Collapse bottom bar

A Legend Passes: Longtime HUNTING Contributor John Wootters Dies

by Todd Smith   |  January 31st, 2013 4

Photo from John Taffin's 'Book of the .44.'

Technology may be good for a lot of things, but it doesn’t make receiving sad news any easier. When my iPhone announced this afternoon that the inbound call was from Texas, I took a deep breath.

Several days ago I had received word that my old friend, John Wootters was in the ICU at a Kerrville, Texas, hospital.

Like New Yorkers, Texans don’t waste a lot of words.

“John passed away earlier today,” my friend began. “He passed quietly. Jeanne [his wife] is doing fine. She’s such a trooper.”

I don’t recall much of the rest of our conversation. My mind was on John. Longtime readers of Petersen’s Hunting will remember John Wootters from his years of penning the Buck Sense column, as well as his countless hunting features, from jaguar hunting in Mexico to elk in the Rockies, to Cape buffalo in the wilds of Africa. His book, Hunting Trophy Deer, is a classic and is considered by many to be book that launched the whitetail craze that remains today. Writing was John’s craft, and his readers always came first.

John was also an expert on firearms and was a frequent contributor to Guns & Ammo in his earlier years. He was a master of all the shooting disciplines and a lover of cowboy action shooting. But John loved hunting best, and he loved hunting whitetails best of all.

I was lucky to have received a number of invitations from John and Jeanne Wootters to hunt with them when they owned their ranch just outside of Laredo, Texas. Los Cuernos, as it was called, was a model for whitetail management, long before managing for trophy deer was fashionable. Heck, Wootters literally wrote the book on it.

And while the hunting was superb, my fondest memories are of the evenings spent outside by the fire. We would generally hunt together just before the SHOT Show in January, so those Texas nights were chilly. But sitting down next to a crackling mesquite fire with one of John’s signature margaritas in my paw and one of Jeanne’s special marinated steaks or chicken masterpieces sizzling on the grill; well, life couldn’t be much better. On many of those evenings, former PH back-page author Gary Sitton shared the fire with John, Jeanne and myself. Those were good times.

Years later, retinal problems caused John to give up shooting long guns, but that hardly seemed to matter. He quickly switched to handguns and continued to hunt.

John had a lovely 20-gauge side-by-side that he had custom-made for himself in Spain. It was a lovely gun—perfectly balanced and quick as a whip when it came downing doves or Texas quail. And I admired it deeply.

I was doing a lot of eastern grouse hunting in those days, so I asked John if he would sell the gun to me. He did, saying that he was happy that his favorite shotgun was going to be knocking birds down again. And it has.

I haven’t had John’s 20 out in a while, but I think I’ll take it out tonight. I’ll sit by the fire with three fingers of good single malt—a Wootters’ favorite—in a tumbler. And as I admire the well-worn stock and the bluing that’s now turned silver in the grips, I’ll hoist my glass and remember my old friend.

John Wootters brought the joy of hunting and his deep love of the outdoors to all of us through his writings. It was his gift. And I shall miss him very much.

Here’s a look at Wootters’ first article, a Guns & Loads column that appeared in the November 1973 issue of Petersen’s Hunting.


  • Tony

    I always enjoyed his contributions to the magazine. I was sad when stopped writing articles and I am even more sad today after learning of his death. He was a atrue spoosrtsman that I fetl I knew through his writing even though I never met the man.

  • Jorge Alcantara

    Siento una gran pena por su deceso. Durante mi adolescencia, aunque era dificil conseguir revistas americanas de caceria en la ciudad de México, mes con mes buscaba Petersen's Hunting y especialmente si encontraba un artículo del Gurú de los Whitetails, no dejaba de comprarla.
    Para mi, uno de los grandes escritores a quien le debemos mas reconocimiento.
    I know Mr Wootters spoke spanish fluently, he'll understand every word I just wrote.
    Descanse en paz …..

  • Timothy R. Decker

    I almost grew up reading “Buck Sense” and Mr. Wooters’ articles about all kinds of hunting. He knew how to craft a story from beginning to end, and I have used his advice on guns and loads many times. Vaya con Dios!

  • Mike Ziehmer

    Sadden and Glad… What a joy reading Petersen’s Hunting magazines on the ship throughout my years in the Navy. The guys would wait until I slipped it out of my fingers so they could eyeball it before going on watch. I thought “what a match” with John on long guns and Bob Milek on pistols, a young man could learn all what he could know from these two. What a great Magazine, what great duo. After reading one of his articles I could smell the campfire as crisp as if it was there in front of me. What a way with the pen. The Contributions that John has left us are not just from his great writting skills and outdoorsmanship, but his Leathality Chart. From a beginner/young hunters stand point that chart can help one get in the right direction. Sadden I am in his passing, Glad I am of knowing just a glimps of this hunting ICON. He will be forever missed.

back to top