If you have been out in the field enjoying a good hunting or fishing trip, an Arizona Game and Fish officer has probably visited you. Part of their responsibility is to check fishing and hunting licenses of outdoorsmen in the field.
If you have been checked in unit 23, just a little east of here across Tonto Creek, then you have probably met these two friendly young men. It just so happens that two of our local game officers are homegrown and have their roots in Payson.
David Daniels and Jimmy Simmons were educated in the Payson Public School system, where they were leaders in the classroom, student government, and on the athletic field. While they were in high school, I had the opportunity to work with them in American History, where they excelled, and also on the wrestling mat, where both were integral in the success of the Longhorn wrestling tradition. Not only were they wrestlers, but also excellent pitchers for Payson High School baseball and, ironically, lefthanders. They struck out a lot of opposing batters with that natural hard breaking curve ball.
Simmons graduated in 1989 and went on to get a degree in wildlife biology from Grand Canyon University and has been working for the Arizona Game and Fish department for 13 years. His duties with the department started while in college, working on summer programs in the field and during the school year as a part-time dispatcher in the radio room. Before being assigned to unit 23, he worked in the Bagdad, Ariz. area for six years as an officer. He and his wife, Sarah, have one child, Rachel, and they reside in Tonto Basin.
Daniels is a more recent addition to the department, starting in 2004. After graduating from high school in 1992, David attended Central Arizona College on a baseball scholarship and went on to play ball and graduate from Trevecca College in Tennessee. After earning his degree, he taught school and coached for three years at Payson High School before changing professions. He and his wife, Melissa, live in Payson with three children.
It is reassuring to know that both of these young men are avid outdoorsmen who enjoy fishing and hunting in their off-duty hours. Consequently, they are strong proponents of fishing and hunting as a valuable resource and a great recreation for Arizonans. So if you are in the field and meet a young conservation officer doing his professional duty in unit 23, chances are it could be Jimmy Simmons or David Daniels, homegrown and successful.
This weekend, enjoy God's creation by visiting the outdoors.