"I've been hunting the lake area for 45 years, and I don't feel like I have to go anywhere else," said Gumm, who lives in Camdenton.
Thom "Gabby" Gumm knows he doesn't have to travel far from the Main Street Music Hall where he performs to find deer at Lake of the Ozarks.
The rugged, timbered land surrounding the big lake in central Missouri holds lots of deer. And for a veteran hunter like Gumm, that amounts to plenty of opportunity.
"I've been hunting the lake area for 45 years, and I don't feel like I have to go anywhere else," said Gumm, who lives in Camdenton. "This is just a great place to hunt.
"You don't have to go very far out of town to find deer. And we have bigger bucks than most people realize."
Gumm has run across some of those big bucks on the private land he hunts in Camden County. He has hunted the same farm for more than four decades and has shot several big bucks. He has fond memories of the fall season three years ago when he took two 10-point bucks - one during the rifle season, another during the bow season.
"Both came out of the same tree stand," he said.
That magic tree stand, which overlooks a spot near a pond, a food source and a break in the timber, produced again this year. Hunting with his bow, he shot a 9-point buck on Oct. 28, 2018.
Gumm's success underscores what others have known for years: The Lake of the Ozarks is a great place to hunt deer.
The whitetails have learned to co-exist with man and they are doing quite well in Camden, Miller and Morgan counties, which touch Lake of the Ozarks.
Part of that has to do with the good habitat surrounding the Lake - big timber broken by clearings. A unique refuge area in the form of towns such as Osage Beach, Lake Ozark and Camdenton, also plays a part. No firearms hunting and only limited archery hunting (check with the municipalities for details) is allowed within the city limits.
Deer sightings are common in the Lake area, even within the city limits. Though bass and crappie fishing, boating and the lake life are the headliners, deer hunting certainly has a following.
"We have a tradition for deer hunting," said John George, regional wildlife biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "We've always had a lot of deer and we have a lot of people who get excited about hunting them.
"If anything, we're seeing growth. Our deer numbers have slowly but steadily gone up since the 1990s."
Harvest figures kept by the Missouri Department of Conservation reflect as much. During the statewide firearms deer season, which ran Nov. 10-20, hunters shot 2,878 deer in Morgan County, 2,133 in Miller and 2,049 in Camden.
Most of the hunting takes place on private land, especially old ranches that feature a mix of timber, pastures and brush. But, there are areas that are open to the public that attract hundreds of hunters each year.
•Saline Valley Conservation Area in Miller County covers more than 5,000 acres and is open to both firearms and archery hunting.
•Fiery Fork Conservation Area in Camden County is another traditional public area that is open to both gun and archery hunting.
•Several smaller conservation areas, such as Burnt Mill Cave in Camden County, also can provide excellent hunting opportunities.
"Some of these smaller areas are overlooked," George said. "They have deer, but they don't get a lot of pressure because they are so small."
To find a complete list of public hunting areas in each county, go to the website www.mdc.mo.gov, then call up the hunting and trapping category, then access "where to hunt" and search by county.
In search of a trophy buck? Don't overlook the Lake of the Ozarks area, advises longtime hunter Jeff Green. Though northern Missouri has long been recognized as the state's best producer of big bucks, Green said the Lake of the Ozarks area is trending upward in that department.
"I've seen as many big bucks at Lake of the Ozarks as I have in northern Missouri," Green said.
There still is a lot of deer hunting left. The bow hunting season remains open until Jan. 15; the antlerless season runs Nov. 30-Dec. 2, and the alternative methods season (including muzzleloader) is Dec. 22-Jan. 1.