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New gadget hones on deer racks from afar

Liars beware: your stories may soon be put to the test.

Hunters — like fishermen describing the one that got away — sometimes see a big buck and, in their excitement, overestimate just how large it was.

There was no way to dispute those stories in the past, save by shooting the deer and measuring its rack. But that's no longer true.

A Westmoreland County native has created a software program that can examine a deer's rack and be 98 percent accurate in telling you what its gross Boone & Crockett score would be.

"It's a fun tool," said Jeremy Flinn, a 26-year-old Manor native who developed Buckscore while working on his master's degree in wildlife biology at Mississippi State University. "People are always talking about seeing this deer or that deer and guessing how big it is and what it might score. This can give you that answer, while the deer is still alive."

The program works using photos. You take pictures of a deer — caught on a trail camera, for example — and load it into the program. It asks you to trace the deer's main beams, its points and its inside spread, then turns that into a three-dimensional image, "as if you had that rack in your hands," said Flinn, who now lives near Louisville.

From there, it gives you a score.

With a single picture from either the side, front or a 45-degree angle, the program can be 95 percent accurate, Flinn said. With all three photos, it can be 98 percent accurate.

The system is based on deer's facial features. Base data was collected from the racks and faces of 600 mounted deer, sedated deer from a research facility and 110 deer from Pennsylvania.

The result is a program that is not only fun, but has real-life applications, said Toxie Givens, a website developer, hunter and blogger from Jacksonville, Fla., who's been using Buckscore.

"It's a real good tool for managing your herd or for just looking at the size of deer you have," said Givens. "To be able to look at your deer and score them pretty accurately, it's educational."

Flinn marketed Buckscore at the Quality Deer Management Association's fall convention, at the SHOT Show — the hunting industry's annual convention in Las Vegas — this past week, and will spend four days at the Eastern Sports, Travel and Outdoors Show in Harrisburg next month. The big push to sell Buckscore will begin this summer, in the run-up to deer season, though, he said.

Bushnell Outdoor Products, an industry giant best known for its optics, thinks it will take off, and has agreed to partner in its promotion.

Flinn, who shares royalties with Mississippi State University, is hoping — and expecting — it will do well.

"It doesn't matter if you're scoring 150-class bucks or typical 8-points, everyone can use it and still have fun figuring out just what's out there," he said.

Additional Information:

Buckscore

Buckscore is available for Windows-based systems now. A Mac version and even a phone app are in the works, though.

Copies are $10 at www.buckscore.com . That entitles buyers to unlimited use, so you can score one deer or 1,000, with each score taking three to four minutes to complete.

Best of all, once you've initially downloaded the program, you no longer need to be connected to the Internet to make it work, so you can score deer at home, at camp or anywhere else.

Anyone wanting to talk to Flinn can see him at the QDMA booth at the Harrisburg outdoor show Feb. 5, 6 and 7.

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