What’s in a number?
When it comes to the antlers sprouting forth from the noggin of a white-tailed deer, the answer is quite a bit actually.
Because when added together, the numbers obtained from the calcified headbones of a deer serve as a benchmark measuring stick to help hunters to figure out just what they’ve spent their hard-earned buck tag on for the season.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, what we’re talking about here is the score of a whitetail as determined by the Boone & Crockett Club’s measuring system, a way of deciphering the inches of antler the deer actually grew, either in a typical or non-typical fashion.
In a moment of true confession, let it be known that until recent years, a certain outdoor 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 I didn’t need to take another class involving numbers, I didn’t.
In fact, I’ve joked about disliking math so much that I married a math teacher to do it all for me.
Just kidding, deer … I mean, dear.
I may not have liked numbers then, but I certainly do now.
And it’s a good thing too, because more than a decade ago, I accepted an invite to learn how to score deer antlers.
By that year’s end, I had actually spent time at a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department measurers’ school, eventually getting certified to score antlers for my home state’s Texas Big Game Awards program (www.texasbiggameawards.org), which follows the scoring guidelines of the Boone & Crockett Club.
A few months later down the road, I found myself in Springfield, Mo., at the Bass Pro Shops’ flagship store, going through the Pope & Young Club’s measuring school.
Eventually, in a little less than a year’s time, both organizations 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, I might have been interested in taking a few more classes dealing with numbers!
All kidding aside, getting back to the original idea in this story, the concepts of scoring help hunters and interested observers determine just how impressive a big game animal’s headgear is when compared against other members of the species.
Based upon the principles of rewarding mass, length and symmetry, the score of a white-tailed buck is basically the inches of antler the deer grew.
These measurements are obtained by using a ¼-inch steel tape measure, a carpenter’s ruler, a carpenter’s square and a measuring cable.
A scorer measures the rack, then adds together the deer’s tine-length numbers, its inside spread measurement, its main beam lengths and the four circumference measurements on each side to obtain an overall 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.
With that idea in mind, note any symmetry differences and abnormal point lengths are deducted to obtain a final net score for typical whitetails, while abnormal point lengths are actually added into the final score for a non-typical deer.
Seem clear as mud? Here is a rundown on the three basic trophy-buck scoring systems and their respective requirements:
Boone & Crockett Club (www.boone-crockett.org)
Founded in 1887 by the conservation minded and future U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, the Boone & Crockett Club represents in many ways the Holy Grail for hunters, not to mention an organization that remains one of the sport’s foremost champions of fair-chase hunting practices.
With more than a century of hard work behind it, the B&C Club continues to be deer hunting’s biggest shrine for hunters fortunate enough to harvest a big buck.
Why is that? Because the B&C Club’s hallowed record book contains the records of the biggest of the big bucks ever taken anywhere in North America with any type of weapon.
While the current time span we live in actually offers some of the best deer hunting opportunity in modern history, it still almost literally takes a one-in-a-million buck to qualify for B & C.
This is because 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, such bucks don’t grow on trees in very many places.
In fact, those bucks are so scarce, only a handful of B & C bucks are harvested each year.
During a normal state-of-Texas deer season, hunters can expect only a half-dozen or so low-fence Boone & Crockett qualifiers – Booners as many hunters call them – to be reported.
In an exceptional year, that figure could rise to a dozen, or occasionally up to a couple of dozen, but that’s about the best that can ever be expected.
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 portions of the Deep South either.
But every year, hunters go afield hoping and praying they’ll catch lighting in a bottle and bag a Booner buck.
Pope & Young Club (www.pope-young.org)
Formed in 1961, this is the archer’s Holy Grail, to arrow a buck big enough to qualify for the P & Y Club’s record book.
The scoring system used by Pope & Young is actually based upon the Boone & Crockett system.
But the difference here is all bucks entered into P & Y must have been harvested using either a compound bow, a longbow or a traditional recurve bow and arrow.
Given the inherent difficulty in arrowing a mature white-tailed buck with archery tackle anywhere in North America, the Pope & Young Club’s minimum entry scores are lower than the Boone & Crockett Club’s entry scores.
To qualify for the P&Y archery record book, the minimum net scores are 125 inches for typical bucks and 155 inches for non-typical bucks.
Buckmasters BTR (www.buckmasters.com)
If there is a knock against the Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young scoring systems, some hunters would say it’s the addition of the inside spread measurement between a buck’s antlers.
The reason for that complaint? Critics claim the measurement is merely a measurement of air, not a determination of actual grown antler.
Editor’s Note: Because of inside spread measurement requirements in both B&C and P&Y, a rack featuring a broken skull plate cannot be entered into either record book. Because the Buckmasters BTR system does not include this measurement, the organization will accept racks with broken skull plates.
A second knock against the two previously mentioned scoring systems are their penalization of symmetry differences, which sometimes lowers the score significantly on an otherwise exceptional whitetail rack.
Aside from the differences noted above, the BTR measuring system is otherwise similar to the Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young scoring systems, although minimum entry scores are significantly lower due to the elimination of the spread credit.
For bow and crossbow harvested bucks, the minimum BTR entry score for typical and non-typical bucks (BTR categories are divided into Perfect, Typical, Semi-Irregular and Irregular) is 105 inches. For firearm harvests, the minimum entry score is 140 inches of antler.
Learn more about the “Buckmasters” TV show on Outdoor Channel
With a brief synopsis of what each scoring system does, what should a lucky hunter do when he or she harvests a big buck?
Or if they have a whitetail rack from a previous season they’d like to get officially measured?
Simple, contact a scorer for the respective organizations (see their websites for details and contact information) and get the rack scored for potential record placement.
Keep in mind scorers generally like to work with just the rack and skull plate, not a mounted head or a smelly carcass.
And as mentioned above, if a skull plate is broken, a rack cannot be officially measured for B&C and P&Y, so be careful when handling and transporting the rack.
If the buck is being scored for Pope & Young or Boone & Crockett, a mandatory 60-day drying period will be observed following the harvest. Once the rack has dried, a final official gross and net score will be measured and recorded.
Editor’s Note: No drying time is required for BTR entries.
If the buck qualifies for the appropriate record book, the hunter then fills out the proper forms, mails in required entry fees and waits on his or her certificate and eventual placement in the record book(s).
With all of the above in mind, whoever it was that said numbers are boring must not have been a deer hunter.
Because when it comes to the numbers taken from the big antlers of sizable deer, you certainly won’t catch me yawning.
Especially in the whitetail woods where calcified numbers prove to be most exciting.