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Field Scoring a Deer 101

Scoring a Deer | How to Field Score a Whitetail Buck

While some whitetails are clearly “shooters”, as a hunter, you might often find yourself encountering a buck that is on the border of “shoot” or “don’t shoot”. Today’s advancements in trail cameras have tremendously cut back on the guesswork and these questionable encounters. It is not often that you come across a buck of significant caliber without at least having a couple of pictures of him. The addition of recent advancements in deer scoring technology now make it possible to know the exact score of the deer based off of these trail camera photos. However, there is always the possibility of the unknown. The rut, for example, is when hunters are still forced to test their skill at field scoring a whitetail. While it is not used often, the ability to field score deer is still a very important tool to have.  The article below will walk you through how to quickly and effectively field score a buck. After you read through the blog, test yourself with the BuckScore® Field Scoring Quiz. The participation in the quiz will also reward you with a 50% off a subscription to the BuckScore® app. The quiz is located at the bottom of this article.

Field Scoring a Whitetail Buck

Follow along with each tip in order to find out how to properly field score a whitetail! The first step in this process is establishing your reference points. When field scoring deer, your best reference point to get an idea of the frame size will be the buck’s ears, eyes, and nose. While regionally speaking these measurements and reference points can be off, a general idea or average between regions should be used. The average measurements of how many inches each reference feature is will help you get a very accurate estimate of the buck’s score.  The reference points include:

 Ear Tip to Ear Tip – Ear tip to ear tip is a very important reference point in determining the buck’s spread. A frontal view is needed to get the best estimate, but generally, a buck’s ear tip to ear tip measurement will be 13-15 inches.

 Ear Base to Tip – The ear base to tip measurement is important when figuring not only the size of the tines but the length of the main beam. Generally, a buck’s ears from base to tip will be 7-8 inches.

Eye Circumference – The circumference of a buck’s eye is a good reference point in roughly calculating your four antler circumference measurements. For this reference point, a buck’s eye is around 4 inches in circumference.

Eye to Tip of Nose – The center of the buck’s eye, to the tip of his nose is a good reference measurement when estimating main beam length. This measurement is around 7-8 inches.

 

After you have referenced your initial measurements you will be ready to start field scoring the buck. Take a look at the picture above to memorize the reference points. You will need them in the steps below. The first step will be estimating the buck’s spread.

The Field Scoring Shortcut

Note that the example pictures and steps below are walking you through scoring first the inside spread, but also just one side of the buck’s antlers. If the buck is relatively symmetrical, you will simply be able to score one antler and multiply it by two. By taking this shortcut and adding the measurement of the spread credit, you will arrive at a rough estimate of the buck’s score.

(Score of antler 1 X 2(if antlers are symmetrical)) + (spread) = Score of buck

Estimating Spread

Estimating a buck’s spread credit is relatively one of the easiest scores to estimate while field scoring a buck. By using the Ear tip-to-tip reference measurement of 13-15 inches, you can quickly gather if a buck’s spread is an inch or two inside or wider than his ears. For bucks that have a spread that far exceeds his ears, simply reference the ear base to tip measurement of 7-8 inches. The picture below shows the example buck exceeding the tip to tip measurement, therefore by estimating how many inches wider the antler extends beyond we can roughly estimate the buck’s spread to be around 19 – 21 inches.

Main Beam length

Beam length is easiest to estimate from the side angle or 90 degrees. This allows you to reference the measurements of the ear (7-8”) and eye to nose tip (7-8”). Simply applying those measurements and subtracting or adding inches to how short or long the main beam is, can be the easiest way to estimate the beam lengths. In the case of this buck, the main beam is significantly longer than the ear and eye to nose tip measurements combined. Combined the reference points equal 14-16 inches, so this deer can easily be estimated to have a 19-20 inch main beam measurement.

Note: Be aware that significant “upturned” main beams or, for instance, when the main beam sweeps in and is close to touching tips with the other main beam, will potentially skew your estimates. In an ideal encounter with a buck, you would receive frontal and side views, allowing you to judge, in inches, how much the main beam may be skewed from the side view.

 

 Tine Lengths

Tine lengths, while they may seem easy, are actually quite difficult to estimate. They are the furthest from the reference points but also can be subject skewed estimations based on view angles, or when additional points on the tine are present. Remember that for a point to count towards the whitetail’s score the tine must be at least one inch. The easiest point to reference tine length is the ear base to tip measurement. By estimating how much longer or shorter each tine length is (G1, G2, G3, G4, etc.) than the ear measurement of 7-8 inches, you can quickly gather a rough sum of the tine measurements. This buck’s tines can roughly be summed to roughly 18 inches.

Estimating Mass

Without the reference measurement of the circumference of the buck’s eye at 4 inches, judging the four antler circumference measurements would be difficult. All bucks, regardless of how many tines they have always will be measured with four circumference measurements. Four pointers, six pointers, or even spikes will all need four evenly distributed measurements of antler circumference. The circumference measurements are measured between:

  • Halfway between the base and the G1
  • Halfway between the G1 and the G2
  • Halfway between the G2 and the G3
  • Halfway between the G3 and the G4

To estimate the buck’s circumference measurements simply judge how much smaller or bigger the antler’s circumference is from your reference point of the buck’s eye. If the antler looks roughly ¾ of the eye circumference it is most likely in the 3-inch range. If it is roughly 1.5X the circumference you will ballpark the circumference measurements in the 5.5-6 inch range. The example buck can be judged at essentially the same mass for the first two measurements between the base and G1, and the G1 and G2. These measurements would be somewhere in the ballpark of 3.5-4 inches. The third and fourth circumference measurements are around ¾ the size of the eye so can be estimated to be around 3 inches. The sum of the example buck’s circumference measurements is 14 inches.

Adding the Measurements

After you estimate each of the antler measurements for one side of the buck’s antlers, you are ready to either score the other side or you can take a shortcut. If time allows (it often does not) and if the buck is generally symmetrical, you can simply multiply the sum of the antler measurement by two. For this buck, a very symmetrical buck, we can total the antler measurements to be roughly 51-52 inches. By multiplying 51-52 inches by two, taking the shortcut in estimating the score of the other antler, we can arrive that this buck’s antlers are around 102-104 inches.

We then add the 19-21 inch spread credit of the buck to come to a rough estimate that this buck’s score is 121- 124 inches. This put’s the buck into the 120-inch class, but more specifically the 120-125 range.

Is That Estimate Correct?

You do not get the luxury of confirming your estimations in the field while hunting. However, you can do two things to greatly improve your odds at estimating the buck’s score correctly. You can practice field scoring pictures or videos of known bucks, or you can get ahold of the BuckScore® program. The BuckScore® program allows you to score a buck’s antlers based on any picture. This picture can be a trail camera picture, a harvest picture, or even a freeze-frame of a video if you happen to film your hunts! We scored this buck using the BuckScore® program. The results are posted below. The example buck’s antlers grossed at 121.988 or simplified to 122 inches.

Are You Ready to Field Score a Buck?

Test your ability at field scoring whitetails by taking the BuckScore® field scoring quiz. You will watch a quick video encounter with a buck and be given 4 multiple choice options of scores. There are 10 bucks to score with a time limit of 10 minutes for the entire quiz. This allows you 1 minute to score each buck, about all the time you might receive in a real hunting scenario. Once you have completed the quiz, you will to receive the actual BuckScore® certified score of the bucks, your quiz results, and a 50% off code on your first month of your BuckScore® subscription!

 

 

Still Not Confident Field Scoring Deer? Go Mobile!

 

BuckScore® Mobile, now allows you to score deer with your phone! This now allows real encounter scoring. Within minutes of snapping the picture, you can have a score of the deer before he even offers you a shot opportunity!

Check out BuckScore® Mobile here!

Guidelines for the Perfect Trail Camera Setup

Trail Camera Setup for Scoring Deer with BuckScore®

By: Weston Schrank 

Is there such a thing as a perfect trail camera setup? Every property, every hunter, and every trail camera setup is obviously different, but is there a general guideline that hunters should follow? The simple answer is yes! A perfect trail camera setup would be one that not only gives you exactly what you want in terms of information, but also produces flawless photos and videos. While the perfect trail camera setup might sound too good to be true, or subject to some very opinionated comments, a setup does exist that optimizes the intel received. How? This perfect trail camera setup guideline allows any hunter, anywhere to produce the best trail camera data for identifying and observing bucks.

What is the most valuable information you can receive from a trail camera photo or video?

Is it the time, how many deer, the moon phase, or the weather? While most of those are extremely important, the most valuable thing a trail camera can do is identify an individual buck. A blurry or extremely distant photo of a buck is worthless. Without knowing which buck has been captured, it’s pointless to start correlating the other information (like date, time, weather, etc.). These trail camera tips and setup guidelines will not only allow you to capture more bucks on your trail cameras, but also capture better photos and videos in order to identify and even score individual bucks!

How to Setup a Trail Camera “Correctly”

Now most hunters know how to set up a trail camera. Trail cameras have been around so long that even the most traditional hunters know the ins-and-outs of a game camera. However, with just a tad bit more knowledge, that experience can be turned into expertise. Pay attention to the trail camera tips below, and follow each step of this guideline to setup your trail camera perfectly!

Trail Camera Locations

Don’t worry, I won’t start this trail camera tip off with the old real estate adage “location, location, location”. However, location is very important but it’s not exactly everything. Trail camera location is just the start. I believe that it usually points you in the right direction. Generally, you know the best spots to hang your camera. You may not know the exact tree, but I would presume you know the specific acre or so of ground you would put a camera. Often location is not the hard part, it’s actually the setup and hanging the trail camera that stumps most hunters. Even if you get in within the right acre, the setup direction, height, and distance can be way off from what it actually needs to be at.

For those wishing to dive into a bit more actual “tips” than explanation, my top trail camera locations would revolve around (depending on the time of year):

  • Runs
  • Funnels
  • Food Sources
  • Oak flats
  • Mock scrapes
  • Bait stations/Mineral sites for deer
  • Waterholes

Trail Camera Site Selection

We can narrow down the guideline of trail camera location further into trail camera site selection. Again the problem with the general term “location” is that within the one-acre area you have identified I might find three different sites I would put a camera. For example, the first site I could hang a camera on would be a run coming from a bedding area, the next would be the edge of a plot, and the third might be a giant community scrape just outside of the plot and the run. Generally, site selection for your camera needs to be decided by the highest probability of capturing bucks. In this example, the time of year would obviously decide where the camera would actually go. If it would happen to be October, I would lean strongly towards the mock scrape as there is a good chance any buck within that acre would scent check that scrape.

Trail Camera Distance from Target

When optimizing a trail camera for the best pictures and videos, you will want to pay special attention to the distance you are placing the camera from where you anticipate the deer being. Why is this important? Even the best trail camera photos, 14 MP or higher, have a point where the buck can become blurry. This fact, with the addition of some limited flash ranges, means that you could have several photos or videos that simply capture movement, yet fail to reveal enough detail to identify an individual buck. Following a rule of thumb, 10 yards or less is the ideal ballpark for a perfect trail camera video or picture. Most, if not all, trail cameras have a flash range containing more than 30 ft. They also have enough clarity to identify any buck within 10 yards.

Now you might be wondering, how on earth do I do that with something like an oak flat or food plot? An attraction like bait or a mock scrape can pull bucks into the correct range for a better picture. This is where clearly identifying the goals of the camera placement are important. A trail camera over a food plot on time-lapse will simply be for inventory or “plot watching”, not necessarily identifying individual bucks. If capturing individual buck movement patterns, behavior, and characteristics for identification is your goal then keep following along with these steps.

 For the purposes of this article and general trail camera tips, if you are having difficulty determining distance, go ahead and place a mock scrape. Obviously, this only pertains to hunting season, but mock scrapes have become my favorite tactic for trail cameras over the past couple of years. The two bucks in the video are two of the best reasons I can offer!

Hanging Your Trail Camera

For the best picture or video, you will want to set your trail camera up at the appropriate height. If there is a tree or fence post within the suggested 10 yards or closer to your target area then you are ready to hang your camera. If not, simply driving a T-post or trail camera stake into the ground will allow you to get your camera within the distance you anticipate the bucks to walk.

Putting a trail camera at the right height will eliminate many problems hunters come across at this point in the process. One of the main problems encountered is framing your photo or video. Obviously aiming the camera is the next step, but making sure the camera is somewhere around chest height, or 4-5 ft. is a good start. Also be sure you are not hanging the camera pointing east or west, where the sun could blind the camera.

*Note: if you are placing a trail camera on a run, be sure to aim the camera at a 45-degree angle from the run. This ensures you do not have deer looking directly into the camera and won’t cause you to miss the deer as you might by placing the camera perpendicular to the run.

Next, you will need to make sure your camera angle is correct. This is where the old stick trick comes in. Don’t be ashamed, it is the oldest trick in the book! Just be sure the stick is firmly in place and won’t move with even the worst weather. Step off the distance one more time to make sure you are around the 10-yard mark. Finally, make sure the trail camera is aimed right at your chest while you are standing in the exact place you anticipate deer to stand or walk through.

Trail Camera Settings

When it comes to the perfect trail camera setup, the trail camera’s settings can be the most difficult challenge you deal with. Deciding on the camera mode, burst number, video length, interval, or sensitivity can be overwhelming. Again, each location, site, scenario, and goal can greatly affect the trail camera settings. However, there are certain settings that allow a more optimal chance of capturing an individual buck and from there, identifying and/or scoring the buck.

The best trail camera settings will give you the best overall picture and detail in order to review characteristics, behavior, or key identification features of the buck. While some might think this would be a high-quality photo, I would argue that video is far more advantageous for not only a hunting perspective, but an inventory and scoring perspective as well.

Trail Camera Video…Not Pictures

Think about the potential of what video can reveal. In the example video, you can learn a lot about the behavior of the buck. In the video you can see that “Dub”, the buck with the split G2s, is far more curious and careful than “Leroy”, the chocolate horned buck in the video. You can also tell that “Dub” might have been shot before as he is injured and limping. This intel would go unnoticed with simple pictures. Another advantage, especially when it comes to identifying and scoring bucks, is multiple angles! “Dub” and “Leroy” both offer several angles as they work the scrape and turn their head. This makes it easy to achieve a good angle in order to score the bucks, and identify the key body and antler features like “Dub’s” split G2s.

Note* -Multiple angles also allow you to freeze-frame the video in order to score the buck using BuckScore® at the most accurate angles and reference points.

This trail camera setup should allow you to not only obtain more information on the bucks you are hunting but obtain better, higher quality information that can be used to hunt them. These images can also be used to score your deer! By uploading and running the freeze-frame photo through the BuckScore® program, you will be able to accurately estimate an individual buck’s score!

Why BuckScore®?

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. With BuckScore®, you have one app that organizes, documents, and scores all your big bucks.

BuckScore® Features:

  • Works on any desktop, laptop, tablet, and most smartphones
  • Score trail cam or harvest photos
  • Know every measurement from spread to tine length
  • Score calculated in minutes
  • Manage buck photos across multiple years
  • Edit buck photos in program