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John Wootters: The Complete Handloader

A lifelong storyteller known mostly for his writings on whitetail hunting, John Wootters also was an accomplished handloader.

John Wootters: The Complete Handloader

John Wootters was famous for writing about hunting whitetails, but he also was a longtime handloader. In fact, he wrote two books on handloading and penned the reloading column in Shooting Times from 1973 to 1978.

I always enjoy the November issue of the magazine because its theme is handloading. In light of that, here’s a profile of one of the great handloading writers of our time. I’m sure you’ve all heard of him, and many of you have read his writings. I’m referring to the late John Wootters.

John was often called the “hunter’s hunter” and “Mr. Whitetail” because he was the consummate whitetail hunter, but I tend to think of him as “the complete handloader.” In fact, that’s the title of one of the many books he wrote. It was published in 1988. He had also written another book on handloading titled The Complete Book of Practical Handloading in 1976. Before that, he wrote about rifles and reloading for Shooting Times (from May of 1973 to April of 1978). During those years, he also penned the monthly “Precision Reloading” column, and one of my favorite columns of his addressed the topic of what he called “squib loads.” In essence, it was about handloading centerfire rifle cartridges with reduced loads in order to expand a rifle’s versatility.

I had the great pleasure of knowing John. I met him in the mid-1990s when, during my first hunt as an employee of Shooting Times, I shared a bunkhouse with John and a few other writers while we hunted aoudad close to the southern border of Texas. He was the most veteran writer on that hunt, yet he was incredibly gracious. Unlike some of the other less accomplished writers in attendance, he didn’t strut around or brag about his many hunting achievements or act like a jerk. Speaking of acting like a jerk, I’ll never forget the encounter I had with one of the other writers who had had a little bit too much of “Who Hit John” one evening, was pretty well hammered, and decided to give me a hard time. I was the youngest editor/writer in attendance. To this day, I don’t think he had a legitimate bone to pick with me. More than anything, he was just testing me. I stood my ground, politely, and I noticed John give me a quiet, subtle nod of approval. Anyway, John was a friendly compadre who accepted me at face value, and I always respected him for that.

Born on February 9, 1928, in Crockett, Texas, John spent his life enjoying the great outdoors. He started shooting at the age of six and took his first whitetail (an eight-point buck) at age 12.

John was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and Baylor University. His first writing gig came in 1950. Soon thereafter, he partnered with some friends and started an advertising agency. Except for a two-year stint in the U.S. Army during the Korean War (as Public Relations journalist/liaison for the 8th Army Headquarters), he worked at the agency for several years. But John enjoyed telling stories more and got out of that game. He took up writing full-time in 1958.

Over the years, John wrote for just about all the major shooting and hunting magazines, including Shooting Times, Guns & Ammo, Petersen’s Hunting, Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, Gray’s Sporting Journal, American Rifleman, and others. He once commented that at his peak, he was writing more than 100,000 words per month for a half-dozen publications—all on a manual typewriter. Eventually, John specialized in writing about hunting whitetails. His seminal work was a book titled Hunting Trophy Deer. It sold more than 100,000 copies and made John a household name among deer hunters.

In all, John wrote thousands of magazine articles (technical articles as well as humor and adventure pieces), six books, and a bunch of articles for local newspapers. He was a lifelong storyteller, and he certainly had a flair for writing.

John Wootters passed away on January 29, 2013, just days shy of his 85th birthday.




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