It all started when Earl Conradt bagged a monster 17-point buck while gun hunting near Crandon back in 1988. The trophy deer measured 185 5/8 inches, which was just enough to get it into the Boone and Crockett record books. Soon after, Conradt began taking classes to better understand the ABCs of scoring big bucks.
Learning the measurement system
For record-keeping purposes, deer are scored based on the size of their tines, the diameter of the base of each antler, and the total spread between the antlers. All these measurements are carefully calculated, and the resulting number of points is the deer’s score.
Deer are further divided into “typical” and “non-typical” categories depending on the configuration of the antlers.
The Boone and Crockett Club keeps records for deer harvested with a firearm, while the Pope and Young Club keeps records for deer harvested while archery hunting. Each club has its own minimum criterion for what constitutes a trophy, and only trophy bucks make their record books. Official measurements must be taken by a certified scorer.
Conradt, who retired from his job with the Outagamie County Highway Department 15 years ago, has been a certified scorer for the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club and Pope and Young since 1989. He estimates that he has scored at least 25 deer every year for the past 25 years—more than 625 total.
“The whole purpose for measuring and scoring is to honor the deer of Wisconsin,” Conradt said. “Keeping these records is a tribute to the animals rather than the hunters.”
“There are two score sheets: one is for typical and one is for non-typical,” continued Conradt. “Typicals are easy to measure, but non-typicals are a little bit more difficult because their antler configuration is often asymmetrical.
“Before I can even begin to measure a buck, the antlers have to dry under normal atmospheric conditions for 60 days. The antlers have to be removed from the head and the skull piece has to be clean,” explained Conradt. “Hunters need to have a field photo of the deer as well.
“When scoring a set of antlers, I do one side first and then the other. Then, I subtract the smaller score from the larger score and that’s the deduction. But then I add in the non-typical scores, and it all comes together to give us the deer’s total score,” continued Conradt.
“I start by measuring the main beams, and then I move on to the G1s. I then do all of the other antler points, followed by measuring circumferences,” he said. “I finish by measuring the inside spread. Tip-to-tip measurements and outside spread measurements don’t count.”
Scoring bucks of all sizes and ages
This past year, Conradt was part of a panel that scored the largest typical bow buck in the State of Wisconsin record books.
“The top five deer in the state have to be panel scored, and I was invited to Green Bay to be part of a panel,” Conradt said. “When it was all said and done, the rack measured 191 6/8 inches net (200 4/8 inches gross). The 13-point buck had an 18 4/8-inch inside spread and 43 4/8-inch circumference.”
Although record-breaking deer get a lot of attention, Conradt said any buck can be measured.
“Just because it didn’t make it into the record books doesn’t mean it’s not a nice buck,” he stated. “People like to have their bucks measured if it’s the biggest buck they’ve ever shot. Hunters are always so happy to have their deer scored, even if it doesn’t make it into the book.
“Lots of people buy the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club Record Book when they do shoot a trophy because they like to see their name in it along with their buck’s measurements,” added Conradt, whose 1988 non-typical buck is currently listed in the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club Record Book at eighth place in Forest County and 221st place in the State of Wisconsin.
Conradt noted that racks of any age can be scored—not just those taken from deer harvested in the most recent season.
“The oldest rack I ever scored came off a deer that was harvested in 1928,” said Conradt. “That buck earned state recognition.
“People don’t realize that there are all different categories for scoring bucks, not just gun and bow,” added Conradt. “There are categories for deer that were hit by a car, racks that were found at a rummage sale, racks that were inherited—any rack that exists has a category and can be scored.”
Sharing buck tales
Conradt said meeting other hunters and hearing their stories is as much fun as scoring a record buck.
“I get to talk to fellow hunters and I hear a lot of good stories,” said Conradt. “Hearing those stories is a lot of fun.
“Sometimes, guys come in and they’re really secretive about where they hunt. They don’t want to tell you where there spot is. That’s perfectly fine with me, but I’ve found that once you get them to start telling you the story behind the buck you’re scoring for them, they tell you just about everything.
“One time, I was in South Dakota hunting deer. I ran into a guy who showed me a picture of a buck he had shot near Navarino. We got to talking, and I realized I had scored his deer,” said Conradt with a laugh.
“Another guy from Hortonville shot a nice buck and brought me the antlers to have them scored. The rack had an odd hole in one of the beams,” recalls Conradt. “The hunter had found the deer’s shed antlers each year for the past three years, and every rack had that same odd hole. It must have been genetics. It’s so interesting the different things you see when you’re scoring a rack. No two racks are identical, though some are really close.”
Conradt also has an extensive collection of hunting and fishing photos and newspaper articles that he has compiled over the years, highlighting life on the Wolf River, his work to ensure a healthy catfish population, and several vintage deer hunting snapshots.
“Guys will come over just to look at the photos, and they’ll be here for an hour or more,” said Conradt. “It’s just great to share stories and memories with people who love the outdoors.”
For those looking to have their deer scored, Conradt can be reached by phone at 920-851-1893 or by mail at PO Box 92, Shiocton, WI 54170. To learn more about the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club, visit www.wi-buck-bear.org. More information on the Pope and Young Club can be found at www.pope-young.org. The Boone and Crockett Club’s website can be found at www.boone-crockett.org.