Field Judging Whitetail: Don’t Forget Your Fractions
by Darren Choate
Two days after Thanksgiving, I was able to harvest a nice Coues Whitetail buck–the complete story will be out soon. On the first day of the hunt, I passed up what I thought was an 80-inch buck. My son, Colton, who field judged the buck at closer to 100-inches thought I was crazy. Of course, I had just had laser PRK eye surgery about 10 days prior, so I had an excuse. As it turned out, we found the same buck the next morning, and having seen the buck up close, I made the decision to shoot. My taxidermist scored the buck at 100 2/8-inches.
After my harvest, I shared a picture with several friends. To my surprise, one response was, “congrats, high 80s?” My reply was, “LOL!” I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not, so I texted him a picture of the hand-written score sheet my taxidermist used to calculate the score. As it turned out, he had guessed the inches of every point correctly; however, he rounded every point to the inch, and did not include any fractions. I went back to the score sheet, and added all of the eighths, which totaled 11 1/8. His guess of high 80s added to the total of the fractions, would have put him right in the ball park. His reply made me think about how we all judge any big game animal in the field.
I have to admit, I am sometimes guilty of taking the lazy way out, estimating tine length to the inch, rather than to a more precise length. In some cases, you may estimate one tine short and another tine long, making it all come out in the wash. However, if you are determined to harvest a specific-sized buck (bull, ram or other), it’s probably best to make your best estimation. To aid field-judging efforts, we have created a Field Judging Calculator for both Whitetail and Coues bucks. Try them out–they work via mobile devices as well–on your next scouting or hunting trip, but remember, don’t forget your fractions.