Vantage Point: How Important is a Buck's Gross Score?

This massive Illinois buck, taken by Mel Johnson, scores 204 4/8 and has held the number one spot for typical bowkills for 46 years. Does it validate the scoring system?

I have lots of pet peeves when it comes to the outdoor television industry and one that drives me crazy is the use of the term "gross Booner."

For the uninformed, a gross Booner is a relatively new term loosely used to describe a big game animal with a Boone and Crockett score that exceeds the minimum before deductions. It's coined by those who like to fool themselves into thinking the animal is a Boone and Crockett specimen when it is not. The same philosophy applies to an animal that qualifies for the Pope and Young record book before deductions. I suppose that could be called a gross Poper.

Truth is, there really is no such thing as a gross score, at least not in a final sense of the word. The score in either the Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young system is not final until deductions for asymmetry are tabulated. The gross score is simply a preliminary subtotal.

To qualify as a "Booner" a typical whitetail buck must have antlers that score at least 170 after deductions, known as the "net" score. Anything less is not a Booner. Not a gross Booner, a semi-Booner or any other kind of a Booner.

If you know anything about measuring antlers you know that a buck with a gross score of 175, for example, could score as low as 140 or less after deductions. Such a buck is not in the same universe as a legitimate Boone and Crockett buck.

Now, I've heard all the arguments. Nets are for fish; a buck should get credit for every inch of antler it grows; deductions are for CPAs; and on and on. Outfitters are notorious for quoting gross scores because the higher number sounds better. Everyone loves the bigger numbers and there's nothing wrong with that as long as everyone understands that gross and net are two very different things.

Fact is, B&C and P&Y are two long established scoring systems. Both include categories for non-typical animals and you could make some arguments against the non-typical scoring rules. I never understood the deductions for asymmetry in non-typical bucks, but these systems have been in use so long it's not practical to make wholesale changes.

Using the term gross Booner is really a slap across the furry muzzle of all the bucks, bulls and boars that actually were Boone and Crockett specimens. I liken it to calling someone a Navy SEAL when they didn't quite make it through SEAL training. It disrespects those who did attain such high standing.

I understand the arguments against deductions. Why shouldn't a buck get credit for all the bone he grows? It all comes down to the symmetry that is "typical" of the species in question. Whitetails are supposed to have a main beam with upright tines. If those beams are long, heavy, widespread and equal in length, and the opposing tines are long and equal, the buck scores better than one with an abnormal antler configuration. That's logical for a "typical" buck, isn't it?

Think of it this way. Back in 1965, Illinois bowhunter Mel Johnson knelt down in a beanfield and arrowed a typical buck that scored 204 4/8. In the 46 deer hunting seasons since, no one has arrowed a buck with the same spectacular combination of length, spread, mass and symmetry as the Johnson buck. Millions of bowhunters have dreamt of taking a better buck. A couple bucks have come close. None have succeeded. Yet.

In my mind, that fact alone validates the scoring system.

What do you think?

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