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How to Score Velvet Bucks | Estimating and Scoring Velvet Bucks

Scoring Bucks | How to Score Velvet Bucks

The chance of actually harvesting a velvet buck is greater in some states than others and it’s this rarity of harvesting a velvet buck that is exactly what makes it so special. For others, velvet bucks are just part of the offseason hit-list, gathering, sorting, and strategizing over fuzzy antlered pictures. In either case, whether you are building a hit-list or have a chance at harvesting a velvet buck, the same set of questions apply… how do you go about scoring velvet bucks? How do you estimate a velvet buck’s score from a trail camera picture? How does that score translate into a score for when the buck has hardened antlers? This article will discuss some things to consider when scoring deer in velvet and estimate antler score from velvet bucks. 

When do antlers stop growing?

Antlers are an amazing feature on white-tailed deer and the fact that antlers are shed on a yearly basis and grow back makes them that much more special. Antler growth generally begins in late April but depends on several variables including the health of the individual buck. It takes an average of about 120 days for a buck to grow his antlers with antlers growing up to ½ inch per day at their fastest point. But believe it or not, antlers are pretty much done growing by mid to late August and then begin to harden. You’ll know that antlers are done growing when the tips of the tines and main beam start to develop sharp points instead of looking so rounded. But generally speaking, what you see is what you get for antler size by the time August rolls around. This is important to keep in mind when you are scrolling through your trail camera pics before opening day of archery season.

Scoring Velvet Antlers

Velvet antlers produce two challenges when trying to estimate their size. First, there is the challenge of estimating what the buck would score after it sheds its velvet. The second challenge is going about scoring and entering your velvet buck in the record books if it is big enough.  

Estimating the score of a velvet buck can be difficult for several reasons. Obviously, antler score is higher when velvet is present but there isn’t much good research out there showing the percent decrease in antler score after velvet is removed. The one exception is the research that BuckScore was developed from, as a reduction value to apply in measurements from velvet to hard antler scores. Regardless, it’s important to keep in mind what measurements will be most dramatically impacted by the presence of velvet. Measurements like main beam length and tine length won’t change as much as the circumference measurements will when a buck is still in velvet. If you’re estimating antler score from a velvet buck, it’s smart to be more conservative on circumference scores if you are hoping to get an idea of what a buck will score once he’s shed his velvet.

Scoring your velvet buck is the same as scoring a buck without velvet. All of the measurements you would take for a scoring system used by groups such as the Pope and Young Club or the Boone and Crockett Club are the exact same. The issue comes if you harvested a big enough buck to enter it into one of these two record books as they differ on how they handle velvet bucks. If you are wanting to enter your buck into the Pope and Young Club, then there is no issue with the velvet. The Pope and Young Club will enter velvet bucks with whatever their score is with the velvet on. They don’t have a correction factor and won’t make you remove the velvet first before scoring. However, the Boone and Crockett Club is different. They will not score a buck if it has any velvet present that will affect the overall score. Instead, they will make you remove the velvet before scoring. You may ask yourself why not just enter your velvet buck with the Pope and Young Club if that’s the case? Keep in mind that the Pope and Young Club only accepts animals harvested with archery gear whereas the Boone and Crockett Club will accept bucks harvested by any legal means.    

How BuckScore Scores Velvet Bucks

If you are looking to quickly generate a score that applies a factor that relates to the score of a hard antlered buck from a velvet buck picture or harvested buck, BuckScore is your solution. When developed a reduction value was applied and tested, resulting in the ability to accurately estimate the score of a velvet buck.

 

Judging antler score for velvet bucks can be difficult and you have to manage your expectations of what that buck will actually score once the velvet is gone. It’s easy to get caught up in how big a buck looks with his velvet on but understanding that there will be shrinkage will help you manage your expectations. If you are trying to estimate the velvet buck’s score, use BuckScore to keep your expectations within 3% of his actual score! 

Regardless, there’s something special about velvet antlers and having the chance to harvest a buck with velvet is something that doesn’t happen often. Make sure to keep these things in mind regardless of whether you are looking through trail camera pics or are lucky enough to harvest a velvet buck!

Trail Camera Survey | Take Inventory of Your Deer Herd This Winter

How to Run a Trail Camera Survey

By: Weston Schrank, BuckScore® Specialist and Biologist

The first of a long list of responsibilities for a deer and land manager is to find out what is going on the property. It’s been a long hunting season… some deer have been killed by hunters, others killed by predators. The cornerstone of your new property management plan, and next year’s harvest plan, is taking a census of which deer and how many there are on the property. The best way to do this is by running a post season trail camera survey.

Post Season Trail Camera Survey

Most surveys are preseason surveys in summer, to determine which bucks are on the hit list… but a post season survey can be far more important to a deer manager. Population number, health assessments, post season age structure, and post season sex ratio are all very important to take note of after deer season.

Winter, specifically late February and March, is the hardest time for deer. A trail camera survey allows you to see the status, size, and overall health of the deer herd before this stressful time. Deer population numbers can fluctuate in terms of how many deer you actually see on the property. Your property may get an influx of deer stacking into your bedding areas, south slopes, and disturbed woodlots if you have a decent amount of cover and ideal habitat. This can cause a lot more stress to the property than what your management plan and property is set up for. Trail camera survey results combined with post season scouting can reveal management projects that might be needed before late February and March. This information also allows you to make smarter decisions on doe harvest, food plots, and even predator management!

What You’ll Need

  • 300 – 500 lbs. of corn or more per 100 acres of property (depending on deer densities)
  • One trail camera per 100 acres of property
  • New batteries for your trail camera
  • 8 GB or larger SD card (check compatibility with camera)
  • Time, enough time to refill trail camera stations every 2-4 days (depending on deer densities)

Trail Camera Survey Instructions

When setting up a survey you need to stick to the correct format that was conducted in the original research in order to get accurate results. The correct setup calls for a trail camera for every 100 acres. However, each property calls for different numbers depending on how it hunts, topography, and its habitat diversity. For example, while one camera may seem to cover an entire 70-acre property, you can learn from observations that each side of the property is used by different deer, and more importantly bucks, the number a survey uses as an index to estimate doe numbers. Setting up a trail camera on each side of this 70-acre property will give the ability to observe and identify each individual deer using the property. As another example, a 150-acre property in will have the same number of cameras. The habitat on this farm isn’t as diverse, meaning the deer move more freely from one camera location to the other.

After deciding how many cameras you need, the location of the trail cameras is your next decision. Your ideal trail camera location would be an area that you can maximize deer encounters with. You will want an area that is relatively clean of brush, saplings, and tall grass, essentially anything that can set off the camera besides a deer. Set up the trail camera about chest high and facing north or south to keep the morning or afternoon sun from blinding your image. Place 50-100 lbs. of corn out about 10 yards from the camera.

After the area is cleaned up and corn is down, turn your attention to the proper trail camera settings. The most important aspect that is often messed up by hunters and landowners is the setting and duration of the survey. The correct settings are 1 photo burst with a 5-minute delay. Make sure you have fresh batteries and an empty formatted memory card and run the survey for 3 weeks or 21- 24 days. During this time, keep coming back to ensure there is always corn on the site.

Trail Camera Survey Results

Once the 3 weeks are up you will pull the cameras. By this time you might have already been finding sheds, or deer will be casting their antlers within a few short weeks. There is no reason to keep the corn and trail cameras running this late into the season.

You are now ready to start the most important part of the survey, calculating the deer population and making decisions based on the survey. While the calculations are relatively simple, making decisions based on the data can be a little more confusing.

Look out for another video coming out in the upcoming weeks on how to start calculating these trail camera survey results. We will walk you through how to identify bucks, estimate does and fawn numbers, score bucks on the hoof, and what results management decisions can be derived from. I will also be pairing these videos with off-season responsibilities and activities you can be doing now that can increase deer movement across your property for next year’s hunting season.

In the meantime, here are several blogs that you can check out to increase your knowledge of deer, deer management, and deer hunting!

Want to score bucks from trail camera photos? The BuckScore® program allows you to score a photo of a deer on your desktop or mobile in just minutes!

Salvage Your Deer Season With These Late Season Camera Tips!

Late Season Trail Camera Tips

By: Weston Schrank, BuckScore Specialist and Wildlife Biologist  

The first two weeks of December can be a rough and confusing time for any deer hunter. Personally, if I have not tagged out yet I’m very unsure what to do with myself. Usually I am already focused on coyote hunting or just spending more time with family and friends… but again only if I am tagged out. The weather and deer activity are in a weird place and deer hunters are caught in the middle of it all. Before the cold temperatures of winter arrive, and after the intense rut action, a lot of deer hunters can catch themselves in this period known as the December lull. The only thing that I have come to know is that trail cameras can be a saving grace during this lull period. I aim to give you some solid trail camera strategies and tips for the late season. But I know reading this will also give you a better understanding of what is actually going on during the late season!  

Late Season Strategies

While I might completely ignore my cameras around the rut and focus more on just getting time in the stand, this ideal completely shifts during the first weeks of December. Unless you are a fan of throwing “Hail Mary” hunts together, trail cameras are the best strategy for the late season. While it might be obvious to some readers, the main reason why trail cameras are your best bet for the late season is because of deer patterns. The late season is the second time period where hunters can accurately pattern mature buck movement down to literally the minute!

Late Season Patterns

Mature bucks focus on recovery and staying warm during the late season. This is similar to their focus during late summer when they are busy feeding on protein. Naturally, their late season patterns fall prey to the same opportunities that their previous summer patterns do. This means that with some simple scouting, and some well-placed cameras a hunter has the ability to pick up on a pattern and plan a hunt based off the intel.  

The buck will be noticeable in only one location… a food source. He will spend morning to early evening hours held up in his warm thermal bedding. This is often a southern slope, a spot where sun can reach the buck but also where the cover blocks the cold wind. Early successional spots and native grass fields that are southern oriented are perfect spots for mature bucks to bed. When the buck does get up he will be headed to a nearby food source. This food source will be most likely one of the 4 most attractive food sources a deer can feed on during this time of year.

Late Season Food Sources

There are 4 food sources that you should take notice of, or plant next year specifically for the late season. Some are quite easy to establish and hunt, and others take quite a bit of investment.  

  1. Brassicas – the fancy name for turnips, radishes, and rape. If enough acreage is planted, the green sugary tops and robust buried treasures can be a potent combo for cold winter days.   
  2. Cereal Grains – winter rye, winter wheat, and oats (winter hardy) can be a great green source of food that will stay green all winter long. They make great cover crops if you are managing soil properly.  
  3. Standing Corn – standing or freshly cut or mowed over corn can be a major attraction during the late season.  
  4. Standing Beans – standing beans, just like standing corn, can be a great late season food source, but it offers summer protein, something that corn cannot. This makes beans a better option if you have enough acreage to have standing beans throughout the season and into early spring.

The Occasional Hot Doe 

Now before I dive straight into trail camera strategies and setups based on the information below ,I do need to talk about the occasional hot doe. Some people refer to it as the second rut, but the more correct term would be the fawn rut. Now, Midwest and Northern states can see an upwards of 75% of all breeding occur during the peak rut week. Some does do come in if they are not bred in the first round, especially if sex ratios are skewed towards more does than bucks. However what I am talking about here is what I commonly see on well managed properties. When doe fawns have great habitat, great food, and as a result great nutrition, they can reach the magical weight of 60-70 lbs. What happens then? If 6-7 month fawns reach this weight they can become sexually active and come into estrous. This is why you might have seen a small doe fawn being chased by 2 or 3 bucks in a late season food source or cut corn field. The one difference here of course is that these bucks are chasing an uneducated fawn, not a smart mature doe!  

This is not something to rely on, just a word of caution that the mature buck you are hunting is not completely safe with a late season pattern on your property. There is still a chance that he could cross the property line.  

Late Season Trail Camera Setups

Obviously the most successful trail camera strategies will be based around the most important aspect of the late season… food! This means creating camera setups that will either inventory the food source location. Or will catch deer movement and behavior around or in route to the food source. Now I have tried multiple setups, on multiple properties, and over the course of the years have ended up with a few videos to help viewers setup trail cameras for the late season.

Trail Camera Tips | patterning Deer with Late Season Cameras  this video was a couple years back, but the principles of the advice are solid. It discusses some of the information I have reviewed above.

Last year I ran a series called “Trail Cameras Weekly” on Muddy TV. During each week of the rut, I published a different video on what to do with your trail cameras for that week. Of course, I covered this time period in that series, and last year I gave some extremely helpful tips for late season trail camera setups.

The “Trail Cameras Weekly video reveals two very useful trail camera setups. One is a trail camera over a food source on time-lapse mode, and the other is on a late season funnel.  

Late Season Trail Camera Time-lapse

By setting up a trail camera over a late season food source over time-lapse mode, you can inventory what deer are utilizing the food source. You can also see where they frequent and even where they are filtering out of. You will want a camera with very high resolution photos (>10-12 MP). Set the camera to take pictures during the last 1-2 hours of daylight, with a photo every minute. Also make sure you have a big memory card (>16gb). 

Late Season Funnels

If you can identify the main areas of a late season bedding area, essentially anywhere with thick cover and sunshine, you can gather intel by hanging a trail camera over a late season funnel. For this setup, identify a heavily used run and set the trail camera up at a 45 degree angle from that run. You will want a camera with a quick trigger speed that can capture 3+ photos in a photo burst mode.

When to Make a Move

Stay out of these food sources except to check trail cameras. Keep the pressure off your food sources until one of the following happens: 

  1. Cold temperatures – when a cold front moves through or snow hits, deer will be forced to get up and feed earlier in the afternoon just to ensure they can keep up with the energy demands of staying warm.  
  2. Daylight movement – if you capture a buck utilizing the food source on a regular basis during legal shooting light don’t hesitate! Go in after him immediately. 

These trail camera tips should help you target late season movement patterns of bucks to target. It can be your saving grace that arrives just when it seems like all other opportunities have faded away.   

Have a nice buck on camera? Score him in minutes using the BuckScore® Software!

Images That Don’t Work When Scoring Deer with BuckScore®

Images That Don’t Work When Scoring Deer

Getting the perfect trail camera photo is hard enough. Add to it the pressure of trying to acquire a picture that would work to score with the BuckScore® program can feel next to impossible. This article’s aim is to clarify what pictures can be scored and what pictures cannot.

BuckScore® software scores deer based on the information you manually put in. The scoring starts with a reference feature. This measures the scale, angle, and other photo characteristics based on your manual measurement of the ear width, eye, or eye-to-eye measurement. After the reference feature, you will draw the other measurements on the antlers. This is why clear, crisp angles at correct angles must be used when using the BuckScore app.

Images That Cannot Be Scored Using BuckScore®

There are several images that won’t work when using the BuckScore® program, however they revolve around 4 main attributes.

  • Low quality 
  • Movement 
  • Angles  
  • Anatomically incorrect reference features (mounted deer) 

Low Quality

Why? – Lowquality images are simply too blurry or not detailed enough to accurately score with BuckScore®. Some cell phone pictures or any lowquality camera pictures, often from trail cameras, can lead to an inaccurate score. Inexpensive trail cameras with low megapixel images quickly become blurry when the deer gets further than 30 ft away from the camera. This is especially true if the image is captured at night. The “fuzzy” factor creates a lot of variation to exactly where a tinecircumference, or main beam measurement starts and ends. It can also throw the reference measurement off.

Photo: This image is low quality, but it also is at night. This renders the eye reference measurements useless as the glare exaggerates the eye location and width. This buck also has his ears laid back which does not allow the ear reference measurement to be taken.  

Solution – The obvious solution here is to get a better camera. Most medium price range cameras offer 8-12 MP images. However, that is not going to fly with most hunters on a budget! The best option, in this case, is to bring the deer in closer. You can do this by setting up the trail camera differently on the run or food plot or simply create a point of attraction. Bait, licks, or mock scrapes are all great ways to stop a deer for a close detailed picture.

Movement

Why? – This one is pretty self-explanatory…movement causes blurry images. Blurry Images cause inaccuracy in the BuckScore® program. Even a slightly blurry picture due to movement can throw off circumference measurements and reference point measurements by an inch or moreA camera with a higher trigger speed and the ability to freeze images with a quick shutter speed is needed to capture moving deer. Higher price range cameras do a fantastic job of freezing images.

  

Photo: The buck in this image is not only moving, but his head is also at an angle that could significantly alter the accuracy of the score.

Solution – Try a camera with a faster motion freeze/trigger speed. If your camera is on a run, try stopping them with a point of interest, bait, scrape, or deer scent. Essentially something to stop them in their tracks!

Angles

Why? – BuckScore® can accurately score images of deer at the 0°, 22° , 45°, 66°, and 90° angles. Essentially if the buck’s head is level and facing towards the camera the picture can be scored. Angles refer to not only deer facing away from the camera, but also the head being tilted forward, backward, or another variation that could cause variation in measurements. This means that bucks in the back of truck beds, lying flat on the ground, or pictures of bucks eating from bait piles cannot be scored.

Photo: In this picture, the buck is turned away from the camera. This can drastically overestimate the size of the rack and as a result, the BuckScore® results.

Solution  Making sure the trail camera is level is one easy way to make sure the deer’s head and the image is level. Of course, you can’t always get a buck to hold his head level, especially during the rut and images over bait. Having a higher burst photo mode or a video mode can allow you to make sure you drastically improve your odds of getting a shot of the buck’s head level and at the correct angles.  

Mounted Deer

Why?  Mounted deer give you the ability to take the perfect picture for scoring deer with BuckScore®. However, the mounting process might throw off the reference measurements. While the score of the antlers remain the same, the reference features (ear, eye, and eye-to-eye) could all be anatomically incorrect. This will throw off the BuckScore® results.

  

Solution Take a picture of the harvest according to the BuckScore® harvest photo guidelines. This will allow you to score a picture of a harvested deer.

5 Examples of Pictures That can be Scored

Of course, most photos can be scored by BuckScore®. These include pictures of harvested bucks or hero pictures. Take a look at some of the example pictures below. If you still have questions about scoring deer with BuckScore® contact us here.  

Photo: With good camera quality, even deer far away from the camera can be scored.

 

Photo: BuckScore® can adjust for velvet pictures. Just simply check the box that asks if the buck is in velvet.

 

Photo: If you film your hunts or have a great camera in the stand with you, you can take photos or screenshots of bucks encountered in the field. Video is the best option, so you can go back and screenshot when the buck turns his head to an appropriate angle for scoring.

 

Photo: A higher grade camera allows you to get a great night time photo. With high trigger speed, shutter, and great quality you are able to capture the buck without movement and an overestimated eye glare.

 

Photo: Taking a picture of a harvested deer can allow you to score the buck within minutes, without breaking out the tape!

Curious about how to take a picture of a harvested deer to score on BuckScore®? Check it out below!

  

  

BuckScore® Mobile | Score a Buck In Minutes!

Scoring a Buck In Minutes On Your Phone

BuckScore® Mobile now allows you to score deer with your phone! This now allows in the moment scoring! Within minutes of snapping a picture, you can have a score of the deer before he even offers you a shot opportunity! Before this technology, it was only possible to estimate a buck’s score from knowing how to field score a deer. An extremely loose fitting solution for estimating what a buck scores during an encounter or from a trail camera picture. Now, with BuckScore®, you can score a picture of a buck from a trail camera, taken from your cell phone during an encounter, or a picture of your harvested buck!

Don’t believe us…check out the video below!

How Does It Work?

Holding two U.S. issued patents, BuckScore® is the only science-proven program that allows you to score pictures of bucks in minutes. The app accurately estimates antler size including spread, beam length, tine length, and circumference all to calculate a Net and Gross score within 3% of the actual score. It does this by having the user set a reference point of known lengths such as the eye to eye reference point, ear reference point, or the eye width reference point. The user then simply manually enters points for the requested measurements and within minutes receives an accurate estimate of the buck’s score.

Check out BuckScore® Mobile here!