OSAGE BEACH, Mo. -- Randy Moseley was admiring one of the big ones that didn't get away.
Years ago, that would have been a bass. Moseley was one of the stars on the BASS professional circuit in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and traveled the country searching for the big ones.
But these days, the big ones Moseley is chasing are Ozarks deer -- the big, strapping bucks that hunters dream about.
And Moseley was looking right at one of them -- a 10-point buck that one of his guide clients had just taken.
"Hunters always think of northern Missouri for trophy bucks," said Moseley, who runs the Hunt Bucks Here guide and outfitting service. "But down here in the Ozarks, we have more big deer than people realize.
"They can be hard to hunt. They're hardwoods deer, and they feed on acorns. They can stay in the woods and have food everywhere they look.
"But they're out there. And we'll take some big ones, like this guy."
Chris Crull of New Bloomfield, Pa., the hunter who made a long-distance trip to hunt with Moseley, is convinced.
He had heard about Ozarks deer hunting and was looking to hook up with an outfitter. When he saw Moseley's ad on the Internet, he decided to make a trip to Missouri.
Last year he shot an eight-point buck on land that Moseley leases. But the best came last Sunday, when he shot a 10-pointer -- his biggest deer ever -- on the second day of the Missouri firearms deer season.
"I hunt deer a lot back in Pennsylvania," Crull said. "But our deer are a lot smaller. We don't see a lot of bucks with a rack this big.
"You have some big deer here. And I just love the terrain here.
"I live right in the Appalachian Mountains, so I'm used to some rugged land. This is different. You have the big timber, but it's easier to hunt."
That's what Moseley had in mind when he set up his deer-hunting guide service seven years ago. An avid deer hunter himself, he had shot some big bucks in the woods surrounding Lake of the Ozarks and he was convinced there was a market for that kind of hunting.
He began to lease land in a three-county area and started advertising, and it wasn't long before he had hunters. Today, he is busy with his deer hunting service from mid-September when the bow season opens, through December.
He leases more than 5,500 acres in the Ozarks, everything from small patches of woods to big timber. And he attracts hunters from all across the nation.
Consider a recent November weekend. He had 15 hunters in camp from as far away as Pennsylvania, Louisiana and West Virginia.
As proof that he wasn't telling stories when he told about the big deer living on the land he would be placing the hunters, he had a stack of photos from trail cameras -- images showing big-racked deer feeding in the woods.
Moseley and his help got the hunters to their stands in the predawn darkness, then Moseley drove the back roads to do his favorite kind of sightseeing.
As he drove up a gravel road, he watched a doe race out of the woods and across the road. "Watch this," he said. "There will be a buck following her." On cue, a big buck bounded across the road in a full sprint.
Moseley laughed and said, "They're in the peak of the rut (breeding season) right now. They're really on the move."
Moseley doesn't get to hunt much during the firearms season. He is too busy making sure the hunters he guides are taken care of.
"I have to be available to help them switch locations if they want to," he said, "or help with the deer they have down."
But that isn't to say that Moseley doesn't get time in his tree stand. In late September, during the archery season, he shot a big eight-point buck.
That was one of many big deer he has taken over the years. He still looks back on a rifle hunt he took in 1997, when he killed a 10-point buck with a rack that scored 169 1/8 .
He has shot a buck every year since then, though none that could match up to that monster. But like many hunters, experiences like that fuel a passion for deer hunting that doesn't die.
"I love hunting deer in the Ozarks," said Moseley, 49, who lives in Lake Ozark, Mo. "I've been hunting here since 1971, and I've had some great times.
"We don't have the number of trophy bucks that northern Missouri does. There, the deer have the crops they can depend on. Here, our deer rely on acorns.
"Still, we have a lot more big bucks than people think. You just have to get out and do a lot of scouting, figure out where they live and pattern them."
LAKE OF THE OZARKS DEER HUNTING
--WHAT: The rugged, timbered land surrounding Lake of the Ozarks offers some of the best deer hunting in the state. Deer feed mostly on acorns and can stay primarily in the deep woods, especially in years like this one when the mast crop is excellent. But fields and power-line clearings can offer good places to hunt.
--HUNTING SPOTS: Most of the hunting is on private land. But there are public hunting spots managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation available. Go to the website mdc.mo.gov for locations.
--WHERE: Morgan, Camden and Miller counties offer some of the region's best deer hunting.
--HUNTING OUTFITTERS: Some outfitters and guides such as Randy Moseley of Hunt Bucks Here lease thousands of acres in the Ozarks and sell hunting trips. To reach Moseley, call 573-480-6995.