Taking down a buck can be one of the most exciting moments in the life of a young hunter. The thrill and adrenaline rush of this first-time accomplishment are literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for any deer hunting enthusiast.
However, deer must be a certain age and size to constitute a “shooter.” Otherwise, it’s important that they are left to age another season, allowing the next round of young hunters to take this animal as a means to feed their families. This is why a young hunter needs to learn how to count the points on a buck’s antlers.
Why Is It Important to Count Deer Antlers?
Aside from gauging the approximate age of the animal, counting a deer’s points has several other important benefits. Each season, a deer sheds a layer of its antlers. This shedding constitutes new growth, which brings more development and new features of that particular animal’s antlers.
Counting the points on a buck’s antlers can give you a glimpse into the quality of the antlers. The quality of the antlers is one of the main elements when determining the buck’s score. You can also reasonably determine the health of the animal in question.
There can be several protrusions that grow from a buck’s antlers. While most of these protrusions go towards the actual count, some of them are too small to be considered antlers. When so many different growth points exist on the deer’s antlers, what is the most efficient way to gain an accurate count?
The Best Way to Count Deer Antlers
If you’ve ever been around hunters, you know there are just as many methods for doing one task as there are hunters themselves. Every hunter has a story, and every hunter knows the best way to complete particular tasks.
Some hunters would venture to explain that the best way to count antlers is by calculating the number on one side. However, this has been proven an inefficient method. Some older deer have an uneven number of points on either side, which would lead to an inaccurate count.
The most efficient way is to gain an accurate count from both sides of the deer’s antlers. When certain deer have grown to have uneven numbers on either side, you will have the most accurate count.
Now, how do we know what constitutes an actual antler and not just a simple protrusion?
How Long Should a Point Be To Count as a Point on a Buck’s Antlers?
As we mentioned above, not every protrusion counts as an antler when you’re gaining an accurate count. It’s important not to count any of these small protrusions as antlers along the rack of the buck. A protrusion can only be considered an actual point after measuring its size on the spread of the deer’s antlers.
Taking Your Measurements on Deer Antlers
Using a tape measure, you will start at the base of each protrusion, where they begin forming, all the way to their tip. Any of these protrusions that measure more than one inch long will qualify as an actual point for your count.
Main Beam Length
The main beams of a deer’s antlers are the primary portion of this area of the animal. The main beam’s length goes a long way in the score of nearly all the bucks measured. These are the two standing normal points of the antlers. The circumference measurements of the main beam also factor into the score.
It’s important that you count the main beam tips as points when you’re conducting your count. Counting the tips on the main beam can actually be good starting points before venturing off onto other points of the antlers.
The best method of counting is by starting with the main beams. This is because the main beams normally don’t need any sort of measuring to determine whether they are actual points.
After noting these, you can move on to separate protrusions. Measure the points of antlers that are not attached to the main beams. When this is complete, you can move on to what is known as the abnormal points.
An abnormal point is a protrusion that extends from another point that is attached to the main beam. These are measured using the same method you used for the other protrusions, even though the base is not directly connected to the head of the deer. This might seem tricky, but it’s a fairly simple process.
Start at the base of these abnormal points. The base of these points starts at the portion of antler they actually emanate and not from the base of the main beam.
These points use the same rule as all of the other points. Assuming they are over one inch in length, they can be considered official points.
Whitetail Deer and the Brow Tine
When you’re counting the points of a whitetail deer, it’s important that you include the brow tines. Counting the brow tines as points is one method hunters use to determine the quality and score of a buck and is used during the culling process of whitetail deer. Culling is a process that young bucks undergo to ensure the quality of the animals in the area.
The brow tines are also known as the third point and extend forward. Prevalent brow tines are a telltale sign of a trophy whitetail.
Using this method on whitetail deer also helps maintain quality among the population of the breed.
Making Your Count on All the Points
The final step to help quickly determine the final score on your deer is to make your final additions. Add together the tips from the main beam, the individual points separate from the main beam, the protrusions from the main beam, and the abnormal points.
Remember, anything that was over one inch in length is counted as an official point. Add together all protrusions that fit into this category, and you will have your final point count.
Now that you’ve learned how to count the points on a buck, let’s examine the importance of this practice a little closer. What are some of the more important reasons for conducting this count?
Additional Benefits of Counting the Points of a Buck
We briefly touched on the importance of being able to count the points of a buck’s antlers. Let’s examine some of these benefits a little closer.
Estimating the Proper Age When You Count Points
As we mentioned earlier, knowing the appropriate age of a buck can be extremely important. Counting the points on a deer can give very insightful information regarding the years the animal has aged. Circumference measurements also factor into the age of the deer.
Most areas have restrictions that prevent the hunting of bucks before they reach a certain age. For legal reasons, knowing the age of the animal is crucial.
The age of the deer also gives a hunter some insight into the quality of the animal’s rack. The older a deer is, the higher the quality of its rack. Hunters look for deer with higher quality racks because of the trophy qualities involved with the antlers. Quality racks are also more beneficial when they’re used to rub together to lure in future hunts.
Knowing what age group of deer possesses certain numbers of points is important. This information is vital when estimating the age of the deer from a distance before you take the shot. Let’s look at these characteristics by the numbers.
Ages 1-2 Years
A one- to two-year-old average buck that has appropriate feeding habits will normally develop anywhere from eight to ten points on its first set of antlers. If you spot a buck with eight points, most likely, you are looking at an animal that is around one or two years old.
This isn’t saying that an older deer doesn’t have the possibility of possessing this number of points; it’s just more unlikely. When deer get older, their spread gets wider, and the eight points will normally increase to ten. Each time the animal sheds a set of antlers, they will come back with bigger circumference measurements and with more points.
Ages 3-4 Years
This age group has a higher probability of having deer with ten points. If you are on a hunt and spot a ten-point buck, there’s a high probability this animal falls within the three to the five-year-old range.
However, it’s important to be vigilant at this particular age during the life of deer. Somewhere around six years, mature whitetail bucks may start to lose size on its antlers, and you will need other dynamics to help you determine the age.
The Animal’s Health
We briefly touched on the fact that the antlers of a deer and the number of points can help you determine how fair its health is. A higher number of points on each side of their antlers points towards better overall health for the animal.
When you’re looking at a two-year-old buck in the wild, a healthy, well-fed buck of this age will have four points on both sides. If you notice a lower number of points, or a full-grown buck with less than four on each side of their antlers, it’s highly probable that they’ve had poor feeding habits or have been ill.
However, as we mentioned above, once deer reach the age of six, they will begin losing points and antler size because of their age. A buck above age six with a lower point count doesn’t necessarily mean the animal is unhealthy. This could still be a prized takedown for you.
Protecting Younger Bucks
A good hunter will always have the next season of hunters in mind whenever they are out in the field. What do we mean by this?
For example, many hunters would see an eight-point buck and take this as a sign of a trophy animal. However, a more seasoned hunter who can efficiently judge a deer’s points will understand that this eight-pointer could potentially be a ten-pointer next season.
The hunter would judge the fact that the eight-pointer is only one-to-two years old. While this would make a great takedown for the quality of its meat, this isn’t the sole purpose for the hunt. Waiting an additional year or two would lead to ten points on the animal and a higher quality rack obtained from the animal.
Waiting an extra year or two has other benefits as well. There’s a potential this animal breeds with a fawn, leading to a higher population of healthy deer on the hunter’s property.
It might be hard to believe that understanding something as simple as counting the points on a buck can affect future generations of healthy deer. However, this is how important understanding this simple element of hunting can be.
Regardless of where you hunt, it’s always important to understand the proper technique to count the points on a buck. Not only could you be saving yourself from a world of trouble, but you could also help to have a substantial impact on future generations of deer in the area.