What Are the "Points" on a Buck?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
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".

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

How To Count the Points on a Buck

Since there is so much prestige in finding a buck with a large rack, a specific system exists to count the points. Here are the steps to follow when counting points:

  1. Using a flexible measuring tape, you must measure the length of each tip from the main beam. You can consider it a point if the tip is longer than one inch in length.
  2. Additionally, add another point for the tip of the main beam.
  3. If the antlers have additional branches that extend off of the points, those are measured similarly. Measure the extra tip at the base of the point, not the main beam. Include any tip that's greater than an inch in length.
  4. Brow tines are small antlers that angle forward over the deers’ eyes. These smaller points are included in the score for whitetail deer but not for mule deer.
  5. Once you have measured all the points, count up the total for both racks, and that is the final number for how many points the deer has.

Scoring a Rack Using the Boone and Crocket System

Counting the points on a rack is just one way to score a buck’s antlers. With thousands of hunters participating in the sport every year, competitors often find multiple deer with the same number of points. The Boone and Crocket Club devised a new system in 1949 to make it fair for all hunters to score their racks in more detail. The annual statistics are published each year and make it easy for hunters to compare their prizes. Here’s how to evaluate a rack using the Boone and Crocket System.

Take Circumference Measurements

The thickness of the main beam antler, not just the number of points, is an essential part of scoring. This requires four separate measurements regardless of how many points the rack has. Take the first measurement at the thinnest part between the antler's base and the first point. Each additional circumference is measured at the center spot between the remaining points. If a buck doesn’t have at least three points, then the fourth reading is done between the third point and the tip of the main beam.

Calculate the Spread

The width of the antlers is the last measurement needed in calculating the final score: the wider the rack, the more prestigious the prize. For Boone and Crocket scoring, measure the width at the widest points between the main beams.

Identify the Symmetry Category

Above all else, hunters seek a rack that is nearly identical on both sides. Therefore, a buck with the same number of points on each side falls into the typical category. In contrast, non-typical antlers with an unequal number on each side are graded in a separate category.

Measure the Points

Main Beam – The first task is to use a flexible steel cable to measure down the middle of the main beam. Starting on the outside edge of the main beam, follow it up to the tip. Measure to the closest one-eighth of an inch. Record the length for both main beams.

Main Points – Each point that breaks off from the main beam is also measured using a steel cable. Align the line at the base of the main point where it connects to the main beam. Placing the cable down the center of the main point, measure the point and count it if it is longer than one inch.

Abnormal Points – Any additional points that branch off the main points or are different from the typical points pattern are measured and added separately on the scoring sheet.

Compare the Differences

Once all the measurements are complete, review the differences between the two sides. Since symmetry represents the highest rating, all measures of length and circumference are compared between each side. Take the largest of the two measurements and subtract the smaller number to determine how different one side is from the other.

Calculate the Score

All measurements are added up for the final score. Any differences are then subtracted from that number. If the buck falls in the non-typical category, the measures of abnormal points are included in the final score, while in the typical class, these measurements are subtracted from the last number.

Official Scoring

Once you tally your numbers, you have your "green score." This is not official until the racks have dried, which takes 60 days. Officials redo the measurements after the antlers are dry, and that becomes your official score.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

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

Discussion Comments

anon1005857

Landowners can really struggle to keep deer numbers under control. In the absence of any natural predators, their populations can explode. The problem lies in the fact that a hind will have a calf per year for most of her life. The populations increase exponentially but the habitat does not.

Best-case scenario, the habitat remains of a constant size while the herd size increases exponentially. The ethical thing to do is to intervene in this process. In the absence of any natural predators, humans are obligated to intervene for the good of the habitat and the good of the deer herd. The net result of a devastating habitat is mass starvation, which occurred quite recently in The Netherlands.

The recreational hunter is the best conservationist available. The only alternative is professional cull squads. At least the hunter takes only what he can eat and store. The meat is consumed and the animal does not die in vain. Deer are not being hunted to extinction-- quite the opposite. There have never been so many.

anon1001813

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.

anon999203

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.

anon996644

"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.

anon996272

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.

anon977814

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.

zwolf8220

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!

anon973550

@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?

anon320062

@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.

anon138385

@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.

anon132707

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.

anon129761

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.

JavaGhoul

@FitzMaurice

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.

FitzMaurice

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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    • As a male deer ages, he grows more points on his antlers, or "rack".
      By: Peggy Warner
      As a male deer ages, he grows more points on his antlers, or "rack".
    • A deer's "points" are determined by the number of tines on their antlers, so an eight pointed male deer has eight distinct tines.
      By: sneekerp
      A deer's "points" are determined by the number of tines on their antlers, so an eight pointed male deer has eight distinct tines.
    • Many hunters look for antlers with a large number of points.
      By: zorandim75
      Many hunters look for antlers with a large number of points.
    • Hunters who successfully kill male deer often hang the animal's antlers on a wall as a trophy.
      By: Pierrette Guertin
      Hunters who successfully kill male deer often hang the animal's antlers on a wall as a trophy.
    • Male moose have palmate antlers, while other moose have a dendritic configuration like deer.
      By: Erni
      Male moose have palmate antlers, while other moose have a dendritic configuration like deer.