SSAA Tas maps out strategy for Douglas Score System

The SSAA Tasmania Branch has formally adopted the Douglas Score System as its means of measuring the antler growth of trophy deer and now the state branch wants to extend the system to the rest of the country.

The Tasmanian trailblazers have been working in conjunction with the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association and the Douglas Score Panel to set up a template to introduce the scoring system throughout Australia. The Tasmanian delegation of Rod Hill, Neville Bannister, Elvin Gleeson, Craig Muir and Colin Walker linked up with their Kiwi counterparts Mark Sarjeant, Andrew Lang, Ray Webb and the late D Bruce Banwell. Also involved in the process were the custodians of the Douglas Score Panel (Sarjeant, Brian Whitton and Vern Pearson).

The Douglas Score System is a formal measuring structure used to quantify deer antlers for historical recording purposes and competitions. It was invented by the late Norman Douglas, a New Zealander, in the 1940s. Douglas appreciated the symmetry of nature and with critical analysis and experimentation, created a system that rewarded balance and penalised imperfection.

Deerstalker Douglas came up with his formula that takes into the equation factors of an antler other than just length and width alone. Douglas was methodical about the configuration of antlers and horns, their evenness and balance. He inflicted sanctions on heads and antlers that were out of ‘sync’ (with an antler or horn longer than the other, or seemingly wide for the species), unlike other scoring systems around the planet that register every inch of ‘bone’ any animal grew.

The Douglas system is essentially simple: you double the smallest measurement on either horn or antler. You do not add them together. In theory, the measurements taken are: the length of horn (both sides), the girth at the base of each horn, and the spread and other measurements depending on species of deer.

If, say, the length of the left horn (around the spiral) is 38" and the length of the right is 36", the total score for horn length is double the smallest measurement, or 36x2, which adds up to 72 points. It is precisely the same procedure for girth. If the left basal girth of the horn is 6¼" and the right is 5½", the total score for girth is double the lesser, or 11", which means 11 points.

“We are rolling it out in Tasmania for fallow deer and offering it out for other species throughout Australia,” said professional forester Rod Hill.

But implementing the system is no simple task. Trainees face an arduous route to familiarise themselves with the techniques of scoring. “Making it to level one involves a one-day course, sometimes with refreshers,” said Rod. “To progress to level two can mean training from five to 10 days to attain accreditation.”

But the system is off and running after a weekend Highland Bushfest carnival in Bothwell, Tasmania, in November. Rod reckoned that about 3000 people soaked up the atmosphere during the two days of festivities, and among the visitors was Federal Member for Lyons, Eric Hutchinson.

The idea to develop a Douglas Score team in Tasmania came about via an informal discussion between the late Banwell, a noted New Zealand outdoor writer and deer historian, and dedicated Tasmanian hunter Rod over a whisky at his ‘wee crib’ while chasing Atlantic salmon on the Rakaia River some years ago.

The system was initially intended to measure Tasmanian fallow deer, but can now be extended to include sambar, red deer, wapiti, chamois, sika and whitetail. There are even methods to cater for pigs tusks and goats horns. A master list of fallow trophy antlers has been registered to form a Top 100 Tasmanian Fallow Deer list, which is available on the SSAA Tasmania website.

The SSAA and NZDA retain strong links, which should ensure the correct use of the system as it is progressively rolled out throughout all of Australia. The system is formally monitored by the Douglas Score Panel (Sarjeant, Whitton and Pearson), which was formed by Norman Douglas’s son, Murray, who is the owner and custodian.

Meanwhile, Rod stressed the importance of bringing new measurers on board. “We have to keep up the good work,” he said. “For every 50 people that you try to train, you may get 10 to 15 who are good at the job and remain committed.”

The weekend Highland Bushfest also presented SSAA Tasmania with the opportunity to reiterate the desire to establish a 1000m rifle range in the state. “It gave us a different lean on what we want to do,” said Rod. “If it comes off, we can push the SSAA to the fore in Tasmania.”

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