Where Hunting Happens, Conservation Happens™

History of the Records Program

A Legacy of Stewardship

History shows that regulated hunting is the foundation of conservation in North America. Big game records books help document this history.

The Boone and Crockett Club began laying the foundations for its records program in 1902. Theodore Roosevelt was appointed chairman of the Club’s first records committee – a committee that was charged with developing a measuring and record keeping system for male, native North American big game trophies. In 1906 the Club published its book, Big Game Measurements. The stated purpose of this book was to put into practice a uniform standard of measurements of the large game of North America. Members were encouraged to record the measurements of the game they harvested and send the information in to the Club's secretary. The scoring system described in this book, which is different from the one used today, was devised by Club members Theodore Roosevelt, Caspar Whitney, and Archibald Rogers.

More than a listing of names and numbers in a book

The intentions of the Club in establishing and popularizing a big game scoring and record keeping system were greater than arriving at a score, and honoring animals and hunters. The beginnings of record keeping had other purposes, conservation and the recovery of our big game species, and insisting on ethical sportsmanship.

The first objective was to collect biological, harvest, and location data on hunter-taken trophies. Early wildlife sciences held the belief that the existence of mature, male specimens was an indicator of overall population and habitat health. Conversely, their absence was an indicator of unnatural pressures on a population, such as over harvesting, disease, or degraded habitat.

Since wildlife recovery was the focus of the Club and early conservation efforts and since no such biological data on big game species existed, the Club believed that this information would be beneficial to game managers in setting policy and then to track the success or failure of those policies.

Trophy records were also used to recognize those sportsmen who were participating in the conservation movement by hunting selectively for mature, male animals that had already genetically contributed to a local population.  Removing pressure on the young and the females in a herd was paramount to population recovery. By following new game laws and harvest restrictions aimed at recovery, hunting selectively for a mature male trophy, sportsmen began to see the benefits of game management and conserving for tomorrow. Sportsmen began working with instead of against conservation measures. Having their trophy and their name recognized in a records book was icing on the cake.

Lastly, big game records offered proof that sportsmen were holding themselves to high ethical standards. At a time when sportsmen were wrongfully being associated with commercial market hunters who’s business had no room for a code of ethical conduct, something more universal then just game laws was needed. To distance legitimate sportsmen from market hunters, sportsmen took it upon themselves to accept rules of engagement that showed respect for the game being hunted. The name given to this code by B&C was fair chase. Only those trophies taken in fair chase as defined by the Club were eligible to be included in the records books. Using self-restraint and good judgment became a badge of honor. It also shifted the emphasis of measuring success from the quantity of game taken, to the quality of the chase. Today, fair chase is widely accepted among sportsmen as doing the right thing even if the wrong thing is not illegal.

National Collection of Heads and Horns

Bronx ZOO, NYC, Headquarters of The National Collection of Heads

In 1940, the Collection held 2,371 specimens. When the Club assumed ownership of the National Collection in 1978 only 238 specimens remained. The National Collection of Heads and Horns is currently display at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming.

By the end of Theodore Roosevelt's presidency, many of our native big-game species were in grave condition. Bison were reduced to a few hundred head, and whitetails and other big game were largely eliminated from the states east of the Mississippi. Many people believed there could be no other final result of civilization's push West than the eventual extinction of all big game. Even several prominent Club members such as William T. Hornaday and Madison Grant agreed with this dismal forecast, but more people needed to see for themselves what was happening to our wildlife. During the years of 1906-1922, Hornaday worked industriously to establish the National Collection of Heads and Horns at the Bronx Zoo in New York City.

The Club opened its National Collection of Heads and Horns for public display in 1922 with a particular purpose in mind. The inscription over the entrance to this trophy exhibit read, “In Memory of the Vanishing Big Game of the World.” While people marveled at the sight of huge animals from around the World, many having never been seen before in person, people got mad. How could this be happening? How could we let this happen?

The public outcry from this exhibit was so great that it reached the halls of Congress and subsequent legislation aimed at the protection of wildlife and their habitats was given top priority. This single exhibit helped to foster the public’s realization that all wildlife belonged to them and was in their care. It may have just been a taxidermy display, but it ignited the public support for conservation that was lacking to that point. It also proved that trophies had a lasting significance to conservation the Club was committed to nurture.

The National Collection of Heads and Horns is now housed at the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri.

The First Records Book

In 1932, Prentiss N. Gray, a long-time Club member, authored the first big-game records book of the Club titled, Records of North American Big Game. It was published with the cooperation of the National Collection of Heads and Horns. The measurements used were quite simple, the length of skull, or the longer antler or horn, plus a basal circumference. This volume was followed in 1939 by a second edition titled North American Big Game. Again, simple measurements were used to rank the trophies listed. This edition is especially notable for several fine chapters on subjects related to measurement and big game. Grancel Fitz had a lengthy chapter on his idea of a complex system of measurements that would, as a result of the numeric score total, rank trophies naturally.


Grancel Fitz measuring the main beam circumference on the A.S. Reed Alaska-Yukon moose that is currently in the National Collection of Heads and Horns. Not only was Grancel on the committee that developed the Club’s copyrighted scoring system, but he and his wife Betty coordinated the day to day records-keeping activities of the Club for many years from their New York City apartment.

The Second World War years occupied all of America. Following the war, as things began to return to normal, interest was renewed in big-game scoring and records keeping. In 1947, the Club began annual Big Game Competitions, with the winners being chosen by a Judges' Panel. But, while these proved popular, they also pointed out the subjective nature of awards based entirely upon the opinions of a group of judges, no matter how well qualified. There was an obvious need for an objective system that could be applied by sportsmen to their own best trophies. In 1949, Samuel B. Webb, well-known to Club members and a close friend of both Grancel Fitz and Dr. James L. Clark, was chosen to chair a special committee of the Club to devise an equitable, objective, and consistent measurement system for the big game of North America. In addition to Webb, Fitz and Clark, the committee members included Dr. Harold E. Anthony, Milford Baker and Frederick K. Barbour. All were experienced big game hunters with strong interest in giving recognition to exceptional big game trophies.

The committee worked during the year to arrive at the system adopted by the Boone and Crockett Club in 1950. Prior to publication, the system was circulated to 250 sportsmen, biologists, and other interested parties for their comments. Once adopted, the system quickly became established as the universally accepted standard for measuring native North American big game.

The Scoring System

The Boone and Crockett scoring system utilizes carefully taken measurements of the enduring trophy characteristics of particular specie to arrive at a numerical final score that provides a reliable and duplicable ranking for all trophies of a category.

By measuring only enduring characters (such as antlers, horns, and skulls) rather than skin length or carcass weight, the measurements may be repeated at any later date to verify both the measurements and the resulting ranking in each category of big game. Anyone doubting the correctness of a particular trophy's ranking can readily prove or disprove his own contentions by a simple replication of the measurements.


James L. Clark, former vice director of exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, touching up the Chadwick Ram. Jimmy, a longtime Boone and Crockett Club member, devised a scoring system for clients who patronized his taxidermy studio. He was also a member of the committee that created the Club’s universally recognized scoring system for native North American big game.

The system places heavy emphasis and rewards the most common antler or horn configuration for a species, which includes symmetry between right and left antler or horn. Symmetry, from a biological perspective represents healthy or poor habitat conditions where the animal lived and the presence or absence of environmental stressors.

Deducting from the final score those portions of the measured material that are non-symmetrical results in even, well-matched trophies scoring better and placing higher in the rankings than equally developed but mismatched trophies. For those antlered trophies with unusual amounts of abnormal antler material, non-typical categories were developed to give them recognition, as they would be unduly penalized in the typical categories. With the newly established system in place, the Club set about rescoring those trophies previously recognized in the 1932 and 1939 records books. The results, along with other trophies qualifying under the new system, were published in 1952 in Records of North American Big Game. This is then the "first" records book that used the Club's copyrighted scoring system adopted in 1950. It was followed by editions in 1958, 1964, 1971, 1977, 1981, 1988, 1993, 1999, 2005, 2011 with the next edition due out in 2017.

All-time and Big Game Awards Book

In 1984, in order to boost participation from sportsmen and to broaden the scope of the data being collected, the Club established its Awards program and records book with lower minimum entry scores than the all-time book. A special 18th Awards Program records book titled, Boone and Crockett Club's 18th Big Game Awards, was published. Its listings were limited to the 950 trophies accepted during the 18th Awards Program entry period of 1980-1982. Awards Program records books have been subsequently published every three years, the year following the close of each triennial Awards Program. Thus, there is an all-time records book every six years and an Awards Program records book every three years.

The two books differ in important ways. The all-time records book includes all trophies over current all-time minimum entry scores and meets other stated requirements that have been entered since the beginning of the system. The Awards Program records book includes only those trophies of the stated three-year Awards Program, as based on the lower entry minimums applicable for many categories. Thus, a good many trophies get recognition in the Awards Program records book that remain in this book and do not transfer in perpetuity to the data set of the all-time records book. The inclusion of the hunting stories and photos of the trophies receiving awards makes the Awards Program records book a uniquely enjoyable book for the trophy hunter, while the all-time records book provides the definitive answers to questions regarding statistics for native North American big game.

Entries accepted during two Awards Program entry periods that do score over stated minimums and meet other stated requirements will be added to the listings of the last book to comprise the next edition of the all-time records book Records of North American Big Game. Of course, only trophies never before entered and/or published in a Boone and Crockett Club records book can be accepted as entries. As noted, some categories do require lower minimum scores for entry into the Awards Program entry period and Awards records book than for the all-time records book. Click for the current list of Minimum Entry Scores for both the Awards Program entry period and the all-time records book.

The original annual competitions of the Club that were begun in 1947 were changed to a biennial basis in 1952 and to a triennial basis in 1968. In the early 1970s, the word competition was changed to “awards” to better identify the basic concept of recognition of fine trophies taken under conditions of Fair Chase rather than "competition" of such trophies. The three-year basis of trophy entry continues today. Following the close of each Awards Program entry period, the finest few trophies of each category are invited to a central location for verification by a Judges Panel. Trophies re-measured by the Judges' Panel and subsequently certified by the Panel for awards are eligible to receive the Boone and Crockett Club Big Game Medal and/or Certificate. Trophies receiving awards are featured with photos and their hunting stories in the Awards Program records book, (e.g., Boone and Crockett Club's 29th Big Game Awards) published the year following the close of an Awards Program entry period.

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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt