If a buck for the record book is what you seek, consider Scotland County in northeastern Missouri along the Iowa border. The county has a reputation for producing record-sized whitetails. As in much of northern Missouri, the county has fertile agricultural land intermixed with sizable forest areas. Landowners limit hunting pressure. Good habitat and the opportunity to reach a ripe old age is a winning recipe for producing big bucks. However, prospective trophy hunters will need persistence or deep pockets to gain access to the best hunting areas. When deer season begins this year, Missouri will have an estimated 1 million whitetails. Deer are distributed statewide, with the highest densities in the north. Last year, firearms hunters tagged 220,000 deer. State wildlife research biologist Lonnie Hansen anticipates they'll harvest somewhat fewer whitetails this year, but still expects a good hunt. Missouri's land base is 93 percent private. The largest tracts of public land are the Mark Twain National Forest holdings in the Ozarks. There are fewer deer in the mountains, but some of the bucks are big. The best hunting in the southern part of the state is where the forested hill country meets the prairie.