Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Field Judging Elk and Scoring Elk Antlers

Posted by Jay Scott

To view the entire playlist of "How to Score an Elk Antler" Click Here

We are going to be doing a series of "How to Field Judge Elk" and "How to Score Elk".  At Colburn and Scott Outfitters and JayScottOutdoors we are constantly trying to improve our ability to field judge elk on the hoof and it seems as if we are always learning something new when it comes to Field Judging and Scoring Elk antlers.  If you have any questions in regards to scoring or field judging please email them to me or if have pictures of a bull that you want us to estimate the score send them at or

The first bull that we are going to examine is a bull that was harvested by Dan in the 2011 Archery Elk Season in Arizona Unit 10.  Unit 10 is one of Arizona's premium elk units and one of our favorites.  He was guided by my partners, Darr Colburn and Janis Putelis, of Colburn and Scott Outfitters.  Check out the videos below to see Dan's Bull prior to harvest and then the second video is the actual hunt video

I have written several articles on "How to Field Judge and Score Elk" in Western Hunter Magazine and Elk Hunter Magazine.  Click Here to see the articles, WH 1 and EHM 2.  In those articles, I discuss two ways to field judge an elk.  The first is to Estimate Actual Measurements (EAM) and the second, is to Estimate the Shortest Points (ESP).  If you are not familiar with these methods please review these magazines articles by clicking on the above listed links.  When I am trying to make a quick decision and evaluation I use the ESP method and when I have time to really pick the antlers apart I use EAM method.  When I am field judging using ESP I do the math in my head when using the EAM method I write on my hand or on anything I can find.  The ESP is usually closer to net score and the EAM is typically closer to the gross score.
The quadrant picture above is from an article on "Field Judging Elk" that I did for Elk Hunter Magazine.  The pictures are of Dan's bull prior to harvest.  Lets compare the Estimated Actual Measurements (EAM) to the actual measurements from the score sheet below which was taken after the bull was harvested.

There are four components to scoring a bull elk. These components are listed in the order of importance in relation to total score. The averages listed are generalizations of percentage for 350 type bulls.  Length of Points 45%, Length of Main Beam 28%, Mass 16% and Inside Spread 11% (see chart below).

Lets take a look at the numbers of Dan's bull.  Points=167 4/8, L-84 3/8 and R-83 1/8 (44% of total score), Main Beam Length=111 5/8, L-57 1/8 and R-54 4/8 (30% of total score), Mass=57 1/8, L-28 4/8 and R-28 5/8 (15% of total score), Inside Spread= 37 2/8 (9% of total score).  In my estimates from the quadrant above in the Estimating Actual Measurements category, I guessed 171inches(compared to actual 170 inches) for the left side and 163 inches (compared to the actual 166 2/8inches) for the right side.  I guessed the spread well at 37 inches.  One thing I have picked up over the years of hunting in Unit 10 for elk is that the bulls don't seem to carry the mass like they do in some of the other units.  Dan's bull gross scores 373 4/8 but only has 28 4/8 and 28 5/8 of mass per side.  So when hunting in Unit 10 keep in mind 28-29 is a much better number to use for estimating mass than 30 per side.  Colburn and Scott Outfitters had a hunter that killed a 400" bull in 2009 in Unit 10 and he didn't even make the 30 inch per side for mass.

Another thing to look at when you watch the videos of Dan's bull is that the left main beam is definitely longer when you compare the distance along the beam from the fifth point to the tip of the main beam.  If you look closely you will see the left beam has a slight wave in it and that is a good indicator of extra length.

 Actual Measurements: Left side-18 4/8, 18 7/8, 14 3/8, 19 6/8, 12 7/8, 57 1/8MB, Mass 8 4/8, 7 1/8, 6 7/8, 6 0/8=170 inches total for left side and the Right side-17 6/8, 16 7/8, 14 7/8, 19 7/8, 13 6/8, 54 4/8MB, Mass 8 6/8, 7 4/8, 6 4/8, 5 7/8=166 2/8 inches total for right side.  170+166 2/8+ 37 2/8 Inside Spread = 373 4/8 gross

Colburn and Scott Outfitters Guide Darr Colburn and Hunter Dan with his Pope and Young record book Arizona bull

The Left Main Beam definitely looks longer in this picture.

Remember in order to have a bull make the 350 inch mark a good rule of thumb is 28-29 inches of mass per side, 50+ inch main beams but hardly ever over 60, Point length needs to be pushing 75-80+ inches per side, the inside spread is basically immaterial but should be somewhere in the 34-40+ range

Click on the following links to see other Scoring and Field Judging Elk Posts and Videos

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