I have heard it said that once you have kids you’re outdoor life is over. Along with that, I bet you a jig box you can’t go a week without hearing someone say kids only want to stay inside and play video games. Well, both of these statements are only as real as adults make them. My most memorable outdoor experiences are learning with my kids. I also guarantee you that if you give a majority of kids the chance to participate in and and enjoy outdoor activities they will. Heavy emphasis on “enjoy”. Don’t believe me? Look at the growth in numbers in youth archery, skeet shooting and fishing across the United States. What’s this have to do with hunting for pike? Too many times, as adults, we get caught up in how things need to be done. We only focus on teaching one thing at a time and only teach that one thing in a single scenario. Like it or not, when you do this, you are teaching rules. Rules are important where they belong, but they are limiting and harmful where they do not belong. The outdoors is all about principle and learning how and when to apply them. One quick way to know the difference is, rules usually start with one of two words “Always or Never”. As adults we make rules all the time and are unaware of it. The unintended consequences are that we steal a kid’s chances to enjoy the outdoors. But when we teach principles to our kids, we help them enjoy the outdoors and we get to enjoy it with them. The side affect to teaching principles is we learn more about a topic teaching than we would ever expect. This is why I love teaching kids to hunt for pike. This is not some amazing plan I came up with as a young parent. It’s one of the things that I’ve learned from teaching my kids the outdoors. I learned it because I was teaching someone else. It was something I was doing naturally by teaching principles and not rules.
We were setting up tree stands on a cool fall day when my oldest two boys were in their second year of archery hunting, when the question was asked. “Dad, so we hunt deer just like pike?” The question kind of caught me off guard but the answer was “Yep, I guess it’s exactly the same.” Without realizing it at the time, I had been teaching them the principles I learned for hunting as I was teaching them to fish. I also learned that day how many fish I have caught using hunting principles that most anglers never use.
I have always said what makes me a good fisherman and a bad hunter is my lack of patience. If I’m not catching fish, I am changing something until I do, with one exception. That exception is when I am fishing for big pike. I know it takes patience to catch big pike and as a result it is a good time to bring the kids and have a good time on the water together. When they are on the water with me the goals are to learn something new and to have fun and hopefully catch one or two fish. Pretty easy goals to meet. The kids have learned how to build and start a fire multiple different ways under less than ideal conditions. After they learned how to start a fire they learned how to cook over a fire. Staying warm and having a full belly helps with patience.
You can’t catch fish if you are in the wrong spot. So we learned how pike smell, eat and see. We took what we learned about pike and had the boys apply it as they learned how to read a map. On the lake map we were looking for holes, channels, points and saddles. Places that all the fish in an area get concentrated in as they pass by. This is what sparked the question, “Dad, so we hunt deer just like pike?” The boys had put two and two together and realized that holes, channels, points and saddles are no different than pastures, creek beds, tree lines and narrows. It doesn’t matter if you’re fishing or hunting, topography concentrates what your looking for. This is an easy lesson to learn on the ice or shore patiently fishing for pike while eating well at any age.
Another important principle that will revolutionize your hunting and fishing success rates is, food vs instinct. Studying pike, we learned that most of the year they are all about food. But when the spawn comes, they are about reproduction. Fish aren’t smart. They follow food or their instincts. As anglers we need to observe and figure out what the fish are reacting to. When folks are deer hunting they call this patterning deer. Over the years, over 80% of our family’s archery deer have been shot in the spot the boys picked the day they asked the question “Dad, so we hunt deer just like pike?”. The same is true with nearly all of our big pike. We looked at the map and made some predictions on where the fish should be, then identified the spot that would concentrate those fish and gave it a try. Sometime we missed the fish, just like deer hunting, but we always met our goal of learning something new and having fun.
I look forward to hunting for pike with my kids every year for multiple reasons. First it’s just a lot of fun. Eating, learning and playing together brings you and your kids together. I can say without any doubt, I am more successful at hunting and fishing because I get to plan and go pike hunting with my kids every year. I can safely say that my kids would rather be out in the outdoors than at home playing video games and on a good day, now they will take me with so I can learn from them. What’s most important is that my outdoor life isn’t over because of my kids, it’s better. You see, what I love about hunting for pike as a family is that it’s one of the activities in the outdoors that brought our family together and keeps it together. Hunting pike is about learning principles of life and the outdoors together.
Original Published in March 2019
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