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.
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.
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.
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.
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.