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#MeasureItMonday with Boone and Crockett

Evaluating Big Game

Evaluating game in the field is a conservation ethic that dates back over a century when it was imperative for wildlife recovery and a sustainable harvest to only take mature male animals. Since then, it has become a skill among big game hunters, not unlike precision shooting with firearms and bows. While judging a big game animal in the field is a skill that comes from experience, the next best way to gain this knowledge is through photographs.

There are visual clues such as body size, coloration, stature, attitude, and movements you can use to judge the age and maturity of a animal that will help determine if it should be harvested. But for this exercise, we will be using the Boone and Crockett score to calculate trophy quality of an animal's horns or antlers to help guide that decision.

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All-time minimum: 170

Awards Book minimum: 160

Visual rulers help in judging the key points that make up the score of a whitetail deer. In this regard use the deer’s ears, eyes, and nose. The average buck, with his ears in an alert position, has an ear tip-to-tip spread of 16 inches. His ears will measures 6 inches from the base to the tip. The circumference of his eye is 4 inches, and from the center of the eye to the end of his nose should measure about 8 inches.

Apply these rulers to estimate inside spread (12% of the final score), length of points (41%), and mass (21%). As for length of the main beams, by using the ear-length- and eye-to-nose rulers, you can usually get pretty close when viewing from multiple angles. Beams account for 30% of the final score.


Final Score: 194

Key Measurements:
Gross Score: 201-6/8
Length of Main Beam R: 28-4/8 L: 28-6/8
Circumference H1 R: 5 L: 5
Inside Spread 22-2/8
# of Points R: 6 L: 6

Mass, tine length, XL main beams and 6x6 – this is simply an exceptionally well-built whitetail all they way around, and there’s nothing deceiving about him.



All-time minimum: 190

Awards Book minimum: 180

The first thing to check is overall frame. This is the part where, “If he looks big, he is big” can come into play. A buck’s frame takes into account all factors used in scoring — the inside spread, length of points, length of the main beams, and mass.

Mass can be estimated by comparing the circumference of the antler to the buck’s eye. A mule deer’s eye will measure about four inches in circumference. By using his eye as a gauge you can visualize whether his bases and main beams are at least 4-inches or larger. Heavy bases (6+ inches) with this kind of mass carried out through his main beams (5 to 4 inches), means a buck will receive high marks in the circumference category.

A buck with good eye guards (3+ inches) is a bonus since this is not typically one of the strongest characteristics of mule deer and not all bucks will have eye guards. If he is at least a 5x5, including the eye guards, move on to fork depth. Deep forks translate into long tines and high scores. The deeper his forks front and back, the longer his tines will be.

On the average a mature mule deer buck, with its ears in an alert position, will have an ear span of 20 to 22 inches tip-to-tip. So with this estimate a buck’s rack past his ears by two inches means an inside spread in the neighborhood of 24 inches — more than enough to put him in the book if the rest adds up.


Final Score: 206-1/8

Key Measurements:
Gross Score: 209-1/8
Length of Main Beam R: 24-5/8 L: 24-5/8
Circumference H1 R: 5 L: 5-1/8
Inside Spread 25-2/8
# of Points R: 5 L: 5

All there; deep even forks on all four corners, well past his ears for spread, above average mass and even up the beams, plus bonus 3+ inch eye guards push this buck over 200. Symmetrical: 3-inches in deductions is not much for a mule deer of this size.

AMERICAN ELK (Non-typical)


All-time minimum: 385

Awards Book minimum: 385

Judging elk starts with counting points. It can happen, and there are a handful of 5x5 elk that make the record book, but 6x6 is the starting point for judging elk in general, and for score specifically.

An elk’s final score is based on length of main beams (28% of the final score), tine length (46%), four circumference measurements per side (15%), and inside spread (11%).

Beam length matters—a lot. The total of both the beam lengths can easily exceed 100 points, and on a record-class bull will surely exceed 90 points. Tine length is the single most important criteria, regardless of how many points the bull has. The good news is that point length is one of the easiest things to judge because there is a yardstick. On a big American elk the distance from the eye to the tip of the nose is about 12-4/8 to 13 inches. Perhaps better, the distance from the base of the burr to the tip of the nose is about 15-4/8 inches.

When looking at a bull that has non-typical points, you must first know what a non-typical point is and then add them up, because they are added to a bulls net typical frame to arrive at a final score. Most non-typical points are obvious, growing unmatched from one side to the other from either the main beam in unusual places, or split off of a normally typical point. Points growing downward or inward when all others are growing upward are a sign you’re looking at a non-typical point. The hardest to judge are points that make it challenging to determine what is the tip of the main beam.

Tip: Refer to the B&C score chart for non-typical American elk.


Final Score: 442 3/8

Key Measurements:
Gross Score: 454 6/8
Length of Main Beam R: 53-7/8 L: 49-7/8
Circumference H1 R: 8-7/8 L: 9-2/8
Inside Spread 44
# of Points R: 7 L: 8



All-time minimum: 195

Awards Book minimum: 185

Under the Boone and Crockett scoring system, moose are the only species where the number of points on each antler is calculated into the final score. In order to be counted as a point a point must be at least one-inch long and cannot be wider at the base at one-inch in length. This means under developed points or bumps are not counted in the final score.

A mature Boone and Crockett moose of all three classes tend to have the main palms lying flat to produce a wide spread, whereas the smaller antlers of a younger bull are more apt to show cup-shaped palms and a narrow spread.

The ear tips of a mature bull when laid flat measure roughly 30 inches apart, with ears themselves being 9–10 inches. A bull with an extra ear length on either side would be approximately a bull with a 50-inch spread (30 + 10 +10).

Typically, younger bulls will feature long and distinguishable able points, but with narrower spreads and shorter, cupped palms. As bulls age they tend to add in number of points that will be shorter and less recognizable having given way to wider and taller palms. As a rule, palm width and length pile up B&C points.


Final Score: 226 2/8

Key Measurements:
Gross Score: 220 3/8
Spread 61-3/8
Length of Palm R: 43-7/8 L: 43-4/8
Width of Palm R: 14-4/8 L: 17-3/8
# of Points R: 16 L: 14

Really solid and symmetrical fronts totaling four points per side really help this bull’s final score. Length of palm looks week up top, but these fronts push the number to 43-inches. The rest is solid; width of palms, spread and mass, and 30 points.



All-time minimum:
Awards Book minimum: 80

A pronghorn’s final score is the sum total of the length of each horn, the length if each prong measured from the center of the back of the horn out to the tip of the prong, and four mass measurements per side, less deductions for symmetry.

The distance from the base of the ear to the tip of the nose averages 13-inches and is a good rule of thumb for estimating horn length. It’s worth noting that horns that have pronounced, rounded curves inward with horn tips ending in downward hooks, may be half again as long as they appear to be, which means deceivingly longer horns. Conversely, straighter, upright horns with little curve or hooks at the very tips will not yield much of a bonus in length.

Prongs are measured to the rear edge of the horn they project from, so a 6-inch prong will appear to extend about four inches from a heavy horn—or twice the width of the horn viewed from the side. A head with very high prongs may cause the third quarter circumference measurement to be taken below the prong instead of above it, which usually helps the score.

The eyes of a pronghorn are located directly below the horn base, so they are a convenient feature to judge horn mass. As viewed from the side, the horn base should appear to be twice the width of the eye, which generally measures a little over 2 inches. This equates to horn base that measures 6 to 7 inches in circumference.

Heavy mass with horn tips curling down can give the impression of short horn length. Don’t fall for it.


Final Score: 89

Key Measurements:
Gross Score: 89 5/8
Length of Horn R: 16 L: 16-1/8
Circumference of Base R” 7-5/8 L: 7-5/8
Length of Prong R: 6-3/8 L: 6-4/8

While not off the chart in horn of length, still 16-inches of horn, plus 6-inch prongs and 7+ inch bases drive the score up to the high 80s.



All-time minimum: 170
Awards Book minimum: 160

All four subspecies of North American mountain sheep are scored the same under Boone and Crockett’s system. The final score is the sum total of measurements of the length of each horn and four mass, or circumference measurements per horn, less deductions for symmetry.

Length of Horn: The lower curve of the horn of a trophy-quality ram will always drop below the line of the chin. If the bottom of the curl approximates the line of the lower jaw and rises to the level of the nostril, these horns are likely to run about 35 inches in length. On up past the nostrils is adding inches.

Mass: A horn that is already broomed will carry more weight, and produce better circumferences for the second and third quarters, than will horns on which the lambing points (year one annuli) are still present. Carrying mass; good second and third quarter circumferences are vital to make the records book.

Dall’s sheep, along with Stone’s sheep are classified as a thin horn, so horn mass is not as high as is found with bighorn and desert bighorn sheep.


Final Score: 177

Key Measurements:
Gross Score: 177-3/8
Length of Horn R: 40-6/8 L: 39-7/8
Circumference of Base R: 15 L: 15-1/8

A good deep curl, plus flared and not tight to the head equals a 40-inch ram, plus 15-inch bases sets the bar, and makes this a high 170 ram. Mass carries through 2nd and 3rd circumference measurements.



All-time minimum: 110
Awards Book minimum: 100

Coues’ whitetail deer (pronounced cows) of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico are smaller in body and antler size than their northern whitetail cousins but are scored the same way under the Boone and Crockett system. The minimum entry scores for the record book reflect this size difference with 160 for typical whitetail and 100 for typical Coues’ whitetail.

It is not uncommon to see a mature buck with 4 points per side (3 points plus eye guards) or eight points, or a 4x4, Coues’ deer make the record book. A 5x5 is then a prime specimen, with an even greater chance of scoring high and making the book.

In order to be counted and measured as a point, the point must be at least one inch long from its point of origin off the mainbeam but not more than an inch wider at one inch in length.

Like all whitetail deer, the lengths of points contribute greatly to the final score (33%). For Coues’ whitetail mainbeams represent 32% of the final score, mass 25%, and inside spread 10%.


Net Score: 128 3/8

Gross Score: 130 2/8

Key Measurements:
Length of Main Beam - R: 20-1/8 L: 20-3/8
Circumference H1 - R: 4-1/8 L: 4-1/8
Inside Spread - 16-7/8
Number of Points - R: 5 L: 5
G2s - R: 9-2/8 L: 9-3/8

This is a well-put together typical Coues’ whitetail, starting with being a 5x5. Length of main beams and inside spread are above average with strong mass measurements carried up the mainbeams. The average inside spread for a book deer is 14-1/8 inched. Over 9-inch G2s is exceptional for a Coues’ deer.

Click to Download The Official Score Chart

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