Hunters have been keeping records of trophy big-game animals for more than a century. Scoring animals as we know it today became popular after the Boone and Crockett Club created its record program in 1902. Theodore Roosevelt was charged with developing a measuring and record-keeping system for male, native North American big-game trophies. The goal was to honor animals and hunters, and collect biological, harvest and location data on game species that helped determine the population health in an area. State wildlife agencies use the information to better manage game animals and habitats across the nation. To determine an animal’s score and rank among other animals of the same species, hunters must record several measurements for their animal’s antlers, horns or skull. Nearly 30 species are tracked and recorded through several organizations.
The scoring system has changed a bit over time, but the reason for measuring a male’s head or headgear remains the same. Various organizations including Buckmasters (BTR), the Pope and Young Club and The Longhunter Society (LHS) have similar scoring systems and record programs. Each organization has its own rules, standards and nuances for its program. For example, P&Y only allows archery kills in its record books, while LHS keeps records for muzzleloader kills. The minimum score to qualify a species for the record book varies by organization, too. Whitetails, for example, have the following minimums:
- P&Y Typical: 125 inches
- P&Y Nontypical: 155 inches with 15 inches of nontypical antler
- B&C Typical: 160 inches
- B&C Nontypical: 185 inches
- BTR Firearm: 140 inches
- BTR Archery: 105 inches
- LHS Typical: 130 inches
- LHS Nontypical: 160 inches
Each organization certifies official measurers through courses to ensure the scores are recorded accurately. Many people who become official measurers volunteer their time to support the organization because the groups work to benefit wild places and animals. BTR is a media brand but the other organizations run on dollars generated through memberships and fees paid by hunters to enter an animal into the record book, if an animal meets the qualifications. Hunters can join the organizations as members, even if they don’t shoot an animal that qualifies for the record book. Hunters can also score their animals at home with a little know-how.
Scoring an Animal at Home
Because Bowhunters United is focused on the bowhunter and most bowhunters nationwide pursue white-tailed deer, we’ll focus on the measurement system for P&Y and use the whitetail as an example. For a better understanding of the scoring process, we spoke to Kenny Morphew, an official measurer for P&Y, B&C and LHS who has been scoring animals since 1993.
P&Y requires its official measurers to use particular tools, including a measuring cable, lip-end measuring tape, ring-end measuring tape, official scorecard and the P&Y Measurer’s Manual. Morphew said hunters at home can get by with a flexible tape measure and the scorecard for the animal they’re measuring. Each organization has downloadable scorecards on its website. Here’s a link to the P&Y scorecard page. Remember, typical and nontypical whitetails are scored differently, so be sure to download the correct scorecard.
The Measurements and Process
The scorecard briefly outlines and explains which measurements to take and where to take them. In short, hunters will see a series of letters and numbers on the scorecard. Each letter or letter-number combination corresponds to a specific place to measure.
P&Y requires a whitetail’s rack to dry at room temperature for a minimum of 60 days before the antlers can be officially scored and recorded. The drying period allows moisture in the antlers to evaporate to get more accurate dimensions. If you score the rack before the drying period, it’s referred to as a green score. Morphew said antlers can lose about 1 to 1.5 inches total from the mass and inside spread during the drying period.
After the rack has dried, begin the scoring process. Antlers are scored to the nearest 1/8 inch, meaning you don’t always round up. The order in which you take measurements doesn’t matter as long as you’re recording the measurements properly on your scorecard.
Morphew starts by measuring the inside spread between the two main beams (D), and then the main beam length (F) of one antler. He then transitions to measuring the length of each tine (G-1 to G-7, if present), and then the four circumference measurements of the main beam between the tines (H-1 to H-4). Each measurement, aside from the inside spread (D), is taken twice: once for the right antler (column 1) and once for the left antler (column 2). The difference between the sides of the antlers is recorded in column 3. Abnormal points (E) are measured the same for typical and nontypical bucks, but the number is subtracted for a typical buck and added for a nontypical buck, as long as the nontypical has at least 15 inches of nontypical antler inches, per the P&Y minimum.
After recording all the necessary measurements, including the length of abnormal points (E), you must add together the spread credit and totals for columns 1 and 2 and subtract the total from column 3 to get the final score. This process usually takes between a half-hour and an hour, depending on the size of the rack and whether the animal is typical or nontypical. The scorecard has a spot for the number of points on the left antler and number of points on the right antler (A), tip-to-tip spread (B) and greatest spread (C), but these measurements are supplemental and aren’t calculated in the final score.
- Don’t simplify incorrect fractions: If you measure a G-2 as 4 2/8 inches, record that score for accuracy instead of simplifying the fraction to 1/4. Keeping all measurements in eighths makes adding the measurements easier at the end.
- Be precise: To get as close to the actual score as possible, you must be meticulous and thorough. Morphew recommends using masking tape to mark the base of each antler along the main beam to get a more precise measurement. Unfortunately, most novice scorers overcalculate the length of each tine if they don’t use masking tape to help them determine where to start measuring.
- Confirm your results: Morphew said if an individual hunter follows the scorecard’s directions, takes accurate measurements and adds the fractions correctly, they’ll get close to the animal’s true score. However, the only way to know for sure is to have the rack scored by an official measurer. To find a measurer near you, click here. Then, contact the measurer to set up a scoring appointment. The session is free, but remember, the measurers volunteer their time, so you must be punctual and respectful.