Kill a good whitetail buck these days and sooner or later someone is going to pop the question: What does it score?
The same could be said for mule deer, elk and pronghorn antelope and other popular big game animals. Turkey hunters in general aren’t near as fanatical about scores, but there are some hardcore trophy buffs around who are equally interested in learning how their gobblers rank on paper, based on a series of pertinent measurements.
Not surprisingly, there are scoring systems designed to accommodate all of these animals, as well as bear, moose, sheep, mountain lion and numerous exotics.
Although there is more than one way to score a set of antlers, the Boone and Crockett scoring system is the most widely accepted method for evaluating native North American big game animals such as white-tailed deer, elk and pronghorn antelope. The records program includes trophies taken by rifle, bow, handgun and other methods.
The B&C system takes into account a variety of antler characteristics to tally a score. Among them are the number score-able points (one inch or longer), beam length, tine length, circumference and inside spread. After performing a series of measurements, the figures are tallied to reach a “gross” score. Calculated differences between the left and right antler are deducted to determine the “net” score.
Texas Big Game Awards, a popular hunter/landowner recognition program jointly run by the Texas Wildlife Association and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, utilizes the B&C scoring method to rank qualifying entries in eight geographic regions. The program has scored categories for white-tailed deer (typical and non-typical) mule deer (typical and non-typical), and pronghorn antelope. There also is a first harvest category.
Minimum net green Boone & Crockett scores for program eligibility are as follows: pronghorn – 70, typical mule deer – 145, non-typical mule deer – 160, typical white-tailed deer – 125 to 140 (depending on region), and non-typical white-tailed deer – 140 to 155 (depending on region).
All entries must be scored by a certified TBGA scorer and are subject to re-scoring. Regional and statewide rankings are based on the net “green” B&C score.
Ben Bartlett has been a certified as a TBGA scorer since the program’s inception in the early 1990s. He has since taped well over 100 animals. The Lufkin insurance agent also is an official scorer for Pope and Young, a well-known bowhunting organization that recognizes trophy class animals using the B&C scoring system.
Bartlett says scoring big game animals is somewhat of a labor of love that runs hand-in-hand with his passion for hunting. Not surprisingly, he pointed out some racks are more difficult to score than others.
“Anything that deviates from the basic structure of a whitetail rack can be a problem, Bartlett said. “Without a doubt non-typical growth gives you the most challenge,”
The most difficult rack Bartlett ever scored came from the Finley Flat area north of Lufkin.
“It was what I call a nuclear waste buck,” he said. “Its main beams came out and just exploded, sort of like a star burst. It’s not uncommon to spend as long as two hours scoring a set of antlers that are extremely difficult.”
Bartlett says a typical 10 pointer is much easier, because the formula is pretty much cut and dried.
“It basically consists of four circumference measurements on each side, main beam lengths, length of each point and inside spread,” Bartlett said. “It’s not that difficult. Where people run into problems is when there is some sort of deviation from the norm.”
The B&C website (boone-crockett.org) offers a wealth of information on scoring, including downloadable scoring sheets that are accompanied by easy-to-follow instructions for more than a dozen animals.
There are dozens of TBGA scorers around the state. You can get a complete list according to city at texasbiggameawards.org.
Both B&C (boone-crockett.org) and P&Y pope-young.org) maintain all-time record books dedicated to recognizing a wide variety of North American big game animals meeting minimum scores. Both organizations adhere to strict “fair chase” policies and do not recognize animals taken inside escape-proof fenced enclosures.
Minimum scores vary from one animal to the next. For whitetails, B&C calls for a 170 minimum on typicals and 195 on non-typicals after 60 days drying. The minimum P&Y score for typicals is 125 and 155 for non-typicals after 60 days drying.
Safari Club International: SCI maintains records for typical and non-typical North American big game animals. It also scores trophy species from other parts of the world. This includes categories for animals taken on free range or behind a high fence. Unlike B&C and P&Y, the scoring system does not assess deduction penalties for lack of symmetry. scifirstforhunters.org.
Buckmasters: Buckmasters is another “full credit” scoring system that does not penalize a final score due to lack symmetry between antlers. Interestingly, the system does not take into account inside spread, because that is considered “a measurement of air, not antler.”
There are four classifications of antlers including: Perfect, Typical, Semi-Irregular and Irregular. The minimum score accepted for firearm kills is 140; 105 for bow kills. There are multiple categories for each harvest method. buckmasters.com.
Trophy Game Records of the World: Formerly known as the Burkett scoring system, TGR scores are recorded in centimeters and tenths of centimeters as opposed to inches, reportedly because it is provides a more accurate final tally. Like SCI and Buckmasters, TGR issues no penalties for lack of symmetry. The method’s founding principle is that “animal should be given full credit for what it has produced.”
The official keeper for state and world records on wild turkeys is the National Wild Turkey Federation. NWTF began compiling records in 1982. They have registered more than than 19,000 gobblers.
Records are maintained in several categories for Rio Grande, Eastern, Gould’s, Merriam’s, Florida and Oscillated turkeys. Three of those sub-species are found in Texas: Easterns, Rio Grande and Merriam’s.
Birds are ranked according to spur length, beard length, weight and total points. There are divisions for turkeys taken by modern firearm, archery and muzzleloader, and two “types” of turkey – typical and atypical.
A typical turkey is classified as one having one beard and two spurs. A turkey with more than one beard and/or more than two spurs is considered atypical.
Scoring a turkey is much easier than scoring the rack on a whitetail buck, because there are fewer components to consider. You can view the easy-to-follow formula on the NWTF website, www.nwtf.org. It is listed under the turkey records link.
It is worth noting that measurements should be taken in 1/16-inch increments and then converted to decimals using the NWTF’s scoring calculator.
There are several Texas birds that rank high among the national records. In 2007, Cody May of New Boston shot an eastern gobbler in Bowie County ranks No. 1 overall in the beard length category for eastern gobblers. May’s bird had a 22.500-inch beard.
Story by Matt Williams