Tens of thousands of men and women will hit the woods this fall with hopes of killing a big buck. They have waited all summer for the time of year called deer season. Countless hours of scouting and working to have the best food plots possible have hopefully paid off. Stands are in place, and now it is just a matter of time before the opportunity to shoot presents itself.
If you have set goals for yourself not to shoot a buck smaller than a certain size, it can be difficult to determine the deer’s size, or even refrain from shooting a smaller buck than you would like.
Every year hunters go to the woods with hopes of bringing home a deer that will make others jealous. In order to be successful, these hunters put in hard work and understand the animal they hunt. What happens to many hunters is that they end up shooting a deer that suffers from the terrible disease called “ground shrinkage”. Hunters who are real trophy hunters would rather not fill their tag, than to shoot a deer below what they consider to be a trophy, whether that is a book deer or what they have set as a personal trophy.
What often happens is that hunters shoot before taking the time to judge the animal before them. Still others do not understand how to properly field judge an animal before letting an arrow or bullet fly.
What many hunters consider when attempting to qualify or disqualify a buck as a shooter is a combination of mass, tine length, long main beams and a wide spread.
One of the best ways to learn to judge antler mass is to study mounted heads, photos and putting in time in the field watching deer. A good comparison is the antlers to the deer’s ears. If the antlers look small to the ears there will not be much mass. If the antlers blend in well with the ears there is average mass. But when the antlers are close to the same size as the ears there will be exceptional mass.
An adult whitetails ear is about six inches in length. The ear can help a hunter identify the tine length. Always look at the brow tines of any buck when considering him as a trophy or not. These two tines can make the difference between a good deer and a trophy deer.
One thing I have noticed over the years is that most big bucks have main beam measurements in excess of 23 inches and often 25 inches. A good rule of thumb judging main beam length is that if the tips of the antlers extend to the buck’s nose the main beam measurement will be around 25 inches.
Judging the spread on a deer’s rack is one of the easiest to guess. On an average deer the tip-to-tip distance between a whitetail buck’s ears is approximately 16 inches. Use this as a guide when judging width.
Do not rely on only a rear view of the rack when judging its size. It is all but impossible to have an accurate estimate of the racks size from this view. Looking at the rack from the rear will leave you thinking it is actually wider than it is. It is also very difficult how heavy the main beams are, or how many tines there are.
The best thing you can do before shooting at any buck is have the opportunity to take a look at both sides of the rack, especially if you are looking for a rack that is similar in on both sides.
Looking at a deer from the front will help you determine how tall the tines are and if the sides are symmetrical to each other. If one side has taller tines than the other it will likely not score well because of the deductions it will experience. Looking from the rear or side of the deer you would not notice these differences.
Some of the best advice I can give is not to shoot too quickly at a running buck. The first thing many hunters do is prepare to shoot. I do not know a hunter who wants to see a trophy deer slip through his fingers without getting a shot off, especially at a deer that is running. It is very hard to gather enough evidence to have a good idea how large the rack is. If you are trophy hunting it is best to letting a running deer keep running. Chances are you will be disappointed when you walk up on a deer and see it is not as big as you thought it was before you shot.
Many hunters say they are going to hold out on a trophy deer before they shoot, or they will not shoot anything at all. I hear hunters say that all the time and those are the same hunters who kill smaller bucks than they would like. Why does this happen? Because they are not familiarized themselves with the techniques to properly field-judge a deer.