If you’ve spent time with a hunter, you’ve probably heard a lot of bizarre words thrown around like “rack,” “tine” and “spread.” What are they talking about? Deer terminology can be confusing, but it’s actually important when it comes to scoring antlers for trophy hunting and herd management. For that reason, we created this dictionary of deer antler names and terms to clear things up and get you on your way to taking down a 10-point buck—whatever that means.
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What Are Deer Antlers?
Deer antlers are a unique physical feature of animals in the deer family, also known as cervids. While other animals have similar growths like horns, antlers are special in that they regrow and fall out every year.
All deer species but one grow antlers, and with the sole exception of reindeer, only the males grow them. This includes whitetail deer.
Male whitetails, called bucks, grow antlers on a yearly basis which they can use to fight other bucks for territory and mates during the autumn mating season, called the rut. The antlers begin growing in the spring along with the buck’s hormonal cycle and are ready for combat in the fall. The antlers also serve as a symbol of health and dominance that attracts the female deer, or does. When the rut is over, the antlers fall off.
Antlers are the fastest growing bone among all mammals, with healthy mature bucks sometimes growing up to an inch per day. The size of the antlers increases as the buck gets older until he reaches five or six years old.
Different Whitetail Deer Antler Names
HORNS — It’s important to remember that antlers are not technically horns, but many hunters call them such as slang.
MOUNT — When hunters set a pair of antlers or full head on their wall or in some other position, they call it a mount.
RACK — Refers to a full set of antlers.
TROPHY — Hunters sometimes refer to the rack of antlers or the entire head of a buck as the trophy of the hunt.
Special Types of Antlers
Antlers come in all shapes and sizes, some normal or standard and some not. Hunters use different terms to refer to all of these.
ANTLERED DOE — The incredibly rare occurrence of a true doe who grows antlers—usually covered in velvet—due to high testosterone levels.
HERMAPHRODITE — A deer with both male and female genitalia that grows antlers like a buck.
PSEUDO-HERMAPHRODITE — A buck with hidden internal male genitalia but external female genitalia that grows antlers because it is genetically male.
BUTTONS/BUTTON BUCK — During their first year, newborn male fawns may grow antlers, but these are just little knobs of growth called buttons. Deer with these antlers are called button bucks.
SPIKES/SPIKE BUCK — In their second season, yearling bucks will grow antlers that usually only consist of single points. These are called spikes and the deer spike bucks.
TYPICAL — Refers to a rack of antlers with no abnormalities or deformities.
NON-TYPICAL — Refers to a rack of antlers with at least one abnormality or deformity.
General Antler Terminology
BEAM — The main central stalk of the antler.
BURR — The rough-looking bony rim around the pedicle of the antler.
PEDICLE — The base of the antler where it attaches to the deer’s skull.
TINE — A branch off the beam of the antler.
BROW TINE — The first tine where the antler branches off from the beam.
BAY TINE — The second tine where the antler branches off from the beam.
TRAY TINE — The third tine where the antler branches off from the beam.
SURROYAL TINE — The fourth tine where the antler branches off from the beam.
CROWN TINE — The top tine of the deer’s antler.
FORK — The end of the antler which forks or splits into two separate points.
ABNORMAL TINE — A tine which branches off another tine instead of the beam.
DROP TINE — A tine that grows downwards instead of upwards like normal.
KICKER POINT — An abnormal tine growing from the burr of the antler.
VELVET — A fuzzy vascular tissue that covers a deer’s antlers as they grow.
How to Score Deer Antlers and Related Terminology
The dominant way for scoring deer antlers today is the Boone and Crockett Club’s method that gives credit for length, width and mass while deducting points for abnormalities and asymmetry. The scoring itself is actually pretty simple, but the terminology can be a bit confusing, so let’s go over that first.
BEAM LENGTH — This is the total length of the beam of the antler from the pedicle to the tip.
POINT — A point is basically a tine. It is any growth off the main beam of the antler. It’s measured from the tip of the point to the edge of the beam. For your B&C scores, you’ll need the measurement of all the points as well as the total number. The exception is the beam tip which is counted as a point but is not measured as a point since it’s included in beam length.
ABNORMAL POINT — This is any abnormal tine such as an abnormal tine, drop tine or kicker point. You must measure the length of these points like the normal tines, but this total length will count against the final score.
TIP TO TIP SPREAD — This is the straight-line distance between the two beam tips of the antlers.
GREATEST SPREAD — Measured perpendicular to the center line of the deer’s skull, this is the distance between the two antlers at the farthest point, wherever it may be. It may possibly be the same as the tip to tip spread.
INSIDE SPREAD OF MAIN BEAMS — Also measured perpendicular to the center line of the deer’s skull, this is the distance between the widest point between the two antlers’ beams only. This is almost always the spread measurement used for scoring. It may also be the greatest spread.
BEAM CIRCUMFERENCE — The beam circumference is the circumference around the beam at the smallest point between each tine, or between the pedicle and the first tine. Regardless of the number of tines, you only take the first four circumference measurement starting from the bottom.
BOONE AND CROCKETT LETTER CODES — To simplify things, Boone & Crockett provides letters that stand for each of the above measurements. They are:
- A. Number of points (right, left and total)
- B. Tip to Tip Spread
- C. Greatest Spread
- D. Inside Spread of Main Beams
- E. Total of lengths of abnormal points
- F. Length of main beam
- G. Length of points with each point given a number except the beam tip (i.e., G1, G2, G3, etc.)
- H. Beam circumference at smallest point, also given a number 1-4 for each location (i.e., H1 is between pedicle and G1, H2 is between G1 and G2, etc.)
Yeah, so that’s a ton of info, but scoring is actually easier than it sounds. First, you need to get all these measurements on each antler rounded to the nearest eighth of an inch. Since you’ll be adding these all up, keep everything in terms of eighths even if it’s, say, 4/8. B&C requires its measurements to be done with steel tape, but if this is just for yourself, any tape measure will do.
While you’re measuring, you also need to note the differences between the right and left antlers. In other words, write down the length of the G1 point on the right and left and then the difference. So if G1 on the right is 5-⅛ inches while G1 on the left is 4-⅞ inches, you’ll note the G1 difference as 2/8. Be sure to note the differences in the H circumferences and beam length measurements as well.
Now all you have to do is add everything up. Add the length of the inside spread, the length of the main beams, the total length of all G points, and the total circumferences of H1-H4. Add them together to get your GROSS SCORE. For most hunters, this is all they care about.
Nevertheless, if you want to see how you stand in the record books or submit your rack to Boone and Crockett for official measurement, you’ll need to take the NET SCORE. To get this, take your gross score and subtract E (the total length of all abnormal points) and the total differences between all right and left measurements.
If that still seems confusing, don’t worry. You can actually put all your measurements into Boone and Crockett’s online scorecard. Additionally, you can order print scorecards from B&C or find them at your local hunting outfitters.
An official score of 160 would make your rack eligible for the three-year award while a 170 would be enough for the record book. However, if your sights are set really high, the all-time record was registered in 1993 by Milo Hanson and his incredible 213-⅝ antler score.