Judging and Bagging a 'Book' Pronghorn
FWIW, here's the system that I use for trying to find, judge, and bag a 'book' buck. As a disclaimer, the judging 'system' was taught to me by a friend that consistently shoots book bucks. I do not know if this was his system, or if he read it somewhere, either way I am not claiming it as my own.
First, patience and good glass are a must. That means not just good binocs, but a good spotting scope and a solid mount for that spotting scope. Next, plan on passing up many (and I mean many) bucks. It's my opinion that in most hunt areas in my home state of Wyoming there may only be 4 to 10 true B&C bucks available, and they didn't get that way by accident. Look in places that are off the beaten path. I try to focus my hunting activities off of obscure, rough, and out-of-the-way two track roads. I also try to glass large roadless areas, looking for that big buck that most people wouldn't bother to go after.
Now for the 'system'; The rule of sevens:
It's simple; seven's on the first two base measurements. Seven on the prong measurement. At least 14 on the length. Decent 'carrying' of the mass above the prongs. Minimal deductions. = B&C buck!! Example: first two base measurements plus prongs =(7+7+7) x 2 = 42, length = 14 x 2 = 28, last two 'mass' measurements = (4.25 + 2.75) x 2 = 14, deductions = -2. Total = 82!!!
Obviously, if you are coming up short on one aspect, you must compensate for it somewhere else. Example; if you are about an inch shy on the prong measurement, but are at least 15 on the overall length = still good. If you are coming up short in a couple of areas = something else better be exceptional.
Now for the hard part, coming up with these numbers at 700 yards away, from behind a spotting scope. Here's the method:
- Use the pronghorns eye as a measuring tool. This requires that you watch the antelope as it is broadside and not staring you down. With some practice, patience, and good glass, this is not as difficult as it seems.
- The first mass/base measurement (at the very base of the horn) needs to be as close to 1 3/4 eyes as possible. 1 1/2 eyes may not be enough unless the front profile of the horn is thicker than normal.
- The second mass/base measurement (usually half way between the base of the horn and the prong, or slightly closer to the prong) should be at least 1 3/4 eyes. I usually just look for the mass at the base to either be carried, or improve. If it does not, then something somewhere else will have to compensate for it.
- Now for the hard part, the prongs. Look for prongs that are 2 eyes in length. Imagine laying two eyes along (on) the prongs. If you come up short here, look for something else to compensate for it (like extra length).
- Next, the length measurement. Many people use the horns relation to the ears for this. I've heard that twice the ears length is supposed to be 14 inches. That can be deceiving. They usually look short when the buck is looking towards you, especially with his head slightly down, tall when he is walking away, and hard to judge (for me) from the side. Some people look at how the junction of the prong with the main beam relates to the ears, preferring it to be above the ears. As I posted to an earlier thread:
"I have seen many goats with low forks (even below the ears) that scored very well, including one a co-workers' wife shot that scored 91."
My preferred method is to try to compare the horns length to the bucks face. The straight line length from the tip of the nose to the back of the head is fairly close to 15 inches on most bucks. This may require you to straighten out the antelopes horn and compare it to it's face in your minds eyes. That is what works for me. Of course taking curl into consideration - add length for more curl, don't for less.
A few other considerations:
- Don't judge a buck when it is walking away. They almost always look bigger than they really are.
- Don't judge a buck when it is staring you down, other than for frontal mass.
- Don't confuse the black on a bucks face for horn mass. This is really easy to do through binocs or poor glass.
- They typically look bigger when they are skylined.
- Mirage is a pain in the ____. Try using a lower magnification power.
- As a general rule, if you have to talk yourself into a buck (as opposed to out of it), it will probably experience some degree of ground shrinkage. Put another way, if your first impression is NOT "holy crap thats a huge goat!", then it usually isn't a huge goat. If your first impression IS " holy crap...", it still may not be big enough when you actually size it up.
- Keep your distance. If you get too close when judging a potential trophy, he may tolerate you, even appear as if he is ignoring you, but at some point (usually about the time you decide that you are going to take him) he may suddenly become very antsy and wild. Remember, if he really is a trophy, he probably didn't get that way on pure luck. Unlike the average goat that just runs a ways and stops, they can sometimes pull some pretty spectacular disappearing acts, resembling something that you would expect from a trophy mule deer buck.
- Don't forget to look for broken prongs and tips. They are very common, especially on large, dominant bucks. Not only do they reduce your measurements, but they usually cost in additional point deductions.
- Pronghorns are territorial. If a buck is not pressured too much, he will almost always return/stay in an area. If he is overpressured he will relocate. This means if you miss a shot, or blow a stalk, and continue to push for another, you may not find him again. If you back off and come back later you may have a better chance.
In the end, if you are looking for a high B&C scoring buck, then look for mass, mass, more mass, and then look at the length of the prongs. You will make most of your score on the four mass measurements that go up each horn. Height looks good, but is overrated. The difference between a 14 inch buck and a 16 inch buck is only 4 points. One extra inch of circumference (mass) that carries its way up is worth as much as 6 to 8 points.
Last edited by Rymart; 09-22-2008 at 11:12 PM.