As the president of The Maine Antler & Skull Trophy Club, Kyle Wentworth has seen plenty of impressive critters over the years. In fact, he grew up setting up the MASTC display at outdoor expos with his dad Al, the former club president.
But if you start paging through the handsome hardcover book that MASTC produces every two years to honor the hunters who’ve taken the deer and moose with the largest racks, along with the biggest bears and turkeys, you’ll only find his name in one spot.
“Right here,” Wentworth said with a chuckle, pointing at the president’s report on Page 3. “That’s the only way I can get in there. So far, anyway. I’m still working on it.”
In that, Wentworth is not alone: He’s among thousands of Maine hunters who’ve never shot a deer with large enough headgear to consider having the antlers professionally “scored.” And he’s also among the thousands who enjoy living vicariously through the photos and stories of those hunters who’ve done just that.
MASTC, which was formed in 1978 by brothers Dick and Jean Arsenault, serves as both the judging body and the clearing house for some of the state’s most impressive game animals.
The judging is done by trained professional scorers who examine the racks of moose and deer, the skulls of bears, and the vital stats of wild turkeys. And that bound volume, which includes all of the hunters who’ve met the minimum standard over the previous two years, in addition to the top 500 all time in each category, serves as a desk reference and brag book for those who’ve earned their way into its pages.
The concept of scoring antlers was first popularized nationally in 1930s by the Boone and Crockett Club, according to Wentworth. MASTC focuses on Maine’s four big-game animals, and has been sanctioning results and compiling lists for 40 years.
And though the word “trophy” is in the club’s name, Wentworth said that really doesn’t explain what drives Maine hunters.
“The whole concept of a trophy hunter is kind of misleading, I think. There’s a lot of misconceptions about that, that trophy hunters are only in it for the antlers. I think that’s probably farthest from the truth, especially for Maine hunters,” Wentworth said. “I think we can all agree that Maine hunters are going to use the entire deer.”
Wentworth explained that for many Maine hunters, a 200-pound deer is the buck of a lifetime, and is a bucket-list goal. Scoring antlers simply provides another way to recognize some of the impressive animals that are taken each year.
At its simplest, MASTC scoring involves measuring the length of each tine on a set of antlers, as well as recording other measurements. Those measurements are added up and a total score, in inches, is determined.
But it’s not really that easy. Any variety of oddities may crop up on a set of antlers, forcing the scorer to use their training to figure out how to proceed.
“There’s a lot of variables to scoring,” Wentworth said. “No antlers are the same.”
And while most hunters think they know what a “point” on a deer’s antlers looks like, official scorers might view things differently.
“The old verbiage is, ‘if you can hang a ring on it, [it’s a point],’” Wentworth said. “Actually, in order to be a scorable point, it has to be a minimum of one inch (long) and it has to be longer than it is wide at the base.”
And before antlers or skulls can be officially scored, the hunter must wait a couple of months.
“The drying period is 60 days after you shoot the animal before you can score it. You can score it ahead of time — that’s called ‘green scoring’ — but for it to be official you have to wait 60 days,” Wentworth said.
Wentworth said those seeking to become official MASTC scorers are invited to check out the club’s web page. Single-day training clinics are offered periodically, and give potential scorers the chance to learn the trade.
The club doesn’t charge hunters to have their animal’s rack or skull scored, but inclusion in the big game record book costs $20, and the books themselves also are sold. And the club doesn’t just score hunter-killed animals: There’s a category for “shed” hunters, people who go into the woods looking for antlers that have dropped off the animals’ heads during winter, and scorers sometimes measure racks that were acquired at yard sales, or after a roadkill.
Every two years, corresponding to the publication of another record book, MASTC stages a banquet that can draw more than 700 people. The next banquet is set for April 27 at the Augusta Civic Center.
After years spent admiring antlers, Wentworth said he still enjoys hearing the stories and looking at photos sent in by successful hunters.
“It’s jaw-dropping. It always is. It never fails. I’ve grown up seeing huge deer all the time, with my dad being president of the club, and it never grows old. I just love it,” he said.
And when he sees those antlers, he can’t help thinking that someday, he might be that lucky.
“You just wait for that day for one to walk in front of you,” he said.