Driving from SD. Are all the public grounds hit pretty hard? I think there's a gap between seasons this year in MO. Muzz huting starts in late December. Hopefully there's still some big boys rolling around.
If I've got my dates right regular rifle season is the 14th-24th and doe season is the 25th-6th. They get a few days off and muzzle loader season picks up the 19th to the 29th. Being pressured that long sends many bucks into the dark and if there is any snow on they become very nocturnal.
I have not hunted public land in years, but the size of the orange army gets bigger every year. The past few years there has been some good deer taken on public ground during early archery season and each year after the word gets out the number of cars in the parking lots grow.
If you can find a place that has not been heavily pressured they will calm down and come back out of hiding. As with anywhere else, they are there.....it's only a matter of being there at the right time.
If you want to properly preserve velvet antlers, you will have to inject & brush them with formaldehyde or some of the new less toxic chemicals (4 in 1 solution works great as does Knobloch's antler in velvet tan) as its easier to use however, both will work.
First, using rubber gloves take a razor blade and make small incisions at the tips of all points about 1/8". Next hang the antlers upside down, allowing the blood to drain. Starting at the bases inject the solution into the...