Archive for the ‘Deer Antlers’ Tag

JUDGING DEER ON THE HOOF   Leave a comment

IL Whitetail 8-PT

Many of us misjudge that buck coming out of the early morning mists. The difference in the perceived size of an animal on the hoof, and the actual size of his antlers sometimes becomes what is “ground shrinkage.”  Each year some “monster” bucks fall in Illinois and other Midwestern states.

But sometimes what looked like a “monster” turns out to be somewhat less.

How can one judge the actual size of the animal’s antlers before deciding whether or not to shoot or wait for something larger? Experience is probably the best bet.

Experience comes from looking at lots of deer. Veteran hunters are constantly looking at deer antlers.  They view them in a friend’s home; they view them in the wild as well as in captivity.  They view them online at various websites.  They attend sports shows where displays of major trophy animals give one the chance to see the “big uns.”  They study the record books and learn the scoring systems.

No single factor makes a great buck.  It is a combination of attributes.  Here are some of the main areas in which deer score well.  A famous outdoor writer is attributed to have said; when you see a great deer you know it.

You know it because he is awesome just in his appearance. Ear spread is the best way to estimate the inside spread of a dear’s antlers.  The distance tip to tip of expended ears is about 17-inches.  This is for a mature buck looking straight at you.

Looking from the side it is a bit more difficult to estimate size. The closer the main beams come to vertical line through the end of the nose, the more the chance he is a big one.  He needs to have great length to the main beams to reach that far forward.

One quick way to estimate the number of tynes on a buck’s rack is to count the number of fighting tynes. These are the tynes other than the end of the main beam and the eye guards.  Thus a buck with two fighting tynes is an 8-point buck.  That is, he has a main beam point, an eye guard and two tynes in between.  This is on one side and it is quick judgment to see if the other side is the same.  End result, and 8-pointer.

If the deer has exceptionally long tynes, or heavy mass to his rack, he is keeper.

When a deer antler is scored for the record books, they add the length of each main beam, the inside spread, length of all normal points and the circumference of various locations on the points. Thus you can see the overall mass of the antlers is just as important as the length of the tynes.

The more someone looks at deer in the wild, the better he is at field judging a good trophy. Now is the time to begin scouting deer for the upcoming season if it has not already begun in your area.

The deer are still relatively calm and allow you to look them over carefully. Later, after the velvet is gone from their antlers and the woods are full of hunters, they are not as likely to stand still while you check them out.  Public land is a good place to check them out.  Places like forest preserves and parks are good for this type of scouting.

Observance of deer in the field in the early fall can pay big dividends this fall. Avoid the disappointment of “ground shrinkage” by doing your homework.


Ever since man first began his love affair with those bony protrusions on the top of male deer, he has been collecting them. First he hunted them and used the antlers for tools and weapons as well as trophies. Today, he also collects racks after the deer discard them.

Sheds, as they are called are dropped by deer following the end of the mating season. Most are allowed to decay anonymously in the woods. But, a growing number of hunters have found that collecting deer sheds is a fun way to extend the deer hunting season. It also is a great way to tell what deer made it through the hunting season and will be available on the land next year. It reflects the health of the deer herd in general.

Shed antler gathering is like being on a treasure hunt. You never know what you will find.

There are some tips that will aid in finding the sheds of trophy bucks. The big guys are usually the first to drop their antlers. Beginning in late December or early January, the bucks are in a worn down physical condition. They have been through the rut that takes a tremendous toll.

During the rut, they are breeding and fighting to defend territory. There is little time to eat. As a result their body condition suffers greatly. Their lack of good nutrition contributes to the dropping of the antlers.

By following deer trails one can pattern the activity of the herd. Big bucks will often remain just off of these trails but still in contact with them. Since bucks will have similar patterns of antler points from one year to the next, it is possible to pattern individual bucks from one year to the next.

After the buck gets to be eight or 10 years of age, his antler size begins to decline but the configuration remains much the same. In the wild, deer do not often get to be that age. But, if one finds one, he may be a wonderful trophy.

Key to finding sheds to know deer habitats that are in use during this period. One can drive the roads and observe deer in fields and woods. A good pair of binoculars will allow one to observe the animals without spooking them.

It helps to keep a record of deer sightings in a notebook or on a map of the area. Do not rely upon your memory. Of particular interest are bedding areas. Since the animals spend most of the day in them, the bedding areas are good locations to find sheds. Easy travel areas between feeding and bedding areas are also important. These are usually changes in vegetation or cover which make it easier for the deer to travel through them.

Once the game plan has been worked out by watching deer behavior during this period, it is time to take to the field. In the field, look for signs of bucks in the area. These can be old scrapes or rubs. Often the best location for antler finds is in an area where rubs are found.

Walk slowly and scan every inch of the ground. Often only a point or two of the rack will be visible in the first sighting. It is exciting to see a point protruding out of the grass or snow. It becomes like Christmas to pull it out of its hidden location and find much more than you expected.

Who knows, perhaps you will find the rack of a monster buck that you did not even know existed. And if you can find both sides, and they will be near one another, you will have the trophy of a lifetime.

Shed hunting helps one to pattern deer activity for next year’s hunting season. One can see the growth of a particular buck and know that he will be there for you to pursue during hunting season. Finding the same buck’s rack year after year whets the desire to finding him during the season next year.

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