Typical vs Non-Typical Deer: What’s the Difference?

The difference between a typical vs non-typical deer is a typical set of deer antlers are a mirror image of each other. Each side has the same number of points, the points are the same size and width, the angle of the rack is the same, symmetry is the key.

To deer having a symmetrical set or a non-symmetrical, non-typical set has little to do with survival or in carrying on the genes to another generation. But we like them the same.

What is a typical deer?

Typical and atypical, or non-typical antlers are terms devised by hunters to score the relative size of harvest whitetail and mule deer bucks. It’s estimated since state game and fish agencies don’t keep track of the points on a deer, that half of the wild whitetail population falls into each category.

Mule deer are normally more typical at about 70%. Deer farmers do keep track of the difference with many of them claiming 90% of their herds are non-typical.

A typical deer has a symmetrical rack, meaning the orientation, the number of points, the direction of tines, and the overall layout of each antler is a mirror image of the other.

Boone and Crocket is a scoring system that utilizes various measurements of a deer antler to determine how many points it scores.

The Pope and Young system is nearly the same, with the main difference being that the deer must have been taken with a bow and arrow rather than legally harvested with a firearm as Boone and Crocket bucks are.

A typical whitetail buck is scored first by the number of points on each antler. The distance between the two outermost points on each side is called the spread and it is measured in inches.

The inside spread of the main beams (the heaviest part of the antler) is measured as well, along with the overall length of the main beam.  The length and circumference of the typical points are the final measurements used to score a typical deer rack.

Points are deducted for any abnormality between the two sides of the rack.

The most common irregularity is a different number of points on one side compared to the other. You’ve probably heard the term a 3×4 or a 4×5 buck. That means one side has four prominent points, and the other only three. The 4×5 term means the same thing, a difference of one point on one side compared to the other.

Whitetails are labeled by the total number of points on a rack. That means a 5×5 rack equates to a 10-point buck.

Mule deer are different they are labeled by the points on one side of the rack in a uniform or typical deer. That means a 5×5 mule deer is a five-point buck.

Typical mule deer have much larger racks than typical whitetail bucks. A mule deer rack has a greater spread, heavier main beams, heavier points, and the tines point up and out.

Whitetail racks often resemble a pair of cupped hands pointed forward just above the eyes of a buck. The fingers are bent, spread apart with the thumbs pointed up and the fingers pointed in the direction the deer would be looking in this illustration.

That’s how typical deer look, are labeled and scored.

When you enter the realm of non-typical or atypical bucks, all that emphasis on symmetrical uniformity goes out the window.

What is a non-typical deer?

Typical vs Non-Typical Deer

Without a smirk, a non-typical deer just isn’t balanced in appearance. That means the number of points on each side doesn’t match. A non-typical rack doesn’t look right, since it is unbalanced.

That unbalanced look can be as simple as having four points on one side and six on the other, but it can reach wild extremes in whitetail bucks, and be nearly as exotic with their larger cousin the mule deer.

A set of non-typical deer antlers can have points growing out in all directions. It can have points on points, points at right angles to other points, and just about any combination in between.

There is a sign outside the Union Bar in Hudson, Wyoming that advertises a 38-point buck. When you enter the establishment, the dusty mount that has been hanging above the bar since the early 1950s is a classic non-typical whitetail.

The points are not symmetrical with 21 on the right side facing the deer and 17 on the left. None of them are the same size either. They vary in diameter, length and even have subtle color differences.

All these factors create the essence of a non-typical deer.

Most trophy hunters look for a large symmetrical rack when they’re in the field. They’ll often shy away from a non-typical rack unless it’s a truly spectacular one.

Differences between typical and non-typical deer

Typical Bucks

  1. Same number of points on each side
  2. Beam length is identical from side to side
  3. Beam circumference is identical side to side
  4. There are no extra points
  5. There are no kickers growing off points
  6. No brow tines

Non-typical Bucks

  1. Different number of points on each side
  2. Beam length can differ from side to side
  3. Beam circumference can vary
  4. Extra points are common
  5. Kickers are frequent and can create an exotic looking rack
  6. Brow tines are common

How do you score a non-typical deer?

First, you have to understand how the scoring system works on a typical deer. We’ll take an eight-point whitetail buck with perfectly symmetrical antlers, that is four points on each side that are almost a mirror image of each other.

There are gross and net scores in determining the points for a buck.

The gross score is determined by the length of the points, the inside spread, the beam lengths, and the circumference of the points all added together.

The differences between corresponding points, if there are any is measured and deducted from the gross score. That means that point one on the left is compared to point one on the right, with any differences in length and circumference noted, and subtracted from the gross score.

You repeat the process with the second, third and fourth points to get a total deduction.  Differences in beam lengths from side to side are also noted and subtracted.

In a perfectly symmetrical rack, the gross score and the net score are identical since no subtraction for disparity was taken.

On a typical rack, any extra point on one side is deducted from the gross score. That means a huge 5×6 buck will have five points on both sides measured and evaluated, but the sixth point will be deducted as “atypical” or abnormal.

All the points count on a non-typical rack, and the other measurements for width, beam length, etc.. are still used. Since non-typical racks often have kickers growing askew to set points these are not deducted as abnormal in the scoring system.

A non-typical buck with 10 points on one side and nine on the other will have all the points scored, even the outlying point for the gross score. Deductions for additional points aren’t made in scoring non-typical bucks

If you have a massive non-typical buck and you score it as typical which many hunters still do, all those extra points of varying size are going to be deducted from the gross score to get a net score.

If you score the buck as non-typical, all those points are added up.

Typical vs Non-Typical Deer

In practice, this means the same rack, scored first as typical and second as non-typical can have a great disparity in points.

Since points are the summation of all the measurements in a set of antlers, that means a buck with an extra point, a brow tine, and maybe a couple of kickers could have a net score of 155. That same buck scored as non-typical could score 190. That’s 35 inches of antler you’ll have to deduct if you score it as typical.

Why do hunters choose to score typical versus non-typical at all? The answer is there is a bit more prestige in scoring your harvested buck as a typical rack.

If your antlers are nearly identical and have just a four-inch kicker on one side, you can still get a great typical score since only the tiny kicker’s metrics will be deducted from the gross score to give you a net total.

The choice is yours, but it’s hard to ignore all those extra bits of antler in a creative non-typical style buck. 


Scoring is a process best done by the experts since most hunters only harvest one buck a season. A guide, taxidermist, or even an experienced wild game processor can help you get started in scoring your own buck.

You’ll need a flexible tape, a notepad, and be either good at basic math or have a calculator nearby to score your trophy.

If it’s a truly remarkable rack, you’ll need to contact a Boone and Crocket, or a Pope and Young official for a recordable measurement.

Remember, those measurements you took in the field right after taking the buck won’t be the same a few weeks later when the officials arrive. Deer antlers shrink up to 10% in size when they dry out.

string(8) "big-game"
Scroll to Top