This is how to tell the difference between typical and non-typical.
Deer antlers are one of nature's wonders. No two antlers are the same. They are all unique, much like a human fingerprint. When deer hunters started to pay more attention to these masses of bone on the heads of whitetails and mule deer, they developed scoring systems to better define a buck's rack and to determine which were the biggest of all-time.
Odds are, you have heard a buck's antlers defined as typical or non-typical before. For newer hunters, there may be some confusion by exactly what that means. Not to worry, we are here to help with an in-depth explanation of how different sets of antlers are defined.
Most of the definitions here fit for mule deer, but most of the examples we are showing here are for whitetail deer. The rules are almost identical for both species for most record books like Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young.
We'll start with typical whitetails because these are the most common forms of antlers hunters are likely to encounter, hence the name. Your average deer is going to have main beams that sweep out and back in again. We're going to cite Boone & Crockett's scoring instructions a lot here since they are the rules most people go by when defining a big buck's antlers.
According to B&C: "Normal points project from the top of the main beam. They are measured from the nearest edge of the main beam over outer curve to tip."
To count as a point, these projections must be at least one inch in length. You'll often hear old-timers defining a point as "anything you can hang a ring on," but just about every scoring system uses the one-inch rule as a definition. Usually, typical points are evenly distributed across the main beam. Sometimes points can look typical but may get ruled as abnormal points if two points are too close together and are sharing a common base. Read our piece on the Johnny King buck for more information on these grey areas.
In any case, the points nearest to the base of the antlers, directly above the eyes are called the brow tines and are usually defined as G1s in most scoring systems. The next point further up the main beam is called the G2, then the G3, and so on. Bucks with G6 and G7 points are exceedingly rare. In most cases, whitetail bucks need at least a 10 point main frame to score high enough for the all-time records. There are exceptions of course, but a buck usually needs an exceptionally long beam length over 24 inches to get in with fewer points. It is rare, but there have been a few 8-point bucks that have grown 170-inch frames (B&C's minimum entry score). Most of the top whitetails in the Boone & Crockett club top ten have at least a 12-point typical frame.
We should also briefly mention spread credit. Boone and Crockett counts the inside spread in the final score and this is defined as: "measured at a right angle to the center line of the skull at widest point between main beams." Deer do not necessarily need a super-wide inside spread to qualify for the record book, but it sure helps.
Thankfully, non-typical antlers are usually obvious because bucks with a lot of abnormal points are usually kind of goofy looking. You may even hear some hunters call them "ugly." Nature can do some truly strange things during the antler growth process. According to Boone & Crockett, an abnormal point is: "those non-typical in location (such as points originating from a point or from bottom or sides of main beam) or extra points beyond the normal pattern of points. We should briefly mention that split tines are usually considered abnormal on whitetails. However, because mule deer antlers are frequently forked, those are considered typical points.
The big difference between the scoring of a typical and a non-typical rack is the lengths of the abnormal points are added into the final net score. On a typical buck, these measurements are subtracted on the score sheet. Most non-typical points consist of simple spits and kicker points. Things like drop tines are much less common to encounter.
Some of the more extreme non-typical bucks out there have a massive number of points totaling 20, 30, or more. Bucks like the famous "Missouri Monarch," and the "Hole-in-the-Horn" buck completely turned the deer hunting world on its head when they were entered in the big game record books with non-typical scores over 320 inches. Only a handful of whitetail deer have ever broken that 300-inch mark in the time big game records have been kept.
On rare occasions, deer antlers can get so weird that major record keeping organizations reject them outright as "unscoreable." It usually happens only with the most extreme cases of non-typical antlers. Usually on racks where there are so many points it can take hours to count and measure them all. It seems to happen most often with the rare doe that grows antlers due to hormonal issues. These deer often do not lose their velvet and are classified as "cactus bucks" because their antlers are so abnormal.
How can you tell a non-typical buck from a typical one?
There have been some non-typical bucks that have appeared very normal in appearance until you take a second look. Most deer today are going to grow antlers that have at least one or two abnormal points. In my hunting area, many bucks grow short kickers near their bases. It is also no uncommon. We see split G2s and split brow tines from time to time too. Just a few of these features alone will not make a buck non-typical.
It's when the antlers have an excess number of non-typical points, or when the main beams are greatly misshapen that most antlers start calling a deer non-typical. Just remember if the antlers are mostly symmetrical and balanced, it's a typical deer. If the antlers are wild, uneven, or look radically different from side to side, it's probably a non-typical deer.
While non-typicals are not rare, they are slightly more uncommon than typical deer, which is why they are so prized by hunters. So, if you have the chance to see and harvest one, consider yourself lucky. Some hunters may prefer only typical antlers, but for us, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there is something to be said for a non-typical buck that has a lot of unique characteristics.
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