What’ll he score?

Dan Braman

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  • Prostaff Member Dan Braman

We had walked a half-mile in order to have the wind right for our final stalk. With our pants dripping wet from the morning dew we had finally made it to within 200 yards of the buck. My client wanted to be no further then one hundred yards so from here we will crawl. Now we are as wet as if we jumped in a pool, and half frozen. Straining to see over the tall grass we looked through our binoculars and there he was. The buck had no clue we were there and was feeding broad side to us at around 80 yards.

Then came the words that I have learned to not like so much; “What’ll he score.” I can see this is a big deer; his tines are easily 10 inches long and very symmetrical. He has great mass and good main beam length as well. He is for sure a 6 X 6 and he may have some smaller stuff growing around his bases. Then I say,” He will be around 168 to 170BC. Then I hear,” Oh he looked bigger then that, lets pass on him, I want at least a 180.”

Thanks to high fence breeding programs and magazines that show pictures of bucks that look like mini-elk at two years old it has become difficult to make people happy. I am not by any means saying there is anything wrong with breeding programs. Likewise, even though I would never hunt inside a high fence I do not knock anyone for exercising his or her right to do so. However, people should be more educated on free range hunting before going on their hunt. There is nothing wrong with having that magical 180 number in your head but at the same time don't use that number as a basis for your decision. The deer I described above was a real trophy. 99% of all deer hunters would have taken him and been ecstatic if they would have taken the time to really look at what he was. Instead, most people have read an article about antler scores, arrived at a number, and refuse to shoot anything less.

In a free-range situation I contend that any whitetail buck that has grown to 150 inches is a big deer. If they measure 160 to 170 they are giants. Anything over that requires a three-day party to celebrate the death of a legend. If the Boone and Crockett measuring system had any idea people would be raising deer to grow unrealistic antlers they would have raised the bar higher then the 170-inch bookmark.

I think people should spend some time looking at deer rather then reading their scores. When I have a client that I can tell is an uneducated score addict I always play a little game with them. I have been fortunate enough over the years to photograph some truly impressive bucks. I made an album with 25 photos of bucks ranging from 140 to 160BC. I ask my client to take a piece of paper and write the numbers 1 through 25 on them. Then, look at each picture and simply right yes, if they would like to have that buck or no if they wouldn't. Most of the time every buck gets a yes. What always puzzles me is that after this I can go out in the field with the same client and he will turn down a 160 while waiting on a 180. I’ve also had clients tell me adamantly that they will never even consider a buck under 160 and then insist on taking a buck that measures in the high 140's. This is an obvious sign of not knowing what scores are.

The biggest two whitetail I have ever guided hunters on were 202 and 187BC. Personally, if both of the deer were standing together I would take the 187 every time as his characteristics appeal to me more then the other buck.

In closing, I don't think there will ever be a fix to this problem. However, I do know that is a complete, joy to take a client hunting that isn't hung up on score. When I ask a client what they are looking for it is nice to hear,” I like them big, I will know him when I see him.”

It seems that many hunts are now a competition. In most cases the competition is a silent one because the only other competitor is a picture in a magazine with a number printed under it. I make a big portion of my living finding big deer and elk. The bigger the better is how I see it. But, we should all try to enjoy our time outdoors. Let's spend a little more time understanding how fortunate we are to be there rather then how many inches over 170 our buck will measure.

Posted by Dan Braman under Deer Hunting on May 28, 10 10:30 AM | Permalink

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