Antler Scoring 101
Most ethical deer hunters will tell you that, first and foremost, the pursuit of whitetails is about the experience of being in the woods, the challenge, the camaraderie, and the harvest of delicious table fare for friends and family. That said, what hunter doesn’t get excited over the prospect of a nice “trophy” buck, to hang on the wall? We’ll probably never know when the first set of buck antlers was preserved and displayed, but given the ancient roots of hunting in human culture, that wall was probably a cave (and not a "man cave," the regular kind).
Today, that tradition continues on, and this time of year is one that many folks who hunt deer in South Carolina look forward to, when the SCDNR holds official antler scoring events around the state to determine which big bucks might qualify for the state record book. Records of South Carolina whitetails kept by the SCDNR date back to 1908, but it wasn’t until 1974 that the modern-day White-tailed Deer Antler Records program was initiated, and since that time, 6,783 sets of antlers (6,517 typical and 266 non-typical) have been officially entered into the list, providing a treasure trove of data for hunters and wildlife biologists alike. In 1998, the first comprehensive list of records was printed, and today updated record lists are published on the SCDNR’s website and free for download.
The record-keeping effort plays an important role in providing SCDNR biologists and managers with useful data about the buck harvest. The objectives of the state records list are to recognize outstanding animals and to identify areas that produce quality deer. This information allows biologists to take a closer look at habitat and deer herd conditions in order to make future management recommendations.
Beginning with a March 2 scoring event in Seneca and ending at the Palmetto Sportsmen’s Classic in Columbia March 24-26 (as well as by appointment during March at SCDNR Offices in Camden, Clemson, Columbia, Florence and Union), hunters can have the antlers from their South Carolina-taken bucks officially measured by trained SCDNR biologists.
How does it work?
The SCDNR’s antler scoring system is the same as that utilized by both the Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young clubs, which are recognized as the national organizations that record exceptional North American big game taken with firearms and archery equipment, respectfully. The scoring system is based primarily on antler size and symmetry and includes measurements of the main beams, greatest inside spread of the beams, circumference measurements at certain designated locations, and the number and length of the points. To be counted as a point, a projection must be at least one inch long and it must be longer than it is wide at its base.
Deductions are made for points that arise abnormally from the main beams or from other points and for symmetrical differences between corresponding measurements on the right and left antlers. For non-typical antlers, abnormal points are added to the score rather than being deducted as in the typical category. A set of antlers is classified as typical or non-typical based on its general conformation, the number of abnormal points, and a determination as to whether it will rank higher in the typical or non-typical category. Current minimum scores for the South Carolina Antler Records List are 125 typical points and 145 non-typical points. All antlers must undergo a minimum 60-day drying period before they can be officially measured and a fair-chase statement must be signed for all hunter killed deer. If a set of antlers meets the minimum score the record is added to the list and a certificate is issued recognizing the outstanding white-tailed deer taken in South Carolina.
Got a nice one you'd like to know the official score on? There are lots of opportunities coming up for you to see if your favorite trophy is literally "one for the books."