How Do I Field Judge a Whitetail Deer?
Field judging whitetail deer or "scoring on the hoof" is a requirement for every whitetail hunter who wishes to harvest a record book animal without making a mistake and shooting a buck that is simply too small. We feel it is our job as a whitetail outfitting service to educate our hunters and the general public in regard to scoring whitetail deer. When you arrive for your hunt we hold an orientation with each hunter with a dozen whitetail bucks done by our taxidermist, and one of the issues we cover is teaching others how to score whitetail deer. The feat of field scoring a whitetail deer on the hoof can be a tad tricky, especially if your hunting a State or Region you are unfamiliar with. As a general rule of thumb there are several basic rules to field judging whitetail deer.
A. None of the first 300 whitetail deer that are listed in the Boone and Crockett Record Books are 8 Point Bucks. The reason for this is because an 8 Point Buck gets less measurements than a 10 Point buck, or any buck possessing more than 10 Points. Therefore it takes a monster 8 Point to score well. As a general rule of thumb, if an 8 Point Buck walks into your hunt area, and he’s nothing short of stunning, he’s not a shooter. However I have harvested 15 record book deer several of which score in the 150’s and 160’s. Several of them are 8 points. The other side of the coin is I have made a few mistakes on shooting 8 Points I thought were larger than what I thought they were. Be careful with 8 points is all I’m saying.
B. A whitetail deer’s ear is 6 ½ inches long. Therefore when a buck approaches your area use your imagination, and as silly as it sounds, pretend that your holding the deer’s ear in your hand, up against the tines. If a buck comes in that has tines much longer than the length of his ear (if the ear were detached from the head) he’s got good tine length. If a buck comes in that doesn’t have a tine on his head that is longer than his ear if help side by side he has no length at all.
C. As an official scorer and whitetail outfitter for nearly 20 years I can tell you I have only scored one 10 point buck that didn’t meet the requirements for Pope and Young Record Books. Therefore while an 8 Point can be tricky, a 10 point or better will almost never let you down with what we call ground shrinkage if your hunting the Midwestern States for Whitetail Deer.
D. Know your region. In the cold terrain of Iowa the deer’s racks look smaller as bodies are bigger. In fact last year we field dressed a deer that still weighed 295 pounds. In Texas deer racks look larger and often times deer in Texas are no bigger than a Labrador Retriever. In Texas you would tend to over score. (That is why we have provided videos at the bottom of the page of deer of all classes so you can begin to train yourself on scoring Midwestern Deer. All these deer where filmed on IMB Outfitters Properties.)
E. Main Beam Length on a deer is important and can add inches very quickly to a score. If you show me a side profile of a whitetail deer who’s main beam goes to or extends the end of the nose, I’ll show you a World Class Animal. Also some main beams curve in at the end forming a basket shape. Sometimes you must take into account if you straightened out the beam would it be longer than it appears to the human eye. On a 120 inch deer the profile of the main beam as it protrudes toward the end of the nose stops about 2 inches in front of the eye. For every 10 inches of antler the beam normally protrudes towards the deer’s nose another 1 ½ to 2 inches.
F. Mass can add up quickly. Problem is mass is hard to determine unless the buck is very close. Mass of deer antlers can take you a long way on your deer’s score.
G. Inside Spread is important and can also rack up inches quickly however this is a measurement that is grossly overcompensated. Your buck doesn’t need to be 3 or 4 inches outside each ear if ears are on alert. In the Midwest the buck need only be a little outside the ears or even with the ears if on alert to maintain an inside spread sufficient to making the record books. Remember the average Boone and Crockett rack is supported by an inside spread of 16 ½ inches. Out of the 15 record book bucks I have harvested, 4 of them are no wider than the ears when on alert. All 5 deer are over 135 inches that have this trait. Normally deer over 170 will be the deer that possess spreads that are 3 to 4 inches outside the ears.
H. In conclusion when field judging a whitetail deer in an effort to make the Pope and Young Record Books your looking for a great 8 point or something better, with tines longer than his ears if an ear was laid beside a tine, with beam length protruding a couple inches or further toward the end of the nose, and praying for mass.
Remember traditionally a whitetail deer is scored by adding up the following measurements rounded up to the nearest 1/8 of an inch:
1. Greatest inside spread one can find
2. Length of main beam of left side
3. Length of main beam of right side
4. Length of each individual tine
5. 4 mass measurements per main beam. Every deer gets 8 total mass measurements (4 per beam) no matter if the buck is a spike buck, forkhorn, or 14 pointer. The mass measurement occur between the location (burr) where the beam comes out of the animals head halfway to the browtine. The second mass measurement occurs halfway between the next two tines, etc. etc.
Study the following field judge whitetail deer videos to field score whitetail deer.