INSIDE FISH & GAME by Roy and Ardia Neves

Political Animals

L ast month, in observing our 33rd Anniversary, we didn’t really get into the motivation for starting texas fish & game. We did tell its origin story, starting as part of a weekly newspaper that served the outdoors rich area in Central Texas known as The Highland Lakes. 

While this future monthly magazine was incubating, our day jobs were focused on covering the government and civic institutions, businesses, major and routine events, and the other day-to-day incidents, accidents, accomplishments and embarrassments that define communities and the lives of their citizens. All that, while we worked to fund our efforts by soliciting advertising support from those same community sources.   

In our case, there were three separate communities and a large swath of unincorporated area filled with resorts, ranches and residential developments in between them, including Lakes Buchanan, Inks, LBJ, Marble Falls and Travis—The Highland Lakes.

the highlander—the paper’s name, strategically missing a town designation—was based in Marble Falls, from where it covered news in that city plus the cities of Burnet and Llano—county seats of the two counties that straddled The Highland Lakes—and everything in between. News reporting was accented by a lively, opinionated Editorial Page.

Even in that small town setting, politics was a dominant presence and the highlander was right in the thick of it, by a factor of three. There were other newspapers in each of the county seats, and they tended to be of the local booster variety—never rocking the boat. We rocked it continually, always shoving truth in the faces of those in power. As a reward, the highlander had the largest circulation of any weekly newspaper in Texas at the time, even though half our readers were mad at us on any given day.

This, not surprisingly, generated constant tension. It got to be a real grind when half of the people we dealt with on a daily basis were hostile.

But then, we had this fun little diversion we were cooking up that highlighted the other, brighter, side of our communities: our fishing and hunting publication. When we launched texas fish & game as a statewide magazine in 1984, and then when we sold the highlander and went full time into outdoors publishing, the opportunity promised relief from the grinding hostility fostered by local politics.

Or so we thought.

Federal red snapper regulations. High fence deer operations and the whole deer breeding industry. Speckled trout limits. Crossbows versus “traditional” bow hunting. “Poisoning” feral hogs. Live versus artificial bait. Gun Control. Any action taken by Texas Parks & Wildlife. Even in The Great Outdoors, there was no escape from politics.

But this is our community now, and as before, we’ve chosen to take the “truth to power” route instead of being Kool-Aid drinking boosters.

Of course, this has sometimes caused the water around us to boil.

At times, our coverage and editorial positions have generated angry, vindictive reactions from those covered or from those whose opinions collided with ours. While the vast majority of readers either agreed with us or have been civil in expressing their opposing views, some have not. It amazes us that such hostilities have been sparked over something that is officially classified as “recreation,” and we’ve had to deal with everything from angry letters and cancelled subscriptions to threats of legal action.

We once joked to one of our more opinionated writers that the agent who sold us libel insurance held his breath every time he read that writer’s work—but then he would take a swim in his large new pool, which our premiums helped pay for, and he would relax. 

It was funny because it was (mostly) true. Good thing we can take a joke. 

E-mail Roy at rneves@fishgame.com and Ardia at aneves@fishgame.com


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