“Field judging” is an important skill for any elk hunter to have.
It’s an educated guess of how big an elk’s antlers are by amount of inches. It can be intimidating for those just starting because you are trying to estimate the number of inches of antler on a bull that’s 30-200 yards away.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you get started. These tips will help you determine if you’re looking at an average bull or trophy bull.
When an elk is being scored, the tines give you the most percentage of inches. So, you should look at the tines first. In order for it to be a 6X6 bull, you want to make sure your elk has all of the g1, g2, g3, g4, and g5 tines on both sides. Makes sure the g2 grew in. If it has all 5 tines on both sides then you’re off to a good start.
Now you want to look for how long each of those tines are. You want them to be as long as possible. To get the most inches the tines should have a lot of curvature. The shortest length between two points is a straight line, so if the tine is straight, it is probably short. So check each tine for length and curvature.
The next part of the antlers that gives you the most percentage of inches is the main beam. The main beam starts at the base and runs all the way to the tip. To gauge how big this is, check to make sure there is space between the tines. The more space between the tines the longer the main beam will be. Additionally after the g5 tine, larger score bulls will have prominent whale tales, meaning they swoop back like a whale tale, creating more increases with its curvature.
Thickness and spread of antlers gives you the least percentage of inches. If you focus on determining the length by the tines and main beam, it’s very likely the thickness and spread follow suit.
Once you feel confident identifying these components of a bull you can dive into practicing a more calculated method of scoring a bull in the field.