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Keywords:

  • antler size;
  • Boone and Crockett scoring system;
  • Odocoileus virginianus;
  • white-tailed deer

Abstract

Antler characteristics are a measure of phenotypic quality and are used by wildlife managers and hunters to assess herd characteristics of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). A single metric for antler quality would benefit scientists, wildlife managers, and the hunting public by providing a common gauge. Total antler volume or mass may be the most accurate measure of antler development, but is not practical to obtain from most hunter-harvested animals. The most accepted single measure of antler size is Boone & Crockett (B&C) score. We confirmed the efficacy of gross B&C scores as a predictor of antler mass (g) using antler measurements from 159 captive deer from the Mississippi State University Rusty Dawkins Memorial Deer Unit taken during 1986–1997. Gross B&C score explained 78% of variation in antler mass and was the best 1-variable predictive model. However, calculation of gross B&C score may require ≥11 measurements for most harvested adult males. To test the possibility of deriving a simple model to predict gross B&C score from a reduced number of measurements, we used data from 3,532 deer in the Mississippi Magnolia Records Program to examine regression models using inside spread, number of antler points, basal circumference, and main beam length as explanatory variables, because these are the most common antler measurements recorded by wildlife managers. A simple model using total number of points ≥2.5 cm and length of main beams explained 77% of variability in gross B&C scores. This model should enable hunters to provide accurate information to biologists regarding antler development in adult age classes, and its relative simplicity may encourage use. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.