Pope and Young, Boone & Crockett, Longhunters Society and Safari Club International all use the same system for scoring. It was invented by the Boone & Crockett Club as a means for determining antler quality for management purposes, but has grown to include record books and awards banquets. In theory, the scoring system is supposed to glorify the animal, not the hunter. And when used in that manner it is a great tool.
What I'm offering is information to rough-score a rack. I don't pretend to know all the criteria used in making difficult judgment calls, nor do I expect that the scores you get from following my advice will be always be identical to those reached by an official scorer. But, you'll at least be in the neighborhood - close enough for most purposes.
A rack must air-dry for 60 days before it can be officially scored, but rough-scoring for our purposes can take place at any time. If a rack is scored before drying the score is called a green score. The minimum score for entry into the Pope & Young record book for a typical is 125 points. For a non-typical it is 150 points. Here's how the scoring system works.
The rack receives four circumference measurements per side. They are taken at specific points along the beam.
In simplest terms, measurements are taken of the typical frame of the antlers first. These include the length of tines, length of main beams, circumferences along the main beam and the greatest inside spread. They're all added together. If the buck has abnormal points, their lengths can either by subtracted to reach the gross typical score, or they can be added to reach the gross non-typical score. From this subtotal the side-to-side discrepancies (called deductions) from all the measurements taken of the typical portion of the rack are subtracted to reach the net typical or net non-typical scores. That in a nutshell is the scoring system.
Score sheets made available by the records keeping clubs (Pope & Young's sheets are included as illustrations with this feature) make the task of following the step-by-step procedure of antler scoring much easier. In fact, the score sheets (front and back) offer enough detailed instructions that most anyone can come up with a rough score on their own. (You can pull up a B & C score sheet on the Internet.) Here are a few more tips that will make the system a little more logical.
Typical antlers: There are two categories within the scoring system for whitetail deer: typical and non-typical. Typical scoring gives high priority to symmetry. On a typical buck, both side-to-side discrepancies and abnormal points count against the final score.
Non-typical antlers: If a buck has at least one abnormal point Pope & Young permits it to be scored as either a typical or non-typical at the discretion of the hunter. An abnormal point is any point that doesn't originate off the top of the main beam or any point off the top of the main beam that appears to be out of place, not matching the normal spacing of the tines on the other antler. For example, if a short sticker point comes off the top of beam between two long tines it will nearly always be judged as an abnormal point for scoring purposes. When this sticker point is long, whether or not it is considered a typical point comes down to its spacing along the beam and becomes a judgment call best left to an experienced, trained official scorer.
Abnormal points are those which don't come off the top of the main beam or are out of order in the antler symmetry. Abnormal points count against typical score but they count toward non-typical score.
A buck's non-typical score is built on its typical frame. After determining which points on the frame are typical (more judgment calls), a net typical score is determined without consideration for the abnormal points. This is done just as you would for a true typical rack. Again, side-to-side differences are taken into account. On top of this score all the inches of abnormal points are added to come up with the net non-typical score.
There a many judgment calls in antler scoring, especially with non-typical racks. Not only can it be tough to tell which points constitute the typical frame and which ones are abnormal, but you can also run into trouble when the end of the main beam curls down. Is it scored as a drop tine or is it the beam? The decision can make a big difference in the final score. Usually, the flow of blood-lines which formed under the rack while it grew in velvet and are now visible on the outside of the beams and points will indicate the true beam and typical points, but it can get confusing at times. Just take your best crack. You can always have the rack officially scored if you want to know for sure.
Official scorers use a 1/4 inch wide steel tape measure to make all measurements. While this may be the most consistent way to get exact reading, you can get by quite nicely using only a cloth tape measure similar to those used by a seamstress.
Measuring tines: The first step in measuring a tine is to determine where it begins. You'll need a pencil to mark this location. On points that come off the main beam you first have to make a mark across the base of the tine that approximates the top of the beam. This is generally done by using a straight-edge to span from the low points along the top of the beam on either side of the point. This is done on the outside of the rack. Make a mark on the tine and go to the next one. Measure from here to the tip of the tine, following the centerline of the tine along the outside of the rack.
The main beam is measured along its centerline from the base all the way to the tip. Measure the length along the outside of the rack.
When measuring abnormal points, which come off other points, you follow a very similar procedure. First determine where the edge of the primary point would be if the point were not there. Make a mark here and measure from this point along the centerline of the abnormal point out to its end.
Measuring the beams: There is always some question of where to measure from along the antler base when measuring the beams. The beam's centerline on the outside of the base is the place to start and you follow the center-line as best you can all the way out to the tip.
Measuring circumferences: Regardless of the number of points the buck has, you get four circumference measurements on each beam. Circumference is often referred to as mass because it indicates the bulkiness of the rack. All circumferences are taken at the smallest point between two tines or at designated locations along the main beam if the buck has 8 or fewer typical points.
The first circumference is taken at the smallest point between the base and the brow tine. The second is taken at the smallest point between the brow tine (called the G1) and first primary typical point (called the G2). If the beam has only two points (three total) the next measurement is taken 1/3 of the way from the last point to the end of the main beam and the fourth is taken 2/3 of the way out. If the beam only has three points (four points total) the fourth circumference is taken half way between the last point and the end of the main beam.
Measuring inside spread: Inside spread is the greatest distance between the beams when measured parallel to the bases. In other words, you can't angle the tape in hopes of making the rack wider!
GROSS VERSUS NET
Mark the top of the main beam for the purposes of measuring tine length. Lay a straight line along the beam that connects the top of the beam on either side of the point.
Some official scorers and records administrators get a little miffed when we refer to antlers in terms of their gross scores and not their net scores. But, for all practical purposes, the gross score best symbolizes what the buck actually grew. In fact, the non-typical gross (which counts everything without deductions of any kind) is probably used most often when hunters refer to a gross score. It's the highest possible score for any set of antlers and we naturally like the bigger number best.
Is gross better than net? For giving a rough indication of a buck's overall frame, it probably is. But, if you try to pass gross score off as net just to impress your buddies, as some ego-driven hunters are apt to do, its use does a disservice to the sport. Remember, rough scores and gross scores are only reference points, they do not represent the rack's true score. Only net score can do that.
A buck's score isn't intended to be the yardstick for measuring the success of a hunt. The thrill of the chase and the enjoyment of being outdoors should be the most lasting impressions of the deer and the ones that truly define success. But antler scoring has an important place in deer hunting. It's nice to able to talk about a buck in terms that others can visualize.