My Book: Chapter 3: Antlers Not Horns

(Much editing will occur before being finished. Questions, suggestions, and criticisms appreciated.)

A deer’s antlers are an object of admiration and desire for many.

One common misconception among non-hunters is that a deer will grow one point for each year that it is alive. This is not true. As I described in the previous chapter, a bucks antlers will generally be of an approximate size, and point number, which will be about the same as other bucks of the same age and of the same general location.

The way hunters describe a deer’s antlers is either as the deer’s age group, 1 ½, 2 ½…, as the antler’s width, as its point total, or as its “score.”

You can generally tell the age of a buck by the size of its horns, but this is not always accurate. A 1 ½ will have two points to eight points. No matter the number of points a 1 ½ will have antlers that go straight up from the head and not spread away from each other for more than a few inches.

It was once often thought that the 1 ½ bucks with only two points (spikes) had inferior genetics to the others. And many hunters shot those small bucks so that they wouldn’t breed. I don’t believe this to be true. A buck’s first set of antlers is usually small and they will be bigger next year no matter how big they were the first year.

I read a magazine article written by the owner of a deer farm who described a buck of his. That buck had two points at 1 ½ and, with better food and less stress than it would have in the wild, it eventually grew antlers bigger than the world record. Deer grown on farms can get to be amazingly big, but they do not meet the requirements in order to become world records.

If you are going to say that spikes have inferior genetics, then say it because you want an excuse to shoot a buck and not because you believe it to be true.

If you want to describe a buck’s antlers by its actual dimensions, then the standard way to do so is by its width and number of points. I may say, “I shot a 14 inch eight.” And all hunters will know that the buck I shot has its beams 14” apart and has eight points. The first day I ever went deer hunting my dad shot an 18” ten. Once you see, and measure, enough bucks, then you will know exactly what that means.

The most accurate way to describe a buck’s antlers is by its score. In a later chapter I will describe how to score a whitetail buck yourself.

A game animal’s score will be its Boone & Crockett score. Boone & Crockett (or B&C, is an organization that, among other things, keeps the world record book for North American big game animals. B&C has scored North American big game animals for more than 60 years, doing it the same way. They keep records for bears, elk, moose, bison, walrus, etc.

For better or worse, right or wrong, a game animal’s score is its B&C score. There are other scoring systems, such as the Buckmasters scoring system. But unless you read the Buckmasters magazine or watch their TV show you will never hear of their scoring system. One other antler scoring system is the one from the Safari Club International (SCI). While doing research for this book I rediscovered the SCI scoring system, but I am unable to learn about it without paying to join SCI. (Note to SCI: if you want your scoring system to become more widely used, then make the system more freely available.)

If you shoot a buck with a gun or bow, hit it with your car (not recommended), or find it dead, then it may potentially become a B&C world record. There are some requirements including: shooting your animal in “fair chase” and the official scoring must be done after a 60 day drying period.

Pope & Young (P&Y) is another game animal record keeping organization, which favors hunting with a bow. There are many other requirements, but P&Y will accept the scores only of game animals shot with a bow. P&Y uses the same scoring system as was invented by B&C.

The B&C scoring system favors symetricalness. A deer’s antlers are usually symmetrical, but B&C is very picky about both antlers being the exact same size.

We will look at scoring in a later chapter, but a few more points before moving to the next subject.
The B&C and P&Y world record books are the records of game animals that reach a certain size.

A deer’s antlers may be typical, or non-typical. A typical set of antlers, roughly, is a set of antlers with the same number of points on each size, and for whitetails all points stick up from one of the two main beams. Non-typical antlers may have drop tines, stickers, bifurcated tines, etc.

In order to be entered into the World Record book a typical whitetail must net score at least 170. And a non-typical whitetail must score at least 195.


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