Wildlife Federation measures big game scores

Matt Gardner
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Area hunters had a chance to measure their success for the year on Sunday at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation’s (PAWF) annual big game horn scoring.

The tally offers hunting enthusiasts the chance to gauge the size and symmetry of their quarry through Henry Kelsey Big Game Records, an ancillary body of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation.

“We normally do it sort of the weekend after the last hunting season closes,” PAWF secretary Don Erhardt said.

“White-tail season closed last weekend, so we pretty much follow that same pattern every year. People are used to that, so they know when to come.”

The official Henry Kelsey measurer on Sunday was PAWF member and trophy chairman Jim Tiessen, who has measured heads brought in by hunters for the past 30 years.

Tiessen performs his measurements using the Boone and Crockett system. Named after legendary American frontiersmen Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, the method is the standard for scoring big game heads across North America.

“By and large it’s on symmetry and mass measurements,” Tiessen said. “Each species has its own scoresheet and that determines the final score that’s given to an animal based on inside spread, length of beams, width of beams.

“It’s a complicated system, because each species is different.”

Using the Boone and Crockett system, hunters can compare their game to others in a standardized manner, with the highest scores a potential pathway to the official Saskatchewan record book.

Bears, Tiessen noted, are relatively simple to score. Hunters bring in the skull of a bear with all the flesh removed so that two measurements may be taken -- the length and width of the top skull.

Moose, by comparison, are much more intricate. Measurement involves gauging the length and width of the antler palms, comparing the number of points on each side and taking deductions for any lack of symmetry (such as having fewer antler points on one side).

Deer are one of the more common species measured at the PAWF’s annual scoring sessions, particularly the mule and white-tailed varieties. Other species might include elk, caribou and antelope.

It’s been a tough, tough season this year for deer. Jim Tiessen

On an average year, the PAWF will score 40 sets of skulls or antlers from hunters in the Prince Albert area.

Numbers were considerably lower this year, with Tiessen anticipating around a dozen sets to measure. Federation members ascribed the drop to an unusually harsh winter last season.

“It’s been a tough, tough season this year for deer,” Tiessen said.

“There’s very few entries because most people either didn’t get a deer because of our terrible tough winter last year or they’ve got deer that are not going to score high enough to make the record book, so they’re not bringing them out to have them measured.”

While many hunters bring their sets into the PAWF building, others might stop by Tiessen’s home for a coffee and visit, during which the veteran scorer will measure the antlers or skulls.

Wherever they have their sets scored, PAWF members may qualify for the federation’s annual awards banquet.

Like other communities throughout Saskatchewan, Prince Albert’s banquet recognizes and hands out trophies for the biggest Henry Kelsey entries.

“That generally occurs in April … You’ll have then a display of the biggest entries for all the species that are taken across the entire province and then you truly do see some impressive heads, because they come from everywhere,” Tiessen said.

This year’s rough winter, however, meant that entries Tiessen saw on Sunday were generally smaller in size than previous record holders.

“I haven’t seen any really big heads,” he said. “Last year there were a lot of entries into the record book.

“This year I don’t see myself placing many people in the record book -- not for Saskatchewan, because it’s just been a tough year.

“I understand that we've got a big mule deer taken by somebody in our city, but I haven’t seen it yet.”

Organizations: Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, Prince Albert

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, North America

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