Quick Tips For Field-Judging Bucks
With more hunters going on paid hunts (with minimum antler-size requirements) and with more states instituting rack restrictions on bucks, it’s handy to know how to quickly judge the size of a buck’s rack.
While the following tips won’t get you exact measurements, they will be a reasonable guideline for helping you decide whether or not to pull the trigger on your gun or bow release.
The most common minimum requirement outfitters use is 125 inches of antler. A typical 8-pointer with a spread just beyond his ears will measure roughly in the 125-inch range. If the tines strike you as being unusually long or short, it will affect that measurement accordingly. But if you’re hoping for a 125-inch buck, a “nice” 8-pointer with a spread beyond his ears often will meet the minimum.
If you need to get to 130-135 inches of antler, you should hold out for a 10-pointer. Look for four upright tines on one side and a spread beyond the ears. It is rare for 8-pointers to score above the mid-130s, so if you’re not used to seeing bigger bucks and you’re not supposed take a buck smaller than 130, the safe thing to do is wait for something with 10 or more points.
Bucks in the 140+ range are something really special, and it most often takes unusually long tines and/or a wide spread to get into the 140s. Bucks in this class and higher often have irregular points and maybe even a drop tine. A quick glance that tells you there are more points than you can count quickly on at least one side -- and general feeling of “Oh my God!” are good indicators of a buck in this class.
For hunters is states with mandatory point restrictions, the best thing to remember is to not assume there are brow tines. Too many things can happen to a buck’s antlers -- not to mention that some just don’t grow brow tines -- to risk making that assumption. To quickly know if a buck is legal, count the upright points on one side. Next, glance to see if the other side matches -- with 6- and 8-pointers, you can usually do that without actually counting. Finally, wait for the buck to turn his head in such a way that you can verify brow tines if you still need them.
Finally, in any of the above situations, once you’ve determined you are going to shoot, quit looking at the antlers. Focus on the buck’s vitals and make yourself gently pull the trigger.