Wild Wes – Texas month-to-month

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When I first met Wes Ferguson over a beer outside a sandwich shop in Austin two years ago, our conversation quickly turned to hunting and fishing. We’d both grown up in small towns and working class families where hunting bass, birds, and money were valued ways to enjoy the outdoors with relatives and friends while putting food on the table.

At the time, Wes was the managing editor of Texas Highways, a magazine I admire, especially for its coverage of the wild beauty of our state. He had also authored excellent books on the Blanco and Sabine Rivers, and written on everything from backyard wrestling to bigfoot sightings. And before he became a full-time inkspot, he worked as an oil field worker in East Texas and as a ski instructor in Australia.

It took a while, but we were able to lure Wes to Texas Monthly, where he, as managing editor, delighted readers with his writing, including about field sports (see in particular the “Great Texas Fishing Safari” from last May). and bizarre characters in our story, like the legendary hill country cedar chippers. His contribution to Kilgore College’s production of Angels in America: A Gay Fantasy On National Issues, which took place in 1999 while he was editor of the school’s student newspaper, was nominated for a National Magazine Award – the Oscars of our Profession – last year and won recently selected by Hollywood producers for a television series.

A few months ago Wes and I discussed the growing number and variety of exotic creatures – emus, zebras, Asiatic antelopes – we saw behind high fences in large ranches as each of us drove across the state to hunt and fish. Wes started looking at it, and what he learned became the subject of this month’s cover story.

Hunting, of course, is a controversial issue that often separates urban Texans from those who have roots and traditions in rural areas. Importing, breeding, and hunting exotic species on private ranches is even more controversial. The cost of such a sport is out of reach for most hunters, and many wonder if it is even a sport, as many of the animals become quite tame in captivity. However, proponents of exotic hunting note that about 90 percent of the three species of antelope that are critically endangered or extinct in their home countries are now on ranches in Texas – and some ranches have raised animals here to rebuild herds in Chad. The hunt for exotic animals has also become big business and has fueled the troubled economies of some of our rural districts.

Whatever your views on exotic hunting, or hunting in general, I think you will find Wes as a clear guide on this timely topic.

Wes received strong support from his editor, the aptly named Forrest Wilder, who covers many of our stories about outdoor activities when he is not busy directing our political reporting. Forrest is less interested in hunting than fishing, kayaking, and climbing. On many weekends he flees beyond the reach of my calls and texts to beautiful landscapes in Texas and northern Mexico.

Although it has become more difficult to travel to such places safely during the pandemic, we hope things open up quickly in the months ahead, and we plan to tell you more about how Texans like the natural beauty of our state and our land his neighbors can enjoy.