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Up to five years ago official trophy records for deer were ranked on a system that was based on the length of the antler. The result was that the record books were full of freak heads. To ensure a fairer and sounder record of trophy heads, Big-game Hunter Grancel Fitz worked out the fundamentals of the present Boone and Crockett Club official scoring system. Here he explains how to judge your trophy head.
The number of antler points is not an indication of either the size or the age of a deer. The first antlers are fully developed when a buck is about a year and a half old, and these are usually single, unbranched "spikes." Although mature whitetails may grow as many as seven or eight normal points on each antler, more than six are rare.
There is considerable confusion about what should be considered a point. In an old English version, it was "anything on which you can hang your field glasses." In the official scoring system, a point must be one inch long to be counted and its length must exceed the diameter of its own base.
In the West, where the mule deer is king, the typical trophy head of this species shows five normal points on each antler. Western hunters count the points on one antler only and call this a five-point head; some of them disregard the characteristically small brow points of a mule deer and call it a four-pointer. Eastern hunters would include the points on both antlers, and call the typical mule deer a 10-pointer. For mule deer, the five-point antler must be regarded as standard. More points are often found but, as they branch out in freakish places and follow no consistent pattern, they are classed as abnormal.
Occasionally, deer of every species are found with huge, freakish antlers carrying a great number of nontypical points. They have no place in the records of typical heads and the official scoring system now segregates them automatically into a separate "non-typical" class of their own.
As an indication of relative trophy value, the count of points is obviously hopeless. Other simple standards, such as the greatest spread, are equally useless; a small rack with a couple of long, outward-projecting freak points could easily show a greater spread of antlers than a much larger normal specimen. The field-dressed weight of a deer is rather meaningless too, for several reasons. It is by no means true that the biggest bucks carry the best antlers.
The truly fine trophy should have long, massive antlers with long, normal points, combined with a spread that is impressive but not wide to the point of freakishness, and it should have the beautifully symmetrical conformation found in the typical antler pattern of its species. These are the qualities reflected in the "score" of a trophy when it is measured under the official scoring system (above).
When a hunter bags a deer with antlers of outstanding size, he should obtain a free scoring chart from the records committee. After the chart is filled in and returned, his trophy will be entered automatically in the next North American Big Game Competition, held every two years under the sponsorship of the Boone and Crockett Club. Entries for 1955 will close on Dec. 31. If the trophy is good enough for a place in the official records, it will be measured officially and listed in the next edition of Records of North American Big Game. The species of deer should be mentioned when the application for a chart is made, and requests should be mailed to Boone and Crockett Club, Records of North American Big Game Committee, 5 Tudor City Place, New York 17, N.Y.