There is no question that the emphasis put on antler size among whitetail deer hunters has been on the rise for the last decade or so. People are willing to pay big bucks to shoot big bucks. Trophy deer hunting has become a big-time business, and the profits are made in producing deer with big antlers.
I realize that there are also hunters who don't care one way or the other about antler size. I am one that does care about antler size, but I do have a few reservations about the topic. Here are some of my opinions:
- Antler size is a good indicator of the health of the animal and the herd.
- If you are only hunting for meat, why not just shoot a doe instead of taking a young buck?
- I am more impressed with a hunter who harvests a 135" low-fence, free range buck than someone who harvests a 200" deer on a high-fence game ranch.
- I think the antler restrictions that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has initiated over the last several years are a good thing.
If you are reading this and you don't have a clue what I'm talking about when I say a 200" deer or a 135" deer here is a quick explanation. The common method for judging the quality of a whitetail buck is to measure the growth of his antlers in inches. There are several record books which document trophy animals, but the two most common are probably the Boone & Crockett Club and the Pope & Young Club.
The Boone & Crockett Club accepts trophies taken with any legal means and methods while the Pope & Young Club accepts only trophies that are harvested with archery equipment. Both of the organizations use similar methods for measuring the trophy that include deductions for abnormal points and non-symmetrical antlers. The minimum requirement for an animal to make the Boone & Crockett record book is 160", while the Pope & Young Club only requires a score of 125". Here is a sample scoresheet to give you an idea of how the trophy is measured.
If you do care about antler size, an important skill to have is to be able to judge the animal on the hoof. Just about all of us have experienced what hunters refer to as "ground shrinkage", where the buck looked bigger before you shot him than he did when you walked up to him laying dead on the ground. One thing I like to do to help me know the caliber of deer I'm looking at is to look at a picture of a particular deer that has already been scored and try to estimate the score of the animal before I see the official score. If nothing else, it can help with the summertime deer hunting withdrawals.
With that being said, I want to test your skills. I am going to start a weekly post that will include a random picture of a deer that has already been scored. Use your best judgement and submit your guess by clicking on the comments section just below this post. And you don't have to be a deer hunter to participate. My wife has heard me talk about the score of different deer so much that she has gotten pretty good at it herself, and she's never deer hunted in her life.
The picture for Week #1 is a deer that was harvested in Archer County, Texas:
Submit your best guess of the gross score (before deductions) of this deer by clicking the "comments" button below. There won't be any prizes, just bragging rights. I will post the results the following week when I add a new deer picture to analyze. Good luck!