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Tuesday, August 27, 2013
As deer season looms on the horizon, many hunters are feverishly poring through scouting camera pictures to see what kinds of big bucks are roaming their hunting grounds.
Many will find shots of impressive specimens, which will prompt plenty of speculation about antler scores.
“I’ve got one 10-pointer that’s 160 to 170 class, easy,” some will say.
We will hear of non-typicals that will “easily top the 200-inch” mark, prompting hunters to say they’ll pass up the abundant “150-class” bucks on their ground while awaiting the bruiser.
When hunters use numbers to describe deer antlers, they’re talking about the antlers’ score based on measurements of point and beam lengths, various circumferences, and beam spreads.
A measurement system has been in place for decades in Virginia, and that so-called Virginia system remains the technique used at the annual Virginia Big Game Trophy Contest, which holds east and west regionals and a state championship every September.
Elsewhere, the scoring system most often used was developed by the Boone and Crockett Club, which maintains vast records of North American big game trophies.
When a hunter on a TV hunting show drops a reference to a deer or elk antler score, that hunter is referring to the Boone and Crockett number.
Though Virginia’s traditional antler contest uses a different scoring method, Virginia hunters who mention numbers in regards to whitetail antlers are usually referring to its Boone and Crockett score.
Boone and Crockett scores are almost always lower than Virginia system scores.
Because the shape of a set of antlers is among the criteria used for the Virginia system, the difference is not consistent. Generally, a Virginia score will be at least 20 points higher than a Boone and Crockett score.
The Boone and Crockett system also breaks antlers into two categories.
Antlers without lots of extraneous points go into the Typical category, while those with lots of points are deemed Non-typical.
Extra points, as well as side-to-side differences, result in deductions against typical scores, so the net score on a set of typical antlers can be somewhat (or much) lower than its gross score.
The minimum score required to make the all-time Boone and Crockett record book is 170 for typical antlers, and 195 for non-typical antlers.
The minimum score for a Boone and Crockett award is 10 points below the above numbers.
Which brings us back to those antler score estimations we hear so often this time of year.
Hunters are notorious optimists and dreamers.
We need to be in order to deal with sitting in the cold for hours upon hours hoping for a deer to wander past.
That optimism is reflected in antler estimation.
To hear hunters talk, our woods are crawling with 150-class bucks. But those animals are actually very rare in Virginia, as shown by the results from the recent Virginia Deer Classic antler contest.
The Classic, held in conjunction with the Virginia Outdoor Sportsman Show earlier this month in Richmond, uses the Boone and Crockett scoring system.
Of the 193 deer from last season entered into the contest, how many would you guess qualified for the all-time Boone and Crockett records list?
Only six of the entries earned Boone and Crockett awards.
The top-scoring deer was a non-typical killed by Reagan Cruey, which scored 189.
One of the other Boone and Crockett award bucks was a non-typical; the other four were typicals.
The top typical was scored 165.375 and was killed by Kenneth Moore.
Only eight typicals scored 150 or better.
This isn’t to say the contest was populated by mostly unimpressive bucks.
To the contrary, the vast majority of the whitetails on display were super deer, the kind just about any Virginia hunter would be thrilled to claim.
It’s just that many hunters don’t understand just how monstrous a set of typical antlers has to be to score 150 points.
Interestingly, a couple of bucks featured on my blog last year were among the top-scoring whitetails at the contest.
One was a Prince George County deer killed last December by Danny Dye.
That picture, and a report that the antlers were green scored (before the mandatory drying period) at 193 prompted lots of debate, including comments from detractors who predicted that the estimated score was way out of the ball park.
Well, the deer ended up scoring 182.625, the third-highest mark of the show. That’s not 193, but it’s pretty stout.
Another buck that some readers may remember is Ed Muse’s super Amherst County bow opener kill.
Green score estimates on that deer were in the 184-to-194 range. The official non-typical score was 180.5, which is just shy of the Boone and Crockett awards criteria but easily meets the minimum for the Pope and Young archery records.
I’ll pull the photos out of the archives and create a new blog archive to help folks get a better idea just what kind of deer it takes to make the record book.
On the horizon
The Western Regional of the Virginia Big Game Trophy Show will be Sept. 14 and 15 at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.
Contest officials will accept entries on Sept. 13 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sept. 14 until 2 p.m.
The state contest, for Western Regional award winners, is two weekends later in Franklin.
More information about the contest is available at www.vpsa.org or by calling Western Regional coordinator Jon Ritenour at 540-434-8028.
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