Do your hunting buddies field judge deer like fishermen? Do they spread their arms out and always seem to be seeing Booner bucks when all you see are 4 1/2-year-olds with scores maybe nudging 140 points? For your sake and the sanity of hunters everywhere, it’s time to brush up on field judging.
To field judge accurately you need to know two things: the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system and a few physical measurements of the typical white-tailed buck.
When referring to scores, most hunters use the B&C scoring system, which is basically the same as the system used by the Pope and Young Club, except P&Y only recognizes kills with a bow. Scores result from measurements taken from four major areas, including the inside spread, the main beam length, point length and no more than four mass measurements from the main beam. These measurements are added together and deductions are given for any difference in symmetry for the typical category, whereas the non-typical category uses the majority of total antler measurement. Detailed scoring information can be found online.
To get a rough score you need to be able to judge these four major areas mentally and come up with a score in seconds. Are you up to the task? Begin with the inside spread. The average white-tailed buck’s ears are approximately 16 inches apart when at full alert. When you see a buck, check the ears and then mentally add inches for each inch the inside of the main beam appears to be past the ears.
Now estimate the main beam length, but use the side view of a buck’s nose. If the end of the main beam stops above the eye, the main beam is relatively short—maybe 20 inches or less. If it stops at the beginning of the white patch on the nose, it is an average buck with a measurement of 22-23 inches. If it extends to, or past the end of the nose it’s exceptional, with a main beam length of 24 inches or more.
While eyeing up the main beam length grab a quick glance at the mass of the beam. You get four mass measurements, beginning with a measurement between the base and the first/brow point. The next three are also between points (smallest diameter), and if no fourth point exists the last measurement is halfway past the last point and the end of the main beam.
To estimate mass, look back to a buck’s eye and then mentally place it along the main beam. The average circumference of a white-tailed buck’s eye is 4 inches. It if matches you have a 4-inch diameter. If it’s smaller you have 3 inches of diameter, and if it's larger you have 5 inches of diameter. Six inches and beyond is huge, but it happens. Keep estimating.
Lastly, you need to field judge point length. Point length is measured from the top of the main beam, not the bottom. Again, pick an item you know and mentally place it alongside the point to estimate length. I remember my schoolboy days and use a foot-long ruler. A buck needs at least three main points plus the brow to score decent—the more points the better, and 10-inch point length or better makes for a high-scoring buck.
There’s no better time than now to brush up, and there’s no better place than a local sporting goods store that has scores posted. After a Cabela’s shopping spree, I spend any extra time gazing at the big buck mounts and estimating scores. It’s not as easy as guessing the scores on “Dancing with the Stars,” but it’s definitely more useful than time in front of the flat screen.