Whatever reason you hunt, learning how to score a deer adds to your overall knowledge of our treasured pastime.
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Learning how to score a deer is a great lesson for meat hunters and trophy hunters alike.[/caption]
I've never been much of a horn hunter, at least that's what we call them where I'm from. When I'm out hunting I'm there to lay up some meat in the freezer, procure some hides, and experience the hunt. I've never gauged my success of a hunt on the size of the deer I took, but rather on the trials I overcame to succeed, the beautiful things I witnessed, and the time I was given to focus on life's simple pleasures. More than once or twice I've been startled by an animal after being caught in daze watching the sun break the horizon or the geese line out across a evening sky. Those are the memories I hold most dear and are the real treasures of my hunt.
Even though I don't hunt for headgear, and oftentimes target anterless deer, I've still learned the basics of how to score a deer over the years. In truth most of my education comes from a good friend who is a self-proclaimed trophy hunter. This guy is an absolute bowhunting nut who has set his sights on only the biggest of the big deer out there. Sometimes the difference between trophy hunters and meat hunters can cause conflict between the two. In our case I don't think there has ever been any angst between us. In fact I really admire the patience and dedication it takes for a guy like him to hunt. He'll hunt hard for three or four months and maybe only get two or three stalk attempts on a big deer. That takes guts in my book.
Learning how to score a deer has really increased my knowledge of the overall hunting experience. It is a pretty straightforward process (for typical deer at least) and doesn't take that long to learn. There are only a handful of measurements that need to be taken and the Boone and Crocket Club
and the Pope and Young Club
both have resources on their website to help you unofficially score your own animal.
If you've ever wondered how to score a deer, here is a great video put out by Kentucky Afield that shows how to score a typical whitetail deer in less than 10 minutes.
Again with only a few simple tools and a few minutes you can easily rough score a typical deer. The process is a bit different for other species of antlered animals and non-typical deer. With whitetails being the most prevalent species of deer in the US however, a typical whitetail is a good starting point.
Once you've figured out how to score a deer when its on the ground the next skill to learn is how to score a deer on the hoof. This takes a lot longer to learn and is more of an art than a science. As you can tell from the video, the fella doing the scoring has an awful good eye for that sort of thing and closely guessed the score of the deer just by looking at him. In fact it would take years of practice scoring deer in order to get a good estimate field scoring a deer. Most hunters are better off learning to field judge a deer, or just get an overall impression of the deer on the hoof.
When field judging a deer for score there are a few main things you'll need to consider. One is the overall appearance of the antlers. When you first glimpse the deer how did it strike you? Oftentimes deer experience "ground shrink" but the first glimpse can be a good starting point to figure out if you are looking at a truly big deer. Real bruisers seem to give a feeling of "holy smokes" right off the bat.
Secondly you'll need to quickly look for something that makes the deer stand out. Is it an extremely wide deer? Does it have any exceptionally long tines and how many tines does it have? How about mass? Does it look exceptionally heavy. These are all things that come into play when scoring a deer and can be judged pretty easily with a little practice. Oftentimes learning how to judge the antlers against the deer itself can be a big help. For example, when looking at an alert mature whitetail deer you can estimate the ears to measure 16 inches from tip to tip. This will change a bit depending on where you are, but 16 inches is a good starting point. This measurement can give you a rough idea of inside and outside spread of the deer.
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Good optics can help you field judge deer.[/caption]
With the bit of scoring knowledge you have after the video you can also realize how easily inches can be taken away. If a deer looks really big, but has a broken tine, missing tine, or other discrepancy between the two sides, it can subtract from the score in a hurry. Learning to recognize what detracts from a score can help you judge a deer quickly. This process is generally aided with the help of good optics
. Being able to spot a broken tine, count the number of points, or get a good estimate on spread, height, or mass can really be best achieved with quality glass.
I'm still a meat hunter and adventure seeker at heart, but I would encourage every hunter to learn the basics of how to score a deer. Learning this skill will not only allow you to speak the language of fellow hunters, but you'll learn very quickly how rare true monsters are. Record book deer are not only massive, but they have it all there with no broken tines or other oddities. Record book deer are rare in most areas and just seeing one can be a heart pounding experience. If you know what to look for and develop an eye for field judging deer, you'll realize how blessed you are just to see one.
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NEXT: 2 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN MENTALLY PREPARING FOR A HUNT