This guide focuses primarily on judging moose for Alaska regulations but is still useful for learning to field judge moose in any area.
First things first, always know the regulations for the location of your hunt! They differ drastically – especially for Alaskan moose, but same for all game species. Know the rules and stick to them.
Practice Practice Practice. Start looking at any moose you see, live, mounted, in pictures, postcards, paintings, anywhere, and test your field judging skills. It’s crucial to be confident in your skills to accurately judge in the field. Always view multiple angles to get the most accurate view of your moose. If you aren’t sure, don’t shoot! Selective harvest is a conservation practice to maintain healthy herd sizes. Know the regulations for legal bulls in the area you will hunt, whether for young or mature bulls.
First it’s important to study moose antler anatomy. Know the brow tines, know the palms, know the bays. Moose can be very irregular/nonsymmetrical and it can be very difficult to judge at a glance.
Know to differentiate between the main palm vs brow palm, the large bay separates them. Mid bay tines are not brow tines! Brow tines are what make bulls legal, not main palm tines.
Know the regulations for young bulls. In Alaska, young bulls are judged off one side only. Depending on the zone bulls can be taken as spikes and spike/forks. A third point 1” long makes it a 3 point and not legal to shoot. Be sure to glass bulls thoroughly. Not sure? Don’t shoot.
Likewise, know the regulations for mature bulls. In Alaska, mature bulls are usually judged first off of brow tine count. Different areas require or limit 2, 3, or 4 brow tines on one or both sides. Not sure? Don’t shoot.
Some areas overrule the brow tine rule by spread. Insufficient brow tines? Next look for 50” spread. The spread is measured from the outermost points perpendicular to the center of the skull.
To estimate spread as accurately as possible, it’s important to know the anatomy of the head. In mature moose, the space between the eyes equals about 9-10 inches. If each side from the base of the antlers to the widest point perpendicular to the center of the skull equals about twice the width of the head the bull should be close to 50” wide. Also, large bulls often have larger, wider main beams but this doesn’t guarantee 50” spread.
Too close to call? Don’t shoot.
A few final things to remember are that antlers naturally attached must be packed out last or with last load of meat. If you’ve found you have taken an illegal moose, report yourself immediately and salvage the meat. Honesty is the best policy and most likely to be rewarded with leniency. Always know the regulations of the area you will be hunting.