Whether you are an avid bear hunter or just starting out, it is important to know how to measure a bear skull accurately. It can be interesting to keep track of the various sizes of bears you harvest over the years and exciting to know if you are likely to score a Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young record bear. Some hunters will focus on the weight of the bear, but it is the skull measurement that determines whether it will make it to the record books, and sometimes the measurements can surprise you. I’ve had multiple hunters who didn’t realize how big their bear actually was until we did the measurements.

Determining the size of a bear skull is much simpler than measuring the antler of ungulates as there are only two measurements that need to be taken, the length and width. First, you need the length. To get the length of the skull you measure from the farthest rear point (at the occipital bone) to the farthest point of the upper jaw/teeth at the front of the skull. The lower jaw and any malformations that could extend this length are not included so if the bear has a prominent underbite, you’re out of luck (Let me know if you’ve ever seen a bear with an underbite!).

For the width of the skull, you need to measure the distance between the cheekbones (also called the zygomatic arches). Then all you’ve got to do is add these two numbers together to get the total measurement of the skull.

To be sure you’ve got accurate numbers and are not disappointed by overestimating your measurements, it is important to use the correct tools. The two must-have items are a caliper and measuring tape that is marked to 1/16th inch. It can be hard to find large enough calipers at a hardware store but you can purchase them from the Boone and Crocket website. I’ve also found them on Amazon, just make sure you look for an 18” size.

I use this method to measure all our skulls at camp. Measurements are taken as soon as we skin the heads to get a close estimate of the final score; this is for the hunters’ knowledge and my own records on the bears we harvest. For Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young, the skulls must first be dried for 60 days and all adhering flesh, membranes and cartilage completely removed before official measurements are taken.

For more information on the Boone and Crockett instructions and their scoring sheet, check out https://prod-boone-crockett.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/atoms/files/sc_bear.pdf.