With the roebuck season starting tomorrow (1st April), many stalkers will be contemplating what the coming months may hold, and whether 2010 will bring them the long-anticipated trophy that achieves a CIC medal. With this in mind, and following recent comments in certain sections of the sporting press, it is perhaps important to consider the issue of trophy weight in relation to final score. This is so that some stalkers do not overlook what may turn out to be a gold medal head, while at the same time enabling others to discover a hidden treasure from past seasons lurking somewhere in their collection.

When a head is presented for judging after the required 90 days’ drying period, a deduction is made from the gross weight of the trophy depending on how much of the skull is present. This varies from 90g in the case of a full skull down to 0g in stepped increments as a result of how the skull has been cut. The net weight of the trophy gives the figure that contributes to the final score.

Rural myths

In recent weeks, comment has appeared in the sporting press claiming that in order to achieve the qualifying score required for the award of a CIC gold medal (130 points), the net weight of the trophy has to be in the region of 500g. It has also been claimed that trophies that have been given gold status by the UK Commission with scores of less than this have acquired the award as the result of errors or poor assessment during the judging process, or the misuse of recognised measuring apparatus. In fact neither is, nor has been, the case.

As most stalkers will know, the weight of the dry trophy is a major component of the CIC scoring system. Unfortunately, the understanding of the net weight required for trophies to achieve any colour of medal under the CIC rules seems to have achieved something of the status of a rural myth. Indeed, a belief appears to have developed among some in the stalking community that the net weights required for gold, silver, and bronze medals are set at 500g, 420g and 370g respectively. Undoubtedly, the fact that some commentators and authors have gone so far as to commit these figures to print has helped to lend the myth excessive credibility.

While the oft-quoted figures may serve well as a yardstick to the point that the parent CIC organisation uses them as a guideline, they by no means determine the eventual score that the trophy will make. Of greater importance than weight as a component of the final score is the element attributed to volume. When the volume is taken by suspending the antlers in water it is the gross weight of the head, i.e. the total weight in air, which is subtracted from the weight in water to give the displacement of the antlers.

Lightweight heads in the archives

The United Kingdom Trophy Assessment Commission of the CIC has a database of heads dating back to 1966, part of which has formed the annual lists published in Shooting Times. The commission is also fortunate in having a substantial photographic archive of these trophies. Since 1985, the net weight of the head has been given as part of the roe review as a means of improving understanding of how scores are made up.

Over the past 25 seasons, a significant number of trophies have been recorded and published as gold medals with a net weight of less than 460g. In all, some 57 trophies have been recorded as gold medals with a net weight of 440g or less. These trophies have come from a wide geographic area and while some years have produced three or four examples, others have had none. Of the 57 lightest, 33 originated from England and 24 from Scotland. All of the judges presently on the commission, and all of its former members, have measured and recorded trophies weighing less than 440g, suggesting that the phenomena is by no means rare, but neither is it increasing nor decreasing. The current title for the lightest head to achieve a gold medal belongs to a Scottish example taken in 2004. This specimen weighed 390g, though the judge who assessed it, Allan Allison, was at pains to point out, from his retirement, that it had had its nose eaten off by the stalker’s dog.

A common feature of these sub-440g heads is that they invariably achieve a high score for volume, and the majority of them are relatively long, with an average length of 25cm. Only three have been recorded with a score in excess of 138 CIC points, and the majority achieve a gold medal by a very small margin. The factors that bear influence on a particular animal developing a set of antlers that are high in volume while relatively low in weight are many and varied. However a boost provided by either access to a food source high in
proteins, or with a specific mineral content or chemical composition is likely to be a major factor in such development, often leading to antlers that have a large surface area and associated luxuriant pearling.

Far from normal trophies

The quality and appearance of the heads in the CIC archive ranges from typical six-pointers at one extreme to multipointed and porous examples at the other. Judges have regularly commented that they have found themselves rechecking the volume score or indeed getting confirmation from a colleague that the volume they have recorded is correct. However, it must be stressed that the majority of these trophies, to both judge and stalker alike, appear as “normal” and the award of a gold medal can often come as a shock to both measurer and owner.

To illustrate the phenomenon, a number of examples showing both typical and non-typical antler development are pictured above. All were taken north of the Border from those east coast areas renowned for trophy roebucks. The four typical heads have net weights of between 445g and 464g, but a volume of between 190cc and 200cc. It is the latter figure that pushes them into gold medal status. Additionally, the one shown with eight points further benefited from increased surface area, which inflated its volume score. The two non-typical heads, which were both found dead, are particularly good examples of animals with huge antler surfaces, which push up the score. Only one of the two was submitted for measurement. Weighing 420g, it has a volume of 218cc, which translates to 65.4 CIC points. It made the necessary 130.75 CIC points for a gold medal but only before the assessing judge deducted the full five points due to its appearance.

So when you acquire the highly valued trophy that you have sought for so long, don’t be to despondent if the weight is less than you thought. Take it along to your nearest CIC judge and let him work out the finer points of its volume, length and span. You never know, your trophy might just join the 57 that so far have proved that weight, while important, isn’t the be-all and end-all of what makes a trophy head.