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

Originally Published In Petersen's Hunting

He was born on a mellow day in late May, a fragile, five-pound, 12-ounce bundle of ears, gangly legs, and cinnamon-red fur dappled with white. Even at birth, the little buck was exceptional. His mother had carried him and his twin sister 213 days, a week longer than the normal gestation for whitetail deer, and he weighed about half a pound more than the average whitetail buck fawn.

Originally Published In Guns & Ammo

Preaching, owning a cat, joining a nudist colony, and teaching your wife to shoot are all activities requiring a durable and deep-bottomed ego. I don't know much about the first three, but I am a brass-bound, pluperfect expert at the last-mentioned!

It was a December night, the kind that hunters know better than those who pass the winter inside a house, when the cold plucks and probes at every seam in a man's clothing. The five of us around the dying fire sat hushed, listening, wrapped in the splendor of the night sky. All our minds ran to the same theme: somewhere out there in the dark thickets there a great whitetail buck with Orion's light on his antler tips.

Trophy Bucks

Oct 1, 1977

Originally Published In Sports Afield

I hunt hard, goes the refrain, and I'm a good hunter. I see plenty of deer. I get my share. But somehow I never find a really big one. Just one real trophy is all I ask; we like the venison, but how I'd like to hang just one honest-to-gosh monster on the wall! But I just can't seem to get lucky.

One Last Look

Sep 1, 1976

Originally Published In Gray's Sporting Journal

The lion lay atop his termite hill, half-asleep in the heat of the Botswana noon. He was lazily aware of the goodness of the shade and of the smell of the lioness who lolled beside him, and of the annoyance of the tsetse flies. His empty belly was complaining, but the lion was accustomed to that; the pride would hunt that night. Game was plentiful and it would not be difficult to kill. He was profoundly contented, the unchallenged master of his world. He lifted his massive head and yawned, twitching away a persistent tsetse.

The Nhamaruza Leopard

Jan 1, 1974

Originally Published In Petersen's Hunting

I know how it feels to be the target of automatic weapons fire in infantry combat. I have seen the eyes of a drunken man, armed with a machete, bent on taking my life. I've looked wounded Cape buffalo bull in the teeth at just 15 yards. I've endured the stunning silence after a light airplane's one engine quit without warning. I once had the reserve air valve of a scuba tank jam and leave me literally breathless 85 feet below the surface of the Caribbean. Altogether, I can recall a lot of times when the seconds seemed to drag by like a convict's weeks... but _the _longest ten minutes I've ever lived through were in a blind in an African dusk, listening to a leopard feeding just 45 steps away!

How to Quit Flinching

Sep 1, 1973

Originally Published In Shooting Times

Recoil is not something for which every human being has some inborn, specific tolerance limits. It is something that every shooter must live with, and which can be dealt with and adjusted to by virtually anyone.

It's Autumn

Oct 1, 1972

Originally Published In Southern Outdoors

Autumn always arrives at night! Hadn't you noticed? The season never changes from summer to autumn at 5:41 p.m. while you're struggling home from work in heavy traffic, nor on a Saturday morning when you're sweating over a cranky mower.

Originally Published In True's Hunting Yearbook

The big buck was restless that frosty, clear morning in south Texas. He wandered purposelessly here and there through the mesquite brush, just after the last sunrise he would ever see. Although his flanks were hollow, he did not feel hunger, and his nibbling at the browse was only reflexive. His swollen neck and the moist, black hock glands on his hind legs told the story—he was a whitetail at the peak of his rutting urge.

Texas Fist Fight

Jun 1, 1955

Originally Published In Outdoor Life

I couldn't have felt sorrier for myself as I sat on the long veranda of Tarpon Inn at Port Aransas, Texas, brooding over my bad luck. This was the big fishing trip of the season for me. the one I'd planned and saved for all summer, and it was a bust. For two days, the last two of my visit to this famous fishing spot. I'd been skunked. It wasn't the weather or the water or the scarcity of fish. Conditions were O.K., but I simply couldn't connect. Somehow I always missed being in the right place at the right time.

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