Arizona Ducks

In Arizona, Jack Shindler, another Texas boy and I, enjoyed many years of excellent hunting and fishing together. Our search for Quail, arrow heads, Indian artifacts and Bass, led us over the entire state from the beauty of the Mogillion Rim to the starkness of the Sonoran Desert and it also led us to find some, surprise, Ducks.

We found the Ducks by accident, on the McDowell Indian Reservation, not twenty miles from our homes in Paradise Valley. For $5.00 we purchased hunting permits for the several thousand acres of the Reservation. The Verde River bisected the Reservation and we were looking for Quail one afternoon on the flats besides the River, when ahead of us our Brittanys, Candy and Rooster, flushed several Green Head Mallards out of the water. The Ducks flew right over us, and us without Duck Stamps, held our fire.

The Duck Stamp situation was remedied and two days later my bird dog an I are back along the Verde and up come the Ducks, but about sixty yards away and too far to shoot. I notice they jumped from the slack water behind a small island and my mind started clicking. What if I came out here early in the morning and put the decoys out right where the Ducks jumped up? Not a bad idea. Bring my waders, slip in, put out the decoys, make me a quick blind, unlimber my Duck call and I’m in business.

My hunt ended at sundown and starting the two mile drive out, most of it in four wheel drive low, I finally reached the main road (crushed granite) on the reservation. Stopping to put the truck back into two wheel drive for the drive home, I couldn’t get the truck out of four wheel low. I tried rocking it forward and backwards and moving the shift lever. I tried driving slowly and forcing it out of low gear, nothing would work and I couldn’t drive it the twenty odd miles back on a hard top road in four wheel low. I was stuck so I creeped up to the Blue Moon Inn, the local Indian beer joint, and made a call (no cell phones then) for Jack to come and get me.

All ended well. The next day I rented a trailer and “coaxed” some of my salesmen to assist me in recovering my truck. The repair job was minor, a worn shift lever and the
next Saturday morning, daylight found Jack and I on the small island in the Verde River.

He is on the west side and me on the east, about seventy-five yards apart. The twelve plastic decoys are bouncing slowly in the current in front of me, when I hear a Bam, followed by a splash. Jack shot something as I become alert and see him wade out into the main current and pick up a Canadian Goose, a real bonus. He yells at me, “It came in real low, just one.”

As I turn back around, without any warning, two Mallards are hovering over the decoys and raising up, Bam, Bam, splash, splash, my new 20 gauge Beretta, over and under, worked just fine! During the summer of 1971, my trusty 12 gauge pump that I had shot for over twenty years, along with all of my other guns, a new TV, that I won in a sales manager’s contest and my brand new Buick Electra 225, had been stolen while we were out of town. The car was found undamaged the next week but nothing else was ever recovered.

Retrieving one of the Ducks proved to be a challenge. It had fallen on the edge of the current and had drifted down the River getting stuck in a pile of debris. Picking up one Duck and pitching it toward my makeshift blind, I begin wading down the shallow river for the other one. The water isn’t knee deep, but I can feel the cold and the rocks are really slick and me with no “Moses Stick” for balance only my new, over and under.

Balancing as best I can and sliding my wader boots over the rocks, looking up, coming around the bend of the river right at me, are three Mallards. Up comes my gun and down I go, into the shallow water, butt first and the cold water rushes into the back of my waders and I utter some unprintable words! I bounce up quickly, the water pooling in my waders around each foot, but it is too late for a shot. I wonder what scared the Ducks off.

Hearing Jack laughing in the distance, I utter some more unprintables in his direction and let him know I’m ready to go home (and get some dry clothes).

The thieves who broke into my house and stole my stuff were finally caught in 1974, after they had opened a used furniture store on Indian School Road in east Phoenix. They had just committed another robbery, a TV and some guns, and, of all things, the latest victim shows up in their used furniture store looking for a used TV. Spotting one just like his stolen one, he looked a little closer and saw his Social Security number that he had engraved on the back. He left the store without a purchase, went to the Police and thus ended the careers of a vicious gang of thieves. My guns went to Mexico and someone in the Phoenix area got a real good Sony TV.

In 2003, while playing in a National Championship Senior Softball tournament in Phoenix, I had the opportunity to visit the McDowell Indian Reservation again. I took the old stagecoach route over Reata Pass and down the east side of the McDowell mountains. In places the old road comes within a stones throw of the Verde River reasonably close to our Duck spot. The Reservation now is very clean, with many new houses and I’m sure they don’t allow hunting, especially since they have a thriving Casino!