What is a Brow Tine on an Elk? A Guide to Identifying and Judging This Key Feature

For elk hunters, being able to identify and evaluate the brow tines on a bull is an essential skill. The brow tines are the first points that extend directly above the main beams. Along with main beam length and mass, the brow tines are a defining characteristic of a mature trophy bull elk.

This guide will provide key information on what brow tines are why they matter how to judge them, and how brow tine restrictions affect hunting regulations in certain areas. Read on to gain valuable knowledge for identifying and assessing potential trophy bulls in the field.

What Exactly is an Elk Brow Tine?

  • Located directly above the main beams, the brow tines are the first projections off the main antler.

  • Unlike typical deer antlers, elk antlers feature prominent, well-developed brow tines.

  • The brow tines emerge off the main beam starting between the first and second year of an elk’s life.

  • As a bull matures over several years, the brow tines become thicker, longer, and more massive.

  • The brows help establish overall antler growth pattern and frame size that will be carried throughout life

  • Along with main beams, brow tines are one of the most critical aspects experts look at when judging trophy potential.

Why the Brow Tines Matter for Judging Bull Elk

There are several reasons the brow tines are a focal point for estimating antler size and trophy quality

  • Their growth trajectory mirrors overall antler development. Long, massive brow tines indicate genetics for superior antlers.

  • The length of brow tines relative to the nose establishes a baseline for comparing other tine lengths.

  • Thick, robust brow tines contribute significantly to overall mass measurements.

  • The shape and symmetry of brow tines demonstrate overall antler quality.

  • For record book rankings, the brow tine circumference is measured and scored.

  • Unique traits like extra points or forked brow tines add special character.

In essence, the brow tines help tell the story of an elk’s antler genetics and development over its lifetime. Paying close attention to this area provides key insights.

Judging Brow Tine Size and Trophy Potential

When looking at a bull elk, experts suggest following this process to evaluate the brow tines:

  • Note length – Estimate how the tip would compare to the nose if pulled down. Big bulls often reach nose level.

  • Check thickness – Do they seem stout and robust or thin and spindly? Massive is better.

  • Assess shape – Are they curved, hooked, or straight? Look for symmetry and shape that complements the beams.

  • Examine direction – Do they shoot straight up or sweep back? Up and back indicate maturity.

  • Consider extras – Are there any stickers, splits, or extra points? Uniques add character.

  • Compare both sides – Are they balanced and similar in size? This speaks to genetics and age.

  • Factor in beams – Do the brows align with the beam shape and mass? This helps gauge trophy structure.

The top criteria experts recommend for identifying a true trophy brow tine bull:

  • Length reaching the tip of the nose and curving upward after.

  • Circumference over 4 inches when measured near the base.

  • Symmetry and balance between both antlers.

  • Aligned direction and shape with the main beams.

Any bull that meets these standards will be considered a viable trophy by most measures. The brow tines help set the framework defining a mature trophy animal.

Brow Tine Restricted Hunt Units

In some elk hunting areas, regulations limit kills only to bulls with certain brow tine criteria. This protects younger animals and conserves mature, trophy-class bulls.

Two types of brow tine restrictions commonly used:

  • 4-point or better – The bull must have at least one fully formed brow tine of 3+ inches on at least one side. This allows harvest of branch-antlered bulls while protecting spike-only elk.

  • 6-point or better – The bull must have both left and right brow tines of at least 4 inches long. This is the highest restriction, intended to protect mature trophy size bulls.

Before applying for tags, check regulations to see if brow tine restrictions apply in that unit. Be prepared to identify legal bulls properly.

Tips for Recognizing Legal Brow Tined Bulls

When hunting in brow tine restricted units, follow these tips to recognize legal bulls in the field:

  • Learn what 3 or 4 inch tines look in relation to elk facial features. Bring measuring aids to practice judging length.

  • Any forked brow tine is legal, even if not long, as it displays maturity.

  • Bring binoculars and/or spotting scopes to inspect brow tines at a distance and confirm legality before stalking.

  • When identifying smaller brow tines, get multiple viewing angles as thinner tines can disappear behind the main beam at certain perspectives.

  • If uncertain on tine length, hold off on cow calls and stalking until the bull turns and presents his antlers clearly.

  • Take photos and video for review if still unsure after extensive observation. Discuss with your game warden if needed.

  • Err on the conservative side. If it seems questionable or borderline, assume it’s illegal and wait for a more definitive shooter.

Careful judgment in the field is crucial for success and staying compliant when hunting brow tine bulls. Avoid hasty decisions that could spook legal bulls.

Spotting and Judging Mature Trophy Brow Tine Bulls

With practice, certain traits help distinguish mature brow tine trophy bulls at long range:

  • Sheer size – Noticeably large antlers extending well above head and shoulders often indicate a mature trophy animal.

  • Roman nose – A pronounced arc in the nasal profile suggests older age.

  • Dense neck – Bulls over 300 inches usually have a shaggy, very robust neck.

  • Worn tips – Polished antler tips indicate an older bull that has rubbed off fragile tine points.

  • Swayed back – The backline sags near the hips on truly mature bulls from age and rutting.

  • Proportions – Trophy brow tines should align with other features signaling mass and maturity.

Learning to recognize these subtleties combines with evaluating the brow tines themselves to identify optimal trophy bull potential.

Final Thoughts on Brow Tines and Judging Elk

As evidenced, the brow tines are a critical aspect when judging any bull elk. They contribute significantly to scoring and trophy classifications. Evaluating their length, mass, and symmetry provides instant insight into genetics, development, and age.

Brow tine knowledge helps hunters identify optimal trophies in the field. It also enables compliance with regulations in restricted hunt units. Learning to recognize quality brow tines through practice is a must for locating the bull of a lifetime.

Next time you glass or stalk a bull elk, pay special attention to the brow tines. Consider their features in relation to the tips above. With time and experience, you will be able to spot trophy characteristics instantly and make the right choices when you find that outstanding bull.

Brow Tine Bar None Bull


What is considered a brow tine?

“Brow tine” means a tine emerging from the first branch or brow palm on the main beam of a moose antler; the brow palm is separated from the main palm by a wide bay; a tine originating in or after this bay is not a brow tine.

Are brow tines G1?

B&C denotes the main points on antlers as G1, G2, G3, etc., with G1 being the brow tines or eye-guards. The other points are numbered consecutively. Before starting to score the antlers, match the normal points from one side with those on the other side.

What do you call a 6 point elk?

A bull elk, then, is defined by the number of tines it produces. If a bull has six tines, it is called a Royal; seven, an Imperial; eight, a Monarch.

What is considered a spike elk in Montana?

Spike bull: An elk, usually 11⁄2 years old (also known as a yearling), with antlers that do not branch. Or, if branched, the point (tine) is less than 4 inches long from the tip to the main antler beam. Roughly 20 percent of yearling bulls have a point longer than 4 inches long.

What is a brow tine?

BURR — The burr is the bony rim around the bottom of the antlers. BROW TINE — The brow tine is the first division of the antlers. BAY TINE — The bay tine is the second split, just above the brow tine. TRAY TINE — The tray tine is the third tine. SURROYAL TINE — The surroyal tine is the fourth tine that branches off the beam.

How far do elk brows go?

On a big American elk, the distance from the burr of the antler to the tip of the nose is about 15-4/8 inches. Let’s start at the bottom of the antlers and work up. A curved brow tine that appears to reach the end of the nose will be about 18 inches long.

What is the difference between a beam and a brow tine?

BEAM — The beam is the central stalk of the antler. PEDICLE — The pedicle is the permanent base for antlers, where they attach to the skull. BURR — The burr is the bony rim around the bottom of the antlers. BROW TINE — The brow tine is the first division of the antlers. BAY TINE — The bay tine is the second split, just above the brow tine.

Are brow tines a good bull?

Brow tines will often appear prehistorically big. This is the sort of bull that every hunter dreams of, and that tycoons pay hundreds of thousands to hunt. Not a high-scoring trophy by classic standards, but a very nice bull and a great bull for the New Mexico region.

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