John S. Dykes

Local News

Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Cheeky Notes From the Field

We’ve long been fans of the department’s newsletter, Game Warden Field Notes, with its tales of inebriated fishermen and sinking boats. Its author is a native son.

A writer by trade and training since the ’70s, I’m a Dallas native but cut my journalistic teeth in newspapers at the Longview News-Journal. My best friend at the paper worked the police beat. I thought the “cop shop” had some of the dullest content, lifted straight off the police blotter, but my friend took it seriously. I understood why it was so important for him to share their stories after I took on the “Game Warden Field Notes” a number of years ago.

I’ve been at Texas Parks & Wildlife for 25 years and witnessed firsthand what game wardens do day in and day out. I’ve also had a hand in writing three of their obituaries; one I considered a good friend. I understand the risks they take and the importance of their jobs to enforce not just game laws, but all the state’s laws. They are state police officers, first responders, who are also responsible for protecting wild things and wild places.

There are more than 500 game wardens stationed across Texas, mostly in rural communities where they spend a good amount of time patrolling off the beaten path. It can be tedious, with long hours spent looking for poachers and others who try to skirt laws designed to conserve and protect the state’s wildlife. They also come upon their share of drug-related violations and violent criminals. I’ve noticed that there’s a common thread of stupidity among people who use drugs and try to break game laws. Impaired judgment makes for good content.

Then there are those who are just plain outlaws, the ones who shoot protected species, illegally sell wildlife resources, poach game, or just commit random acts of destruction or cruelty. Game wardens go to great lengths to get those criminals out of the woods and off the streets. I am amazed at their investigative skills. I am also amazed at their bravery and ability to de-escalate confrontational situations considering that in a majority of the contacts they make, the suspects are usually armed and it’s nighttime.

I try to make the “Field Notes” informative, sure, but entertaining, too. I wrote a lot of headlines while with the newspaper, and even won some awards for headline writing—can you believe they actually have a category for that? If I can grab someone’s attention long enough to relate the story of our game wardens, and maybe educate someone who otherwise might have violated a game law, that’s a good thing. —Reporting by Reese Bobo