How Big Was That Deer?

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

old buck in northern Missouri will weigh as much as 50 pounds more than a similar-aged buck in the lower Ozarks and will grow larger antlers. Biologists suspect that abundant food and fertile, mineral-rich soils in northern Missouri may explain the size difference. Supplementing natural deer diets in parts of southern Missouri might affect growth more than in northern Missouri, where deer generally have ready access to high-quality food.

The differences between southern and northern Missouri deer are further illustrated by a look at the county distribution of bucks entered into the Show Me Big Bucks Club records. The Show Me Big Bucks Club was formed in 1968 by a group of Missouri deer hunters and employees of the Conservation Department to recognize and maintain permanent records of outstanding deer taken in Missouri. They also wanted to develop an appreciation of Missouri deer hunting and promote sportsmanship. More information on the Show Me Big Bucks Club can be found at <www.missourishowmebigbucksclub.org>.

To compare record-book buck production in different parts of the state, we tallied the number of deer from each county that were in the Show Me Big Bucks Club record book, which meant they had a minimum "typical" score of 150 (until recently the northern Missouri minimum) or "non-typical" score of 170 (see sidebar). To identify areas producing the largest bucks, we used the minimum criteria for entry into the Boone and Crockett all-time records (a minimum "typical" score of 170 and "non-typical" score of 195).

Some counties are larger than others or may produce more bucks overall. We factored in the size of county and proportion of the total bucks taken that qualified for the record books in developing maps that show how counties compare in potential for producing deer that qualify for either the Show Me Big Bucks Club or the Boone and Crockett Club.

The results show that northern Missouri produces more record-book deer than the southern part of the state. Although fertile soils and access to high quality foods, including agricultural crops, likely played a significant role in these differences, other factors also may have been important. Notice that counties in the St. Louis and Kansas City regions occur prominently on this list. Probably the biggest factor making these areas so productive is the lack of hunting pressure. Hunting access is becoming more and more limited in these areas, so bucks living there have the potential to live longer and grow larger antlers. This may also be a factor in some of the more remote, rural counties that receive less hunting pressure.

Although northern Missouri produces larger deer in general, southern Missouri hunters should think twice about pulling up stakes and heading north to hunt. There are excellent deer hunting opportunities in southern Missouri, and in recent years some of the largest deer taken have come from the south.

Big antlers are always a welcome bonus for any hunter, but quality hunting can be found throughout Missouri.

Measuring Antlers

The Boone and Crockett scoring system was developed in 1950 to provide a consistent way to compare quality of mammals, as measured by size and symmetry, mostly of antlers and horns.

For white-tailed deer, various characteristics of antlers are measured to determine a score. Measurements include maximum inside spread of the main beams, their length, length of each point (must be at least 1 inch long and longer than wide) and circumference between points. A score is derived by adding the values for all of these.

Many sets of antlers have abnormal points (different from the usual shape or location) that are also measured. Antlers are classified as typical or nontypical depending on how the abnormal points are recorded. Abnormal points are subtracted for a deer being scored as a typical and added if being scored as a nontypical. The decision on whether a rack is scored as a nontypical or typical depends on the owner but generally will depend on how the rack scores relative to minimum scores to make the record book. Because abnormal points are added to nontypical scores the minimum qualifying score is higher for nontypicals.

To make the all time Boone and Crockett record book, a buck must score 170 typical points or 195 nontypical points. For the Show Me Big Bucks Club, the antlers must score 140 typical or 155 nontypical points.

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