Can You Speak Deer Antler Lingo? Here’s A Quick Guide

Kickers. Stickers. Basal snags. If you or a buddy scored big this year, here's a helpful guide to speaking the unique language of deer antlers.

by Brian Murphy


Kickers. Stickers. Basal snags. If you or a buddy scored big this year, here’s a helpful guide to speaking the unique language of deer antlers.

“What we have here is a failure to communicate!” Originally made famous by the 1967 hit movie, Cool Hand Luke starring Paul Newman, this quote adequately describes the almost “foreign” language used by many deer hunters, when describing a buck’s antler characteristics and recordbook score. It goes something like this: “I shot a gross 152-inch mainframe 10 with split G2s, a 2-inch kicker on the 4, a drop tine off the right beam and a cool basal snag on the left beam. It also had great mass, with H4s over 4 1/2 inches on both sides and incredible pearling around the bases. Talk about a rack with character!”

As a deer biologist and avid whitetail hunter, I have learned this specialized language—and use it regularly when communicating with other “bilingual” deer hunters. However, to those unfamiliar with these terms, we might as well be speaking Latin. So, let’s demystify this subject, and learn the language of antlers.ScoreSheet 900Origins Of Antler Lingo. When it comes to many terms associated with deer antlers, there is little doubt the origin was the Boone and Crockett Scoring System, the first version of which was released in 1906. This version was later revised, with the first official record book being published in 1932. Contrary to public perception, the B&C System was not established for “bragging rights” or to crown hunters who harvest the largest males of a particular species. On the contrary, it was created to document what its founders, including Theodore Roosevelt, believed was the impending extinction of most of North America’s big game animals. Thankfully, that dire prognosis did not occur, and modern wildlife management was born—leading to an era of unthinkable abundance that we still enjoy today.Lingo3 900Most hunters are at least vaguely familiar with the Boone and Crockett Scoring System, which documents trophy-class animals harvested with a firearm. Its younger “sister” is the Pope and Young Scoring System, created for animals taken with a bow. Much of the modern antler lingo is associated with the B&C System. More specifically, it is taken from the B&C score sheet. Many hunters wonder why the terms “G” and “H” are used to describe a deer’s antler tines and mass. The answer is incredibly simple. Both references are the alphabetical locations on the score sheet, where tine lengths and mass measurements are recorded.Lingo8 900The “G” measurements start with the brow tine (G1) and continue with each tine in sequence (G2, G3, G4, etc.) to the end of the main beam. These measurements are taken on both sides of the rack. It is worth noting that there is an accepted location for each tine, and some can be missing. For example, it’s possible for a buck to have a G1 and G3—but not a G2.Lingo6 900The buck pictured above is missing its right-side G1 and G3. While it’s fairly uncommon for a buck to have more than four G measurements on one side (which would suggest a 10-point deer because the end of the main beam counts as a point also) it does occur, and each tine is counted regardless of number.LingoMass 900“H” measurements record a buck’s mass (see image above). Unlike the G measurements where a buck can have as many as the number of tines he grows, H measurements are restricted to four per main beam (8 total for the rack). All bucks get four H measurements per side, regardless of whether it is a 12-inch “cowhorn” spike or a giant 12-pointer. As with the G measurements, H measurements start at the base of the antlers and continue along the main beam. The H1 is taken between the antler base and brow tine (G1). It’s the smallest circumference between these points. The H2 is the smallest circumference between the G1 and G2, and so on—along the main beam between each of the subsequent tines. In situations where a buck does not have a G4—meaning there is no defined area between the G3 and G4 at which to take an H4 measurement—the distance from the center of the G3 to the end of the main beam is taken, with the midway point being the location of the H4 measurement. If the rack is missing both a G3 and G4, the measurement is taken from the center of the G2 to the end of the main beam and divided into thirds, with those being the locations of the H3 and H4 measurements.Lingo4 900Antler Vocabulary. While the above information helps clarify the “Gs” and “Hs” of the antler language, there are a few other vocabulary words worthy of definition.

Abnormals—Extra tines on a deer’s rack that are not in a normal or typical location. Includes such items as kickers, stickers, drop tines, burrs, and snags.

Basal Snag—An extra point originating from the base of a deer’s antlers, sometimes pointing rearward or in an abnormal direction.

Drop Tine—An abnormal, downward facing tine originating from a deer’s main beam. These can be restricted to one side of a deer’s rack, or matching, and are a rare and coveted trait for deer hunters.

Character—A term used to describe a rack with multiple unique features, ranging from kickers and stickers to drop tines, basal snags, pearling, etc.

Gross Score versus Net Score—Gross score refers to the score of a deer’s antlers before any deductions for asymmetry, or differences in tine and mass measurements, between each side of a buck’s antlers.

Kickers or Stickers—Antler tines, typically short ones, originating from an abnormal location on a deer’s rack. While more commonly associated with tines, they can originate on main beams.

Mainframe—A term that describes a buck’s basic typical frame. For example, a buck may have a typical 5 X 4 rack but have several additional abnormal points that will add to its gross score. In such case, it would accurately be described as a mainframe 9-pointer with X number of abnormal points.

Pearling—A term used to describe the knobby, bumpy growths originating from the lower portions of a deer’s rack. This occurrence is more common in older bucks.

Points versus Burrs—A “point” under the B&C system must measure one inch or longer; the base of the point must not be wider than its length. A burr, or burr point, is generally less than an inch long, and originating from the bases of a deer’s antlers.

Splits or Forks—A condition where an antler tine—which normally is a single upright projection from the main beam—is forked or split.

Trash—A generic description referring to multiple abnormal points on a deer’s rack. Personally, I detest this term, and believe it should be eliminated from antler language.Lingo1 900Armed with this guide to antler lingo, the next time you encounter a conversation filled with jargon, you can join the discussion. You’ll now be able to “Speak the Language,” as my good buddy Will Primos famously coined. And you thought learning a second language would be incredibly difficult! For a more in-depth history, and overview of the B&C scoring system, click here.



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