One of the most commonly asked questions of the B&C records department is how to field-judge and score western big game, especially elk. Beyond relying on the “big bulls look big” school of thought, there are concrete factors to consider for an accurate read on the bruiser in front of you.
A mature 6x6 bull is a benchmark trophy by most standards, so we'll start there. Counting points is the first and most obvious step. Start by identifying the fourth point, sometimes called the “sword” or “dagger” point, which is typically the longest, most dominant point on the rack. From there look back toward the main beam tip. One point past the fourth is a 5x5. Two points past the fourth is a 6X6, and so on.
An elk's score is determined by adding together all the point measurements to the nearest eighth of an inch, the lengths of both the main beams and the inside spread, plus four mass measurements per side.
Tine length accounts for 40 percent of a bull's final score. We can use the length from the base of the antler (burr) to the tip of a bull's nose as a yardstick. This measurement is normally 151⁄2 inches. Look for a brow tine (G1s) that extends past the nose and curls upward. Eighteen inches is outstanding. The second and third points (G2s and G3s) are often where most bulls come up short, especially in the G3s. Look for these to be at least 16-plus inches.
The G4s or dagger points are often where bulls make up for weaker lower points. Look for G4s to be at least double if not more than the burr to nose length. Don't let the G5 number throw you; it represents the fifth point on a 6x6. When counting points, the tip of the main beam is counted as a point, but it is not measured as a point. This length is accounted for when measuring the main beam. Eight to 10 inches are considered strong G5s.
The length of the main beams accounts for 25 percent of a bull's final score, but they are hard to judge in the field. Here are a few tips. Bulls with a narrow spread--body length or slightly wider--may appear to have long beams but seldom do. A bull with a wide rack sweeping out and in will have longer main beams. Also, if his beam tips reach his haunches with his head back in a bugle position, he's a potential trophy. Record-class main beams will run 46 to 55-plus inches.
Finally, there are eight mass or circumference measurements and, of course, the inside spread, which accounts for only 10 percent of the final score. Forty-five inches is a better-than-average spread.