Throughout history, hunters have been eager to bend the ear of all of their hunting buddies to share two pieces of information: first, that they got one, and second, how many points he had. Learning how to calculate a buck's age and score him wasn't of major interest.
But as QDM (quality deer management) has become an increasingly popular deer management strategy, hunters have become more educated regarding both deer and habitat management. Many have coverted from merely users of the resource (deer) to managers of the resource. One of the principles of a QDM program is to promote a balanced buck age structure (that is, allow bucks to mature before harvest), which has "forced" hunters to learn how to age bucks on the hoof (either in trail camera photos or in the field) before they pull the trigger. Many hunters have enjoyed learning these "new" skills. In fact, I often get calls or emails from hunters that are anxious to tell me about a buck they harvested. As I mentioned earlier, not too many years ago, most hunters would take pride in the number of points the buck had; I'd get calls like, "I just killed an 11 point!!!!". However, as QDM strategies have become more common, I get more and more calls from these same hunters who say, "Man I smoked a 4 year old yesterday afternoon!!" Several of them then go on to tell me about what the buck scored, and hang up without even mentioning how many points he had.
Whether it is good or bad, as QDM programs mature and begin producing exceptional bucks, hunters or clubs sometimes begin to integrate minimum Boone & Crockett scores into buck harvest restrictions (such as, a buck has to be at least 3 years old and score 130" or better). So, not only are these hunters learning how to age bucks, but they are now beginning to estimate antler scores before pulling the trigger.
I have a very good friend that owns and operates an outfitting business where he outfits deer hunts across the country (as well as a variety of hunts/fishing around the world). He had an idea a few years ago about creating a website to help hunters learn how to score bucks. He asked me to help as well, and we pulled together many photos of bucks to use, spent a long time scoring each of them, and now people all over heading to Field Score Whitetails for an educational and addictive game that helps hunters learn how to score bucks. For those of you that have an interest in learning how to score bucks in the field or in trail camera photos, give it a look, and have a ball!
-by Dave Edwards