In Arizona, Jake Shroder, another Texas boy and I, enjoyed many years of excellent hunting and fishing together. Our search for quail, arrow heads, 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 them by accident, on the McDowell Indian Reservation, not twenty miles from our homes in Paradise Valley.
We purchased hunting permits for $5.00 on the several thousand acres of the Reservation, the Verde River bisecting it, and, one afternoon, we were looking for quail on the flats besides the river, when ahead of us our Brittany’s, Candy and Rooster, flushed several green heads out of the water. The ducks flew right over us, and us, without duck stamps, held our fire.
Being first to remedy the duck stamp situation, two days later my dog and I were back along the Verde and up came some ducks, but about sixty yards away and too far to shoot. Noticing they jumped from the slack water behind a small island, 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 quietly in, put out the decoys, build me a quick blind, unlimber my call and I’d be 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 on the reservation. For the drive home, I stopped to put the truck back into 2 wheel drive, but I couldn’t get it out of 4 low. Knowing that in 4 wheel, low I couldn’t drive it the 20 odd miles back on a hard top road, trying to rock the truck forward and backwards, still, I couldn’t move the shift lever out of low and even tried driving slowly and forcing it out, but nothing would work. Being stuck, I creeped up to the Blue Moon Inn, the local Indian beer joint, and made a call (no cell phones then) for Jake 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 Jake and I on the small island in the Verde River.
He was on the west side and me on the east, about seventy-five yards apart. The 12 plastic decoys bouncing slowly in the current in front of me, when I heard, Bam, followed by a splash. Jake had shot something as I became alert and saw him wade out into the main current and pick up a Canadian goose, a real bonus. He yelled at me, “Beech, it came in real low, just one.” As I turned back around, without any warning, 2 mallards were hovering over the decoys and raising up, Bam, Bam, splash, splash, my new 20 gauge, over and under, had worked just fine!
While we were out of town during the summer of 1971, my trusty 12 gauge pump that I had shot for over 20 years, along with all of my other guns, a new TV set that I won in a sales manager’s contest and my brand new Buick Electra 225, had been stolen. 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, getting stuck in a pile of debris. Picking up one duck and pitching it toward my makeshift blind, I began wading down the shallow river for the other. The water wasn’t knee deep, but I could feel the cold and the rocks were really slippery and me with no “Moses Stick” for balance, only my new, over and under.
Balancing as best I could and sliding my wader’s boots over the rocks, I happened to look up and coming around the bend of the river, right at me, were three mallards. Automatically, up came my gun and down I went, into the shallow water, butt first and the cold water rushed into the back of my waders and I uttered some unprintable words! Bouncing up quickly, the water pooled in my waders around each foot, but it was too late for a shot, I wonder what scared them off. Hearing Jake laughing in the distance, I uttered some more unprintables in his direction and let him know I was ready to go home and get in some dry clothes.
However, all wasn’t lost! The thieves who broke into my house and stole my stuff were finally caught in 1974, after they had opened a used furniture store in east Phoenix on Indian School Road. They had just committed another robbery, a TV and some guns, and, of all things, the latest victim showed up in their store, looking for a used replacement for his TV. Spotting a TV 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 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. Taking the old stagecoach route over Reata Pass and down the east side of the McDowell mountains, in places the old road came within a stones throw of the Verde River reasonably close to our duck spot. Many changes have taken place, the Reservation now is very clean, new homes grace the area and I’m sure they don’t allow hunting any more, especially since they have a thriving Casino!