John Wootters

"Mr. Whitetail"


My thanks to Berit Aagaard Pace for helping me reread and evaluate John's 40 years of writing. Jeanne McRae Wootters 2019

A Cautionary Tale

Jan 1, 2012

Originally Published In Leupold's Hunting Adventures

Be warned: This is not just a fond reminiscence about a long-ago hunt. It's a tale of success and failure. It began badly and ended badly. But, inbetween, oh, in between there was one unforgettable, shining moment when I steadied crosshairs on the shoulder of a spended Stone ram and caressed the trigger.

Sayonara, South Texas

Nov 1, 2001

Originally Published In Hunting

Unlike Shangri-La, Los Cuernos wasn't a mythical paradise. It was a real place. But, sadly, the whitetail ranch near Laredo, Texas, familiar to many longtime HUNTING readers, is no more. Over the last 21 years, Los Cuernos Ranch inspired a hundred deer-related features for this magazine and a hundred more "Buck Sense" columns, plus occasional mentions by writers other than myself.

Cape Fear

Sep 1, 2001

Originally Published In Outdoor Life

We spotted the nyati early, before the sun had begun to clanf like a blacksmith's hammer on the anvil of southern Africa. They were not the first of the safari–you couldn't travel very far in Mozambique in the early '70s without seeing thousands of Cape buffalo–but those had been mere backgroud for the intoxicating realization that we were, at long last, in Africa. It was the first safari for both my companion, Jack Carter, and me. We'd flipped a coin, agreeing to alternate shooting opportunities as they came, regardless of species... except for two.

Originally Published In Hunting

The first vocal sound I ever heard from a whitetail deer nearly ended my deer-hunting career before it was fairly begun, and thus almost drove me to take up honest work! It came from the throat of my first whitetail buck. I was a tender 13, hunting all alone, and the eight-pointer was very close. This was good; otherwise, I'd never have hit him, given the violent case of buck fever that shook me like a seismograph needle in a high-Richter earthquake. When I was finally able to make the rifle fire, the buck went down in a heap, spine-shot... and he bawled! It was a shocking, harsh, dragged-out sound, more like a yearling than a deer, and it horrified me. I could never stand making an animal suffer, and the bawl triggered a wave of remorse and guilt–until I realized that the buck couldn't be suffering, having given up the ghost at about the moment his bawl ended.

Originally Published In Hunting

Bucky was a tame/wild whitetail buck who, when he felt like it, inhabited my ranch on the Tex-Mex border. When he felt like it, he also inhahbited at least two other adjacent ranches.

The Camp

Aug 1, 1990

Originally Published In Petersen's Hunting

Some pretty unforgettable sounds have fallen on these old gunfire-deafened ears of mine, but a shriek that shattered the evening hust at our Sandy Creek hunting camp 45 years ago still rings in them even now! Never, before or since, have I heard anything like it. With no warning, it welled up out of the silent woods and froze me in my tracks.

The Last Elk

Feb 1, 1988

Originally Published In Petersen's Hunting

At dusk in an enchanted alpine meadow, 10,000 feet high in Wyoming's great Washakie wilderness, I knelt alone beside the last bull elk I shall ever kill. As the sky darkened, a full moon floated over my shoulder like a yellow-gold balloon, bright enough for me to admire the wide, solid six-point rack and burly body out of which, at last light, I had let the life. Paying reverent last respects, I felt a strong sense of gratitude to this animal, for having been what he was and where he was.

Originally Published In Petersen's Hunting

What has come to be called "horn rattling" (even though we Texans do know the difference between antlers and horns) has an interesting history–and an even more interesting present! Strange things happen when a fellow goes out and beats a pair of antlers together, if everything is right. If everything is wrong, of course, nothing happens, but when conditions are favorable, strange, wild, hilarious, and sometimes frustrating events come to pass.

Old Plugs

Mar 1, 1982

Originally Published In Field & Stream

You have to understand at the outset that I am not a real bass fisherman. You can tell just by looking at me and my gear. I don't own a polyester jumpsuit with a patch on the breast pocket, I don't own a bass boat (except for an inflatable, named "Riff-Raft") with more electronics than a Russian trawler. I do not possess a graphite rod with anything written on the shaft, nor a freshwater reel with line heavier than 6-pound-test.

Originally Published In Petersen's Hunting

My wife says I'm a little paranoid about blue quail, but that's ridiculous. If it where true, I would suspect that blue quail conspire againse, my dignity, and my sanity, but I harbor no such suspicion. On the contrary, I know positively that I am the intended victim of a blue quail conspiracy! What's so paranoid about that?

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