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

by Curt Wells   |  March 26th, 2012 13

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?

  • Thomas Ljungbreg

    I do think that a scoring system is crap. For me it is the memory of the hunt itself that counts. To have the need to boost myself with goldmedals or high scores of an animal i shot is not relevant, such things make a person smaller in my opinion. I like to look at my tropy, have cup of tea and remember that hunt.

    • Doug_Steele

      I too agree with Thomas! Scoring systems are crap, particularly when you are married to one rather arbitrary system! The very characteristics that make a buck unique (drop tines, sticker points, split brow tines, etc.) are just the things that lower the "official net score" of a trophy in their typical scoring system. If the buck has enough "junk" then he can be classed as a non-typical, however, the highest scoring deer are often the ugliest, weirdest looking specimens. If you are into scoring bucks then the fairest scoring system is the Buckmasters one that has a class for typical racks with a little irrugular growth. Big bucks in our area almost always have "extra bone"! Unlike Thomas, I would sit and reflect on the hunt with a good deer steak and a cup of coffee, or possibly some bourbon!

      • Kevin Youg

        Thank you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bob Begansky

    I agree with Thomas Ljunbreg.

    A "thank you lord", something to drink, a good steak with friends and relatives should be enough. I don't feel the need to celebrate with the whole world, expect a pat on the back or a trophy to feel good about things. If for some reason I don't feel good I figure out why and find a way to fix it then move on. No crap!

  • Kevin

    First, let’s clear the air. I only have access to 80 acres of private land and hunt mainly public land. I have only shot one buck in the last seven years and is only my second period. I do not have a man cave trophy room. But I like the idea of having a means to evaluate a trophy. Do I care about the gross score? Not as much as the final tally, but with my hunting buddies we still discuss the gross score. On one of the hunting shows I did hear the term “gross Booner”, but did not understand what it meant until I read this article. I completely agree with the author, the gross score is only a subtotal and while I may fantasize about my gross score, it is what it is.

  • Jim

    Something Curt did not bring up specifically, I would presume that most "net" Booner bucks had significant deductions and still made the 170" minimum score. If all we had were bucks that were "cookie cutter" symetrical bucks we might have more to gripe about.

  • Zach

    A deer should get credit for every inch of antler on its head plain and simple. Score should not be based on a perfect symmetrical rack which is virtually impossible. Unless there is something I don't understand or that I am aware of for the reasoning to this, I am still going to stick to my opinion and say nets are for fishing.

  • Harmon

    I do understand both sides to this argument. I also understand that the "Pope and Young" and "Boone and Crockett" scores are long standing record systems that hunters use as standards for their trophies. We have to have standards in place somewhere or everyone would have a "Gross Booner 30+ pointer" because of all the stickers you can "hang a ring on"… ridiculousness… Every industry has to have standards. The outdoor industry is no different and rules shouldn't be bent if you're going to claim a P&Y or B&C record.

    However, since this is an opinion driven forum, I'll share my two cents. It's my opinion that there should not be any deductions taken from antlers. The buck grew the bone..its there on his head.. count it. To me its like saying, "I'm 6ft tall but my left leg is a 1/2" short than my right. My left arm is a 1/4" shorter than my right. My left ear and eye are both an 1/8" lower than my right. But we are going to set a standard of a perfectly symmetrical 6ft male, which means that I'm "technically", according to a "symmetrical standard", only a 5'11" male." That doesn't seem very practical. From grade school on up, people want to claim every 1/4" of heighth they have, because it's important and they dont want to feel "cheated." I mean as we all know, perfect symmetry in nature rarely exists. I know it does, but I'm talking PERFECT symmetry.

    To say, "The left G2 is 9" long but the right G2 is 8" long so we will deduct an inch from the final score", is, in my opinion, cheating the deer and the hunter who worked so hard to kill a trophy. The antler is there. It took years to grow. Don't deduct inches merely due to asymmetry. If we did this, we'd all be shorter than say we are. Keep standards, but give credit where it is due. A big buck is a big buck either way and whether its gross or net, you're still measuring in inches and 2" is always longer than 1".

    I do agree with above posts about the "trophy being in the experience" but people will usually measure antlers and that is really a different subject matter all together. I also agree that people should not claim to have a B&C or P&Y buck if they do not meet the existing standards. I still uphold P&Y and B&C record book standards when measuring antlers as they are the industry standards to go by, however, I do wish the "gross" measurements counted for final score… not for personal gain by any means, but for the simple fact that If the antler is there, it should be counted.

    • Paul

      I have to admit Ive shot what I consider to be NICE bucks. (120"). Now some might say too small, but good enough for me. They tasted just as good as any doe. Would I shoot a 160" buck, HELL YA, but I think it would be a lot more exciting to watch my 14 or 16 yr old DAUGHTERS shoot one. Its a personal choice.

  • Brad

    Gross score is how i roll, and will always feel that way. I think its such a shame to deduct any length. I hate the scoring system. I have a 180 5/8 typical and had only an inch of deductions. That buck will never be as big as my buddies 180 that had fifteen inches in deductions. Hey, its just common sense.

  • John ODonnell

    Killing a big deer is special. That being said I truely beleive any deer killed with archery equipment is special. Your first deer or the first deer of a friend or child is special. I sadly think that the emphasis placed on SCORE and the competition between hunters and friends erodes the essence of our bliss. To me its the whole experience, the preparation, the trip, the arrival, the mess hall, the never ending wise cracks , the friendship that truley desrves a score and that would be priceless. Most of these guys on TV and their advertisment a minute productions have lost their way and turn our thing into a business. Just so you know, the hardest kill in the woods is a wary old doe with her yearlings in a EAB zone during the rut. How do you score that?

  • Chris

    To those above who say "Forget measurement, it is in the memory", all I have to say is you haven't shot a big enough, or any deer yet. Humans measure everything, if for no other reason than just to know a fact, and beyond that, there is no other animal on the earth as obsessed with competition as humans. The fact any of us posted comments proves a point, as we all are worried about being heard.

    I have only one deer on the wall, he measures 139 7/8 "green" "gross" (for those who are not versed, "green" means before 90 day drying time, this point was not even brought up in the story). Do I worry about net? No. Do I compare him against deer shot by my friends? No. Most have killed bigger deer than this. But, to me it tells a story beyond just the moment of the kill, and relays the totality of the success of that hunt.

    And to correct what was said above about an old Doe, they are not the hardest animal to kill, otherwise there would be Doe mounts all over the place. Truth is an old Buck past 6.5 years is the single hardest animal to kill that most of us will hunt. Living that long is hard enough, but those of us who hunt know that the one's that are around are one step ahead of us almost all the time.

    Grow up, get over it, and move on. Hunt. Enjoy it.

    • 189 NET

      It’s 60 days. Not 90.

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