score sheet, take a piece of paper and divide it into four columns.  Whether you plan to use the Boone and Crocket or Buckmaster method, recording the measurements in these four columns will make calculations easier.

Start by measuring the inside spread of the main beam.  This is the widest point between the inside of the two main beams measured at a right angle to the center line of the skull.  The center line of the skull runs from the front to the back of the deer; you will measure perpendicular to that, or side to side.  The importance of this definition is if one antler curves further back than the other.  You should measure straight across from left to right, not diagonally from front to back.  Record the inside spread of the main beam in column one, remembering to use 1/8 inch increments.  This is the only measurement you will write in column one and is called the spread credit.  The spread credit cannot be larger than the longest main beam, which is the next measurement to make.

To measure the length of the main beam, use your steel cable and start at the center of the lowest outside edge of the burr, running the cable over the outer curve of the antlers to the most distant point on the main beam.  The cable should follow the center line of the antler.  Measure the length of cable for the right antler main beam length and record it in column two.  Record the left antler main beam length in column three.  Record the difference between them in column four.  If the spread credit in column one is larger then the longest main beam, change the spread credit to the length of the longest main beam.

Next, measure the point lengths of the typical points.  Measure from the tip of the point over the outer edge of the tine to where the material from the point intersect material from the main beam.

Start with the brow tine on the right antler, recording the measurement in column two.  Then measure the brow tine on the left side, recording the measurement in column three.  In column four, record the difference between the two measurements.

Continue with each of the typical points, recording the right tine in column two, the corresponding left tine in column three, and the difference between them in column four.  The tip of the man beam, while it counts as a point, is not measured with the others, since its length was included in the measurement of the main beam.

Once all the typical points have been measured, begin with the non-typical points.  If the non-typical point extends from the main beam, measure from its tip to the main beam as with typical points.  If it projects from a typical point, consider the typical point as the main beam and follow the same process.  A point must be at least one inch long and longer than it is wide.  Record the length of all non-typical points in column four.

Now record the four circumferences for each antler.  The first circumference is measured at the point with the smallest circumference between the burr and the brow tine.  The burr is the part of the antler that flattens out at the base of the head.  The second circumference is taken the at the smallest circumference between the burr and the first typical tine on top of the main beam.  If there is no brow tine, use the same measurement for circumference one and two.

The third circumference measurement is made at the smallest circumference between the second and third typical tines.  The final circumference is made at the smallest circumference between the third and fourth typical tines.  If the fourth typical tine is missing, make the measurement half way between the third typical tine and the tip of the main beam.

Record the each circumference measurement for the right antler in column two, and each corresponding circumference measurement for the left antler in column three.  Record the differences between the circumferences in column four.

To determine the score, begin by totaling the measurements in each of the four columns.  For the Boone and Crockett method in the typical category, add columns one, two, and three together.  Then subtract column four.  The total is your score.

For the Boone and Logan non-typical category, add all four columns together.  This should give you a higher number, but the standards for awards and records are higher in this category.  Use this category if the antlers have several non-typical points.

To determine the score using the Buckmasters method, simply add columns two three and four.  This method does not consider the spread at all, and does not penalize for non-typical points.  However, it does break down into different categories depending on the irregularity of the rack.

The minimum score to qualify for an award varies depending on species (whitetail or mule deer), category (typical or non-typical), and method of harvest (firearm or bow).  Whitetail and bow-harvest deer require lower scores, as do those antlers in the typical category.  Remember the Boone and Crockett method requires a 60 day drying time after harvest to allow for shrinkage.  Usually, scoring must be done by an official measurer before presentation of an award or record.

Regardless of the official requirements, knowing how to score your harvest will help you make an informed decision about going further in the awards process.  Even if it's not an award winner or record setter, at least you’ll know how that rack stacks up against the competition.  And there’s always next season.

More about this author: Douglas Chappell

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