Field Judging Elk - 3

Magic Number/Estimate Shortest Points
There is a great shortcut for judging bulls where I use anatomical references, but instead of trying to estimate each measurement individually, I use a magic number for the main beam length, mass, and inside spread, and then I compare the length of the points from one side to the other and estimate shortest points. This method is not quite as exact as estimating each measurement, but it gets you very close and it's much quicker and easier.

First, I start with the magic number of 200. For a mature typical bull elk that scores around 350 B&C, his main beam length is usually around 50 inches per side x 2 sides = 100 inches; his mass usually equals 30 inches per side x 2 sides = 60 inches; and his inside spread is usually around 40 inches, so 100+60+40=200.

Next, I estimate the length of the shortest point for each antler, double it, and then add them up. Be careful with these estimates, because whenever you double a measurement, it can make your score go up or down drastically. Do your best not to overestimate your shortest points. Now add the total length of points to the magic number of 200 to get the gross score.

Finally, go back to the main beam, mass, and inside spread. Is the main beam really 50" or is it 53"? Is the mass heavy or light and how does it compare to 30" per side? Is the bull really 40" inside or is he 36"? If you think those measurements deviate from the magic number, just add or subtract the differences accordingly.

It's an Art
Field judging elk is an art, while measuring dead elk is a science! One of the best ways to improve your field judging skills is to practice field judging bulls before actually measuring them. I hope these scoring methods and tips will come in handy when trying to field judge your trophy bull, but remember, it's more important to measure your hunt success by the memories and quality experience gained than by the size of the antlers you bring home.

Editor's Note: For more information on hunting and adventure, log on to Jay's blog at

This article originally appeared in Elk Hunter Magazine and appears courtesy of Elk Hunter Magazine. Elk Hunter Magazine is THE magazine for the hunter passionate about elk hunting, and is made up of the most experienced, well-respected elk hunters in the industry.