It seems as of late that we have been getting a wave of emails concerning the way you count the points off from a mule deer rack. Some are used to the ‘whitetail’ version which is to count all points on both sides and add them up into one number – hence the 10 point buck (5×5). When it comes to mule deer, we just don’t do that around here. Furthermore, mule deer fanatics are also torn on the way they refer to the points off from a mule deer. The reason for this is that mule deer have a very unique antler configuration due to the split fork on the back G2 and G3 point. You then have the G4 point coming off from the main beam similar to what the whitetail deer have.
But the main debate here, anyway, is including the eyeguards (G1 point) as part of the points. For example, do you call a buck with a four point frame with eyeguards a 5×5 or just a simple 4×4? Here are just a couple of emails that I have received recently about these questions:
Can you tell me why out east they say 11 or 10 pointer and out here we say 5×5? Also how come we don’t count the eyegaurds and they do?
Bert P. – Henderson, NV
I have lived in Montana for all my life. Up here, we always count the brow tines on a mule deer as a point. They are scored as such for B&C. I was wondering how come it seems you guys don’t count them. I see many deer with the basic 5×5 rack in your photos, yet you refer to them as a 4×4.
David W. – Montana
I have posted my answer that I emailed back to David in Montana:
Let me see if I can explain a little bit. Naturally, everyone has their way of counting points, so there really isn’t a right or wrong answer. Because the mule deer is scored according to the four point frame regardless of whether it has eyeguards, it is usually common practice to count the points referring only to the four point frame first, and then any extra points after that (still not counting eyeguards). The reason is due to a couple of different scenerios:
If there are four points on one side and three points on the other along with no eyeguards, you would naturally call it a 4×3. However, if there were eyeguards and counted those, you would then call it a 5×4. However, by calling it a 5×4, many people would think that this buck has a normal four point frame with an extra cheater on one side. So sometimes we might call it a 5×4 including eyeguards. We call it mostly based off from this four point frame, since the mule deer is unique in this type of antler configuration compared to an elk or whitetail deer. For example, a mule deer’s typical frame is the four points along with eyeguards. Some might call this a 5×5. However, if there is no other information or photo, you will still wonder if it was a clean 4×4 with eyeguards, or a 4×4 with two kickers on each side. It is just a way of helping clear things up about the antlers and the more you understand about the scoring system and the unique formation of the mule deer’s antlers, many prefer to count the points and not refer to the eyeguards in most cases (of course eyeguards are counted in the B&C scoring system, but that is another subject). If it is a big non-typical buck with multiple points, then including the eyeguards in the total count is common. For example, a 10×11 point buck is big, and therefore is probably including eyeguards, if any, in this total. But that brings up the point that many mule deer do not have eyeguards at all, or maybe just on one side. Therefore they are not consistent enough to count on – this is another reason why people don’t count them when calling a four point buck a 4×4.
As you can see, there are many different reasons why, and yet no real right or wrong answer, so just go with whatever you are used to.
It all comes down to personal preference. Myself, I prefer to call a four point mule deer (regardless of eyeguards) just a simple “4×4”. I also will extend this out if the buck does have eyeguards by calling it a “4×4 not counting eyeguards” or “5×5 counting eyeguards”. If someone tells me they just shot a 5×5 buck, there are two things that quickly go through my mind: (1) This is probably a 4×4 point buck with eyeguards, or (2) this is a 4×4 point buck with a kicker on each side (which may or may not have eyeguards). Which one is it?
I have dug up a few photos to support my thinking on this. What is my thinking? I am not sure, maybe I just wasted 20 minutes of my time writing this post. Oh well. It was good to get it all cleared up so everyone can be confused about how to call a simple 4×4 (I mean 5×5) mule deer. What do you think about this?
This nice buck has a three point frame with eyeguards. Is this a 3×3 or a 4×4? For me, I am calling this a 3×3 point buck. It is all about referring to the four point main frame and this example supports this.
Here is a photo of a great four point buck, but he has only one eyeguard. If I call this a 5×4 then I am going to be confused as to what this fifth point is referring to. That is why I am still calling this a nice 4×4 buck.
This is a very nice buck. He has no eyeguards but does have a small abnormal point on the left side. So do you call this a 4×5? I would definitely call this a 4×5. Since there are no eyeguards to play around with (and I don’t refer to them anyway), I know that by calling this a 4×5 there is another point somewhere coming off from the main four point frame.