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Has Net Scoring of Whitetail Bucks Lost its Place?

by Dan Schafer 22. February 2011 15:42
Dan Schafer

Every time I talk to another whitetail hunter or see hunters write about the score of their buck, it’s extremely rare that they reference the net score, only the gross score.  So, why do people reference the gross score rather than the net score?  After all, if they were to enter the animal into the record book, only the net score would be recorded.  Is it ego?  Personally, I believe giving the gross score pays a lot more respect to the animal and gives it credit for what it grew.  Basing the score off of a perfect rack just seems extremely absurd, from my eyes.  Granted, I do feel that there should be separate categories for typical antlers and non-typical antlers, but in each of those categories, the animal should be given credit for what it grew. Shouldn’t they?!

History of Scoring

First, before we get into Net Score vs. Gross Score, it’s important to learn a little bit of history behind the purpose of scoring animals.

By the turn of the 19th Century, the future of many of North America’s big game animals was looking grim.  In fact, many people believed that the final result of man’s settlement of the west would be the extinction of nearly all big game animals.  In 1922 William T. Hornaday opened the National Collection of Heads and Horns at the Bronx Zoo in New York City.  The collection was dedicated to “the vanishing big game animals of the world.” 

With the conservation movement of the 1920s and the presence of the National Collection, interest grew in creating a records book and measuring of big game animals.  In 1932, the Boone & Crockett club released its first big game records book titled, Records of North American Big Game.  In 1939, it released its second edition of the book.  In both of these publications the scoring system was very basic.  Measurements consisted of the length of skull, or the length of the longer antler or horn, plus circumference of the base.  In the case of Whitetail Deer, the longest beam would be measured and added to the circumference of the base.  The obvious problem with this is, a one antlered deer could potentially score higher than one with both antlers. 

With an obvious need for a better scoring system the Boone and Crocket club devised and released the current net scoring system in 1950 that is still used today.  The current system uses measurements of beam length, tine length, mass and inside spread.  A heavy emphasis is placed on symmetry and abnormalities are deducted from the final score.  For example, if a tine on one side were longer than the matching tine on the other side, the difference would be subtracted from the gross, or total, score of the antlers.  Also, if there were an abnormal point growing from the antlers, it would not be added in, but rather subtracted from the gross score. 

This system of net scoring is currently being used by a number of big game records keeping clubs, including the Pope and Young Club, as well as many state clubs.

Measuring the antler base with a 1/4" tape.

Real Life Situations

Every fall hunters across North America shoot some truly amazing whitetail bucks.  Some of them easily make the record books, but some amazingly fall short.  Lets examine a beautiful buck killed in 2009 by forum member Dan “Bloodcrick” Richardson, which at first glance, appears to be a shoe in for the record books.

Dan Richardson with his fantastic 2009 buck that only netted 118" P&Y!


The following is a breakdown of the measurements of Dan’s buck.  Included is the gross score, as well as the final net score.

Left              Right               Difference
MB 23           MB 21 1/8        1 7/8
G1 0             G1 3 4/8          3 4/8
G2 8 7/8       G2 12 1/8        3 2/8
G3 10           G3 7                3
G4 5 7/8       G4 2                3 7/8

H1 5             H1 5 1/8          1/8
H2 4 4/8       H2 5 2/8          6/8
H3 4 5/8       H3 4 1/8          4/8
H4 4 1/8       H4 3 1/8          1

Left 66 0/8
Right 63 3/8
Inside Spread 15 3/8
Typical Gross Score 144 6/8
Total side-to-side differences 17 7/8
Total abnormal 8 6/8

Final Net Score 118 1/8

Non-Typical Gross Score 153 4/8

Ok, lets be honest here.  Who in their right mind would pass up a buck of this caliber?  I know, for one, I would not.  With a final net score of 118 1/8”, it falls far short of the minimum 125” to make the Pope and Young Club record books.  Yet, even if this buck in question were to make the record book, rarely would his net score be referenced outside the pages of the book, only the gross score.  If someone were to ask, without seeing a picture, most hunters would try to paint a true picture of how the buck looks.  If it were my buck, I would describe it as a 153 4/8” 4x4 with an 8 6/8” sticker on his g2.  Stating the net score would do this wonderful animal a disservice and show a lack of respect and what it grew for antlers.

Under both the P&Y and B&C scoring systems, these kicker points would be deducted from the buck's score.

Is There a Better System?

I don’t know that there is a perfect system for measuring whitetail deer antlers, but I believe there is a much better one than the net scoring one that is widely used, the SCI (Safari Club International) scoring system.  The system is simple, measure the antlers like you would in the net scoring system, but do not deduct the side-to-side differences.  Yes, it’s that simple and it gives the animal full credit for what it grew.  No penalizing the animal for asymmetry. 

In the example of Dan’s buck above, it could be entered into the SCI record books in two ways.  Its typical score would be 144 6/8 and its non-typical score would be 153 4/8.  This system not only paints an accurate picture of the buck, but also respects what the animal grew. 

So, next time you ask someone what their buck scores, remember, they will most likely be referencing the SCI scoring system, even if they don’t realize it.  Or, if you ask about one of my bucks, I will point out that I am referencing the SCI system. 

Author’s Note

One thing I would like to point out is that in no way do I believe the Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young Clubs are bad organizations.  To the contrary, I firmly believe they are wonderful organizations and are champions of wildlife conservation and great advocates of hunters rights.  I’m just a firm believer that their scoring system is not only out of date, but also out of touch with modern hunters and trophy hunters.

The John Feazell Buck - Virginia Archer Slams New State Record

by Cody Altizer 19. July 2010 10:18
Cody Altizer

When John Feazell stood in the hunting department at Wal-Mart prior to the 2009 hunting season, he was faced with perhaps the biggest decision of his life.  Okay, not really.  But he was faced with the decision of whether or not to buy a new grunt call, not just any grunt call, the new Flextone Bone Collector.  “I have about 20 different grunt calls at home, so I don’t think I need another” said John, as he put the call back on the shelf and began to meander through the aisles.  As he was walking away, however, he recalls, “Something in my head just told me to go back and buy it, so I bought it.  I figured that call, capable of the snort-wheeze sound, would work on a mature dominant buck.”  Little did John know that his impulsive acquisition of a new grunt call would lead to a new state record in the state of Virginia.

John Feazell harvested this monster Virginia whitetail last fall.  With over 220 inches of bone, he is easily the largest whitetail ever taken by bow in Virginia.

    Saturday November 7th, 2009 was the second Saturday of the Virginia Muzzleloader season.  The evening prior, John headed afield with his Muzzleloader to a spot where he usually experienced good deer activity.  Luck was on his side that day, as he harvested a “solid 8 pointer.”  The following day he and his father decided to head to their hunting property in Botetourt County, Virginia.  Since he had just harvested a nice buck the day before, he lent his Muzzleloader to his father, who does not own one.  “I figured I would let my dad use my Muzzleloader since I just shot a good buck.  I told him that I had plenty of time left to get a good buck with a bow,” says Feazell.

    As much as John Feazell loves whitetail hunting, he says it’s not his favorite animal to hunt.  “Turkey hunting is my bread and butter, I live for Spring Gobbler Season,” says Feazell.  However, when bow season comes around, he takes the sport very seriously.  “I wouldn’t call myself a serious bowhunter, but when I bow hunt, I’m serious,” Feazell aptly describes.  “I’m extremely cautious when it comes to my scent, especially.  I like to wash my clothes in unscented detergent, dry them in earth scented dryer sheets, then they immediately go in my scent free tote. I leave little room for error when it comes to the whitetail’s nose,” he says.
    So with bow in hand, Feazell headed to one of his bow stands, since the rest of his hunting party were carrying muzzleloaders.  Perched just below the crest of a mountain, Feazell made mention of this being a good place to experience activity as two giant rock formations funnel deer to two different saddles in the ridgeline.

John Feazell with his new state record.

    After settling into his stand well before daylight, Feazell sees his first deer at 7:45 a.m.  “I see it’s a big bodied deer, but I can’t make out what it is.  It takes 5 steps and I see antlers. Oh man, golly what a deer!”  The buck, then in the open, broadside at 50 yards and Feazell remembers thinking, “There is no way I am taking the shot, I am not screwing up this deer.”

    But just as quickly as he came he was gone.  The monster buck had topped over the mountain and out sight.  Feazell recalls two sobering thoughts, “First of all, no one is going to believe when I tell them of the buck I just saw, and I just wish I had my muzzleloader.”  A little over an hour goes by, and Feazell jokingly remembers contemplating going back to camp and getting a Muzzleloader and “sitting on that mountain for a month, or however long it takes for me to get that buck.”  In the meantime a doe and a half racked 4 pointer make their way to Feazell’s location.  “That doe came by at 20 yards, and for a split second I thought about drilling her.  But I thought don’t be stupid, don’t shoot this doe,” he says.

A truly once-in-a-lifetime buck!  From drop tines, to mass, to bladed brow tines, this buck has it all.

    Feazell’s will power proved to be strong as he elected to pass on the doe.  With the doe and 4 pointer still in sight, he noticed the young buck staring off in one direction, “looking shaky.”  Feazell then turns and sees the big buck coming back from behind a Chestnut Oak tree.  “No way, there is no way it’s that buck.  You just don’t get second chances like this.  No way, I’m going to shoot this deer,” Feazell recalls.  As the big buck makes his way back towards the younger buck and doe, the doe beds down and Feazell remembers, “I just KNEW that as soon as that doe bedded down, the buck would do the same thing.  And, 5 seconds after the doe laid down, the buck plopped down 30 yards behind me.” 

    Sitting in his ladder stand, Feazell had a limited viewing window of this buck.  The bowhunter had to stand for nearly 45 minutes, peaking around the tree his ladder stand was hung on.  After time, the younger buck, which had been browsing on acorns, angles from Feazell’s left towards his stand.  This grabs the attention of the larger buck, and feeling threatened that this youngster is going to steal his doe, stares down the younger buck before they both eventually shift their attention to the doe.

    It was then that Feazell remembered about his grunt call.  “If it would ever work in a million years, it will work right now,” he says.  Grabbing his Flextone Bone Collector, Feazell calls, and on the second snort-wheeze the larger buck comes to full posture on the younger buck.  With ears back and hair bristled, the bruiser buck makes a false charge at the younger buck, and that’s all it took for the younger buck to “get out of dodge.”

The John Feazell buck officially scored 221 2/8" as a non-typical and was believed to be at least 5 1/2 years old.

    Making his way from the Chestnut Oak towards the doe the buck stops at 30 yards broadside.  “I’d rather all my shots be 20 yards or less,” Feazell says. “But I’m comfortable out to 30.”  With a window the size of a circular dining table to shoot through, Feazell had to bend his knees just a tad to fit the arrow through.  He draws releases and misses!  The arrow deflects off a small twig and harmlessly flies off.  With his entire focus and attention on the doe, the missed shot confuses, but doesn’t alarm the buck.  Unaware, of what just had happened the buck settled down, and the doe began to walk away.

    Feazell, remembering of another call in his arsenal of gear, grabs his Primos The Great Big Can call and turns it over.  The doe then comes back towards the tree stand within 25 yards in Feazell’s shooting lane, before angling back down the mountain.  In the meantime, the monster buck began rubbing, or as Feazell put it, “thrashing and tearing up and down” a young Chestnut Oak.  In the process the buck had lost sight of his doe.

What a gorgeous whitetail.  Fortunately, this buck was harvested by an ethical, hardworking sportsman in John Feazell.  Congratulations, John!

     Remembering his Flextone Bone Collector call again, Feazell snort-wheezes twice in succession.  Immediately the buck’s hairs bristle up and he goes into full posture walking stiff legged broadside.  “Two more steps, two more steps,” Feazell recalls will put his buck at 18 yards.  Feazell then draws his PSE Firestorm Lite and releases his Carbon Express arrow tipped with a Two-Blade Rage.  Thawck!  “You drilled him, you drilled him,” Feazell says.  Watching his buck tear down the mountainside some 100 yards, Feazell saw his buck begin to stagger then fall down. 
    An avid sportsman, Feazell said he simply couldn’t wait to claim his trophy.  “I know about the 30 minute rule on even lethal hits, but I couldn’t help it.  I let out a war holler and ran straight down to my buck, I saw him go down,” he says.  With a 200+ plus inch deer on the ground within sight, I think we can all forgive Feazell’s eagerness to recover the fallen giant.
    After having sat and listened to John Feazell tell the story of his buck, I am convinced that it could not have happened to a better person.  “I was just meant to kill that deer, it was 99% luck.  All the cards had to fall together and they did, the Good Lord just wanted me to kill that deer,” he concluded.    
    The John Feazell Buck ended up officially scoring 221 2/8 Pope & Young inches as a non-typical, making him the biggest buck ever taken by bow in Virginia.  With 38 5/8 inches in non-typical points, the buck still grossed 189 2/8 inches as a typical.

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