J. Wayne Fears was raised in the Cumberland Mountains along the Alabama - Tennessee line. His dad was a trapper and his mom a country school teacher so it was natural for him to be a child of nature. His early playground was Tater Knob Mountain where he hunted wild turkey, squirrels, rabbits, bobcat and raccoons. He was fascinated with the subject of trapping, whether it was a box trap, snare, leg hold, or dead fall, he mastered each.
He was attracted to the Boy Scouts and rose to the rank of Eagle and credits the Boy Scouts for teaching him skills such as map reading, compass navigation, leadership and pioneering skills which he would depend on later in life.
Not having the money for college J. Wayne entered the Army the day after he graduated from high school. Service to his country gave him an opportunity to go attend college thanks to the GI Bill.
He graduated with a B.S. degree from Auburn University and went to work with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service as a wildlife specialist in South Georgia. Here he worked with farmers and plantation owners on a wide variety of wildlife habitat enhancement programs. He assisted many of these landowners in opening their land to the public for hunting and fishing.
The project was written about in Outdoor Life magazine as a feature article and soon there was state and federal monies made available to have J. Wayne work with the landowners in a greatly expanded area of Georgia.
During this period J. Wayne became friends with a number of outdoor celebrities including Fred Bear, Charlie Elliott, Grits Gresham, Bill Jordan, and Charlie Dickey who encouraged him to write hunting articles for outdoor magazines. He gave it a try and it worked. Soon his byline begins to appear in regional and national outdoor magazines. At the same time he had a syndicated outdoor newspaper column and a radio program.
He was asked to help lead a scientific expedition during this period down the Satilla River. He was hooked on exploring the unknown and this led to his leading a number of expeditions into the upper reaches of the Amazon River and into the far northern Arctic. These expeditions led to him being voted into the Explorers Club in 1982.
While working as an explorer J. Wayne completed his work on his Masters degree from the University of Georgia. While attending school he became certified as an NRA handgun, rifle and shotgun instructor and over the years he has introduced many into the world of shooting sports.
From graduate school J. Wayne moved on to become the director of one of the largest hunting operations in the world. As Forest Recreation Manager for Gulf States Paper Corp. he managed 500,000 acres of forest land, developed one of the first large hunting resorts in the eastern U.S., developed hunting operations in British Columbia, Alaska, and Colorado. Gulf States had it's own wildlife law enforcement division which he served as director.
In 1983, J. Wayne developed three hunting lodges of his own and became an editor at Shooting Times magazine. His writing in Shooting Times encouraged handgun hunting and he was recognized as one of the leading handgun hunters in the country.
In 1994 J. Wayne was offered the opportunity to develop a wildlife management magazine inside a leading farm/ranch magazine, Progressive Farmer. He saw the chance to get more private land into wildlife management and to get more land opened to hunters so he took the challenge. For 11 years he traveled and hunted private lands across the U.S. writing about it in the Rural Sportsman section of Progressive Farmer. He established the national Wildlife Stewardship Awards program and received numerous conservation awards for his efforts.
He retired from Progressive Farmer magazine in 2005 and today works as a freelance magazine writer, book author and land management consultant. He has had over 4500 magazine articles published and is the editor of Hunt Club Digest magazine. He also serves on the North American Hunter Magazine Shooting Advisory Council, writes the Shooting Savvy column for Turkey Call magazine, and writes The Marksman column for Southern Sporting Journal magazine. He has had 20 books published, including a deer hunting book, Hunting Whitetails Successfully, which sold over 500,000 copies. His book The Complete Book of Outdoor Survival has been considered one of the all time best books on the subject. He has co-authored a book, Hunting Whitetails - East and West, with his hunting partner Larry Weishuhn. J. Wayne's book The Hunt Club Management Guide won him the "Best Outdoor Book Award" in 2004.
J. Wayne has served as the president of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association. He was one of the founders of the Longhunter Big Game Records for muzzleloading firearms, the President of the Alabama SCI Chapter, and has served on the boards of numerous conservation and wildlife management associations. He has hunted on five continents and in all 50 states.
In January of 2007 the National Shooting Sports Foundation recognized J. Wayne for a lifetime of shooting sports achievement by presenting him with the first ever Grits Gresham Award at the members dinner at the SHOT Show.
J. Wayne is proud to be writer for Handgun Hunter Magazine and on the Handgun Hunter Of The Year award selection committee.