What are the "Points" on a Buck?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A buck is a male deer, and in hunting terminology, the points on a buck are the individual tines of the buck's antlers. Generally speaking, the more points a buck has, the more prestige for the hunter who manages to kill him. Many hunters keep antlers from their kills as a trophy, prizing especially large “racks,” as they are called. People other than hunters may discuss points as well; biologists, for example, record information about the points on the bucks they study.

As a male deer ages, he grows more points on his antlers, or "rack".
As a male deer ages, he grows more points on his antlers, or "rack".

Antlers are very interesting and quite unique physical structures. In most deer species, they only develop on the male, and they are shed every year after the mating season. While the antlers grow in, they are covered in an extremely soft living tissue that is known as velvet; as the velvet dies, the bucks rub it off, and eventually the antlers come off as well. The older a deer is, the more branches develop in the antlers.

A deer's "points" are determined by the number of tines on their antlers, so an eight pointed male deer has eight distinct tines.
A deer's "points" are determined by the number of tines on their antlers, so an eight pointed male deer has eight distinct tines.

There are several main parts to an antler. The main beam is the main branch of the antler, and the tip of the main beam is counted as one of the points. Near where the antler emerges from the head, it is common to see a brow tine, a small tine that protrudes straight up, and it is also treated as a point. The antler also produces a number of branches called tines, and the total points on a buck represent the sum of all of these individual tines on both antlers.

Many hunters look for antlers with a large number of points.
Many hunters look for antlers with a large number of points.

When antlers are taken as a trophy, the points aren't the only consideration. Many hunters also look for antlers that are very symmetrical, with no broken or misshaped tines. Hunters also tend to prefer big sets of antlers, looking for sheer size in addition to individual points. People can also collect fallen antlers as the deer shed, although this carries less mystique than hunting in many regions of the world. In certain cases, the points are especially notable; bagging a 14 point buck, for example, is considered to be quite an accomplishment for a hunter.

Hunters who successfully kill male deer often hang the animal's antlers on a wall as a trophy.
Hunters who successfully kill male deer often hang the animal's antlers on a wall as a trophy.

The points aren't just used to calculate the value of a trophy. In some areas, wildlife management agencies have instituted “point limits,” meaning that bucks must have a certain number of points in order to be taken. These point limits usually refer to the points on one antler only, and they are designed to keep deer populations strong. Points are also researched by some biologists who are intrigued about the process of antler formation and the impact of various environmental changes on deer antlers.

Male moose have palmate antlers, while other moose have a dendritic configuration like deer.
Male moose have palmate antlers, while other moose have a dendritic configuration like deer.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


The deer population has grown out of proportion. Purchased this property (3 Miles from town) 30 years ago. Probably saw at the most 10 to 12 deer a year. Now everything has to be fenced because there are 40 to fifty deer every single day in the field. (25 acres) They come up right to the house and eat my flowers. Have to put deer netting on every thing. Ticks this year are bad. My olive orchard and fruit trees look like umbrellas. Call fish and game and they won't do anything. But just let me shoot one of them and see what would happen.


To anon132707 So I guess that means you wouldn't give a rat's fart if a family member, friend or even yourself ended up killed because of a deer like I almost was this past week by an 8 pt buck on my way to a doctor's appointment? God have mercy on your soul.


"If we didnt kill the deer, then they would die of starvation."

What a backwards way of looking at something. Nature is far more intelligent than we humans. The deer populous would be just fine if we decided not to thin them out. More to the point, if deer were left to their own devices, then it would be a case of natural selection. i.e., the strong would survive, the weak would starve. If a hunter is picking off the deer then they would likely choose the best they can find, therefore the weak (or unappealing) would survive. Over time this would damage the gene pool.

Also there seems to be a lot of people citing "this person was killed by a deer in a car accident". Was the deer driving a car? we built roads in its home, and fly by at whatever MPH, hitting them if they cross the road. In my mind the deer didn't cause that accident, the humans did.

Nature would be great if it weren't for the animals everywhere.


I live on a mountain top in VA adjacent to the Shenandoah Park. No hunting on my 2000 acres either. Result: deers are like rats. They eat everything. We use ultra-sonic repellers to keep them out of the garden, chase them out, the dog chases them out, but they persist and multiply. Population control is needed.


I live in the "foothills" of the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. I drive about 30 miles to town. During this trip I often have to stop a few times to let the deer pass. I see many bad collisions due to the large overpopulation of these animals.

I usually have anywhere from 2-20 greet me as I get home. They eat my garden flowers vegetables, tree leaves and even the bird seed. I enjoy the wildlife; I just wish it was thinned out a bit. Many of the animals do not look well; they are skinny with tufts of fur coming out. It is sad. I would be happy to see hunting seasons increased in the area, but too many people don't see the need. Try living in the middle of it, and you will see a different side of things. Something to consider.


Do your research, folks. I live here in Arkansas and game and fish says on opening weekend of deer season there are about 400,000 hunters in the woods and only 30 to 35 thousand deer will be taken on opening weekend. The whole season maybe 150,000 deer. And each and every year we keep taking the same amount of deer and they don't run out! That's too funny. Heck, they even have made up hunts in some spots because there are way too many deer and the local folks are tired of them.

God put animals on this planet for us to eat, period. That is why he gave us dominion over them. That is why we are on the top of the food chain. Game and fish people are making sure each and every year that the deer herds are correct in their given area. That's what they do. Along with the ducks, and the turkey and the geese!


@FitzMaurice: I'm with you 500 percent. Humans are a plague on this planet. We should never have been created. All you bloodthirsty "hunters" (cold-hearted murderers) with your boom boom sticks, stealing the lives from beautiful, majestic creatures... If you really think that you're only keeping the numbers down, you're fooling yourselves while you attempt to fool us non-murdering folk. Rather than kill and collect body parts, why don't you "take care" of the real over population problem?


@anon132707: - You may think that way until a loved one is actually killed by deer on the road. I lost my brother to a car accident caused by deer. So just because that situation has not affected you, doesn't mean that you should be so nonchalant when it comes to fatalities involving deer. The deer population should be controlled, no question there.


@FitzMaurice: If you think deer are being hunted to extinction you should take a drive through Eastern Washington. You can't go a mile without seeing two or three, and you can't go 10 without seeing a carcass on the road. But road collisions aren't the only issue. Many deer populations are too high, which leads to over grazing and starvation.

On the other part of your argument, most hunters hunt for the experience of camping and tracking. Sure, there are a few nutjobs, but aren't there idiots everywhere? Look on the highways! You are far more likely to be killed by an idiot with a car than an idiot with a gun.

@anon132707: Truly you are a remarkable human being. If you hate your humanity so much just do the world a favor and go anhero.


So what if some people are getting killed by deer? There are plenty of other humans to take their place. Deer may kill, say, 200 humans each year by causing auto accidents. That means that deer kill about 0.000003 percent of the population. Nothing too much to worry about.

However, the main killer of humans would be the deer's ability to carry disease and other forms illness. Deer are not the only carriers of disease though. Birds, family and exotic pets, and especially the swine population help facilitate viruses crossing species. The obvious solution then would be to kill every species that can not be made immune to carrying disease or that could pose a hazard to human life. Hunting vs not hunting aside, everything in moderation and we cannot screw up too badly.


If we did not control the deer, seal, coyote, etc., population, there would be havoc. A friend of mine was just killed in B.C. while riding his motorbike. the deer jumped right out in front of him. Two days before, five people got killed when a group of teens swerved to miss a deer and hit another car head on. Hunting is illegal most times of year but I think it is a pretty humane way to control the population.



I think you are terribly mistaken. Deer overpopulation causes more human deaths than hunters ever could. Deer are the number one killer of people in America due to their curiosity and presence on the road. If hunters did not keep them in check, they would be everywhere and would starve to death. Highways everywhere would need to build large stone walls to prevent them from causing a large number of human fatalities. Your reasoning is quite backward, and I don't know what made you think that hunters pose a threat.


I fear that deer are being hunted into extinction. Not only that, but hunters pose a major threat to hikers and nature lovers everywhere. What are we to do about this threat? I think hunting should be illegal.

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