A bountiful acorn crop will have hunters in the Ozarks searching high and low during Missouri's firearms deer season Nov. 12-22.
Meanwhile, those who hunt in 29 designated counties will see an increased number of mature bucks.
Autumn is a time of abundance for white-tailed deer, which take the opportunity to bulk up for the cold months ahead.
In southern Missouri, nutrient-rich acorns are whitetails' most sought-after food.
In years when acorns are scarce, those oak trees that do produce fruit are deer magnets.
Hunters who take time to find pockets of acorn abundance in lean years have a much better chance of getting deer.
However, in years when all oaks bear fruit, locating deer can be much more difficult.
That will be true this year, according to state official Lonnie Hansen.
"There are so many acorns in most places this year that deer are scattered," Hansen said. "In the Ozarks, the result often is reduced harvest. Hunters who planted food plots may find them deserted until the acorns run out."
Hansen said acorn abundance wasn't as important to deer or hunters in northern Missouri. That is partly because deer there rely more on agricultural crops.
Another difference hunters are likely to notice this year is a larger number of mature bucks in certain counties.
This is the result of a regulation that went into effect last year. The change prohibited shooting antlered deer unless they had at least four points measuring 1 inch or more on one side.
Because of the antler restriction, the number of 1.5-year-old deer killed by hunters in these counties decreased 66 percent compared to the previous year.
Thousands of deer were spared and got an extra year to grow.
Affected counties are Adair, Andrew, Atchison, Boone, Chariton, Cole, Daviess, DeKalb, Franklin, Gasconade, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Holt, Howard, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Maries, Miller, Mercer, Nodaway, Osage, Pulaski, Putnam, Randolph, Schuyler, Sullivan and Worth.
Hansen said he expected the number of 2.5-year-old bucks in those counties to increase by 20 percent this year.
Statewide, Missouri's deer population is the same as last year, just over a million animals.
Deer numbers are stable in northern Missouri and slowly increasing in the south.
Lack of hunting in Missouri cities and suburbs continues to contribute to deer-herd growth in those areas.