During a trip to my hometown, my good friend Paul Schamber and I stopped in at one of the local establishments for a beverage and to visit. After our conversation recalling a few stories from our childhood, Paul said, “Sometimes I wish things wouldn’t have changed. That catching fish, seining minnows, trapping crawfish, and shooting carp with our bows was still our number-one priority in life.”
An idealistic thought, though not a bad idea. Back in those days, our only stress was being home in time for dinner and wondering what we were going to do tomorrow. During summer, we spent our days catching walleyes, pike, perch, bass, and bluegills, and countless hours cranking in bullheads until our stringers were full. And if we weren’t fishing, we were seining gallons of minnows or trapping dozens of crawdads. During fall, we hunted doves, ducks, and pheasants with our shotguns and whitetails with our bows. In winter, we ice fished almost daily, and by the time the ice melted we were back wading for walleyes. It was a well-balanced year-round circle of activity.
We honed some of our skills in and along a small creek a short bike ride from home. There always seemed to be some fish biting, and it was a prime spot to load up on minnows and crawdads. Spring rain and runoff often kept the creek running for most of the year, which attracted hordes of huge carp upstream—far too tempting a target for young men armed with bows and carp arrows.
It only took one carpfest to learn that we needed to practice selective harvest. Although there’s no limit on carp in South Dakota, we once kept a 10-foot cable stringer of 10-plus pounders. The end result of tying the 10-foot stringer between the handlebars of two dirt bikes was a pendulum of swinging carp and a major bike wreck. After that, we set our benchmark at 20 pounds or bigger, a weight Shirley Blankley—an outdoorswoman who agreed to take our carp and smoke the fillets—agreed on. She checked on us up to three times daily. Some days she seemed relieved that the carp weren’t running.
Times change. College drove us away from the creek and our daily routine of doing something together in the outdoors. Our careers have, somewhat limited our time together in the outdoors, too. Paul remains in South Dakota and continues to set his own standards when it comes to hunting and fishing, believing you can never have enough decoys, that expensive duck and goose calls work better, that obtaining a new bow at least every two years only stands to reason, and that owning a fast, seaworthy walleye boat makes sense in a life where you only live once.
A whitetail buck inevitably falls victim to my friend’s arrow the second or third week in November, walleyes still bite nearly every place he goes fishing, and he averages over 4,000 miles annually scouting for waterfowl in a three-county area. Between Paul and his Labrador Creo, flushing and shooting pheasants seems to have evolved into an at-will activity. Pretty good livin’.
Through my career, I’ve been blessed to travel on adventures throughout North America. I’ve discovered that ducks and geese are just as fun and challenging to hunt in Canada as they are in Louisiana and that North America is full of big fish. It seems nearly every walleye you catch in Lake Erie has a good chance of weighing more than the one you just caught. Northern pike in Canada are big, mean, and abundant. In Minnesota, I’m haunted and taunted by the muskies that pass through my thoughts and trail just behind my lures. And I’m quite convinced that the mouths of the largemouth bass in Mexico are much bigger than they need to be.
Memories of the good old days with family and good friends have been with me since I was 10 years old. They’re all great experiences, but spending time fishing or hunting with my family and good friends is better. The memories created by mixing fishing and hunting with family or a good friend is a recipe that can’t be duplicated. What can be duplicated, however, is spending more time with your friends and family in the outdoors. And like most good recipes, the result is almost always something good.