- Associated Press - Sunday, February 12, 2017

JASPER, Ind. (AP) - The sun had yet to rise when Lisa Stinson, her husband, Trent, their two kids - Grant, 9, and Gwen, 6 - and their chocolate lab, Scout, piled into the car and headed for their favorite duck hunting spot outside Petersburg.

As the sun rose to light the overcast morning, small flocks of ducks flew in, the sound of their flapping wings making a whoosh as they came to land in the water. But before they could land, the pop-bang of Lisa and Trent’s shotguns and the splash of Scout rushing into the water to retrieve the downed ducks broke the quiet morning.

Hunting is more than a hobby for the Stinsons - it’s a way of life. They hunt almost every season. While Lisa sometimes buys chicken and pork from the store, she rarely buys ground beef. Instead, the Stinsons eat the game they harvest. Lisa bought ground beef for the first time in six years right before deer season began in October. She wanted to make a meatloaf, but she was out of ground deer.

“We have a lot of respect for the animals, and part of that is to make sure you are using that animal,” Lisa said. “There’s nothing we will shoot that we won’t eat.”

Trent, an Indiana Conservation Officer, introduced Lisa to the sport with a firearm deer hunt when they were dating in 2004. She remembers taking a shot, missing and being “so mad.” She was hooked. The couple married in 2006 and had Grant in 2007, but neither life change hindered their hunting. In fact, when Grant was just 5 weeks old, they bundled him up and took him on a dove hunt.

“I hear people say, ‘I have kids, so I can’t hunt anymore,’” Lisa said. “Yes you can. Just dress them warmly. Our kids have fun out there.”

Grant shot his first deer in 2015 at age 8. Every time Lisa cooked deer meat that year, he’d ask if it was from his deer. Gwen is still too young to handle a gun by herself, but she went through a hunter education course this year, and still enjoys going on hunts with her family, mostly because of the face paint. On duck hunts, she covers her face in the black and brown camouflage paint until it looks like she fell face-first in a mud puddle.

Although the Stinsons all enjoy hunting, Grant and Gwen don’t always venture out with their parents. If Lisa and Trent can find a babysitter, the kids can sleep in. Trent and Lisa want hunting to be fun for the kids so they’ll continue to enjoy the sport, rather than get tired of it.

“We don’t force it on them,” Trent said. “We’re probably a little more addicted to it than they are.”

The Stinsons hunt almost every season. In the spring and fall, they hunt turkey; dove and deer in the fall; waterfowl in the winter; and fish in the spring and summer. They also gather edible mushrooms and roots and raise a garden. They live on about 40 acres of private land in Pike County that they’ve placed into the state’s classified forest and wildlands program. They nurture the land into habitats for animals. For hunters, maintaining animal habitats is important. If the habitat isn’t there, the animals won’t be there, and neither will the hunt. Like most hunters, Lisa said, she and her family are big conservationists.

“I think a lot of times people who aren’t hunters don’t realize the respect for the animal that’s put into (hunting),” Lisa said. “(They might think) that you’re just out there to shoot something and that’s not necessarily the case. I think that’s not the case. Most hunters that I know do eat their harvest. It’s a past time; it’s a way of life. Most of them, I would say, are also conservationists. Generally you end up hearing about (hunters) putting in a food plot… It helps the environment and keeps those animals healthy in the area and everything.”

A lot of the state’s conservation funds come from hunting and fishing licenses, Lisa said. She doesn’t mind spending a couple hundred dollars a year on hunting and fishing licenses because she knows the money is going back to conservation efforts that keep animal populations healthy and the sport of hunting alive. She said obeying hunting laws and seasons also protects the animal populations and the sport.

“For example, if you go out (after the season) to hunt a deer and kill a doe, there’s a good chance she’s pregnant. That’s going to affect the population,” Lisa said. “And (the offseason) gives the animals a chance to calm down and not be afraid.”

Hunting laws and seasons are part of the hunter education course Trent and other conservation officers teach. By law, anyone born after 1986 needs the class to get a hunting license. The course covers safety and appropriate gear, the parts of a firearm and firearm safety, hunting seasons and ethics. The bulk of the class, Lisa said, is ethics. Hunting ethics go beyond causing as little harm to the animals as possible. There’s also the question of how to count the animals you catch. State law limits how many of each kind of animal each hunter can harvest per season. One issue is whether to count animals you injure but don’t collect. The issue comes up with ducks or doves more often because you can’t always find the bird after you hit it. Doves are small and blend in with the fields. Ducks will sometimes dive underwater when injured and swim away from where they fell. If the birds are retrievable, Trent said, the dogs will find them, but sometimes they can’t. In those cases, the Stinsons count the injured birds toward their allotted animals since more often than not, the injured animals will die. But not all hunters count the birds they injure but don’t collect.

“It just comes down to you and your ethics and how you were raised,” Trent said.

There is also ethics involved in hunter-to-hunter relations. For example, if you go to your spot to hunt, but there’s another hunter nearby who got there first that day, you should go somewhere else. Also, if someone invites you to go hunting with them, you can’t use their spot anytime you want after that. You still need to scout and find your own hunting ground.

Hunters hunt private land, they need written permission from the landowners each year, and they need to get permission to bring anyone besides themselves, even family. When the Stinsons hunt on someone else’s land, they always try to leave it nicer than when they arrived. If they find trash, they pick it up, and they don’t leave any of their own.

The Stinsons try to be aware of how their hunting affects both the people and the environments with which they interact. Lisa figures that comes from learning the sport from and hunting with conservation officers.

“I guarantee it gives me a different perspective of hunting too, compared to most,” Lisa said. “I was taught with officers. Sort of day one hunting with officers so everything is going to be ethical…. You kind of hope that everybody just has that nice ethical stance with it, but that’s not always going to be the case.”

Outside of hunting, the Stinsons are members of the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Patoka Valley Limbhangers. Lisa is the only female committee member for the chapter, and she heads up the Women in the Outdoors (WITO) program. She holds an annual WITO day where women can get a taste of hunting. Last year, the day included kayaking, fishing, 12-gauge shooting, wine tasting, a burlap wreath craft and a wild game tasting.

“They all thought it was really good,” Lisa said about the event. “I got rave reviews on the duck, which was funny because it was hooded merganser, which a lot of people think tastes gamey and oily. But if you take the time to prepare it properly- marinate the meat - it’s delicious.”

This year’s WITO event will be June 24. Stinson said she’d also like to host a field-to-plate dove hunt for women where she’d teach them how to hunt for dove, clean the bird and cook it.

“I’m trying to get more women interested in the field,” Lisa said. “And that will help with conservation, too, because the more licenses bought will give more state dollars to come back. It’s kind of full circle.”

Lisa, a dental hygienist at Schwenk Family Dentistry in Jasper, is also a Bass Pro Shops Pro Staffer for the Clarksville store. She offers seminars about hunting and fishing for women and children during special events. In March, she’ll be part of the Spring Fishing Classic, a fishing show and sale put on by Bass Pro Shops.

“I’m kind of proud of that,” she said.

The Stinsons love getting new hunters involved in the sport and teaching them about the way of life. Conservation permeates everything the Stinsons do. Their home is decorated with pine cones, deer antlers, waterfowl mounts and wild turkey feathers. During Christmas, one tree is decorated with wild turkey feathers, another with pine cones and deer antlers.

“It goes with the decor,” Lisa said.

The Stinsons recycle and compost year round, and plant a garden each spring. Trent and Lisa do their best to instill in Grant and Gwen an appreciation for and connection to nature. For them, hunting is more about connecting with nature than anything else.

“And I mean how many kids can say that they (watch the sunrise)?” Lisa said. “I mean I never watched a sun rise like that until I met Trent, and my kids have been raised with that. They tell me and Trent, ‘Look at the beautiful sunrise.’ They point those things out and appreciate those things.”

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Source: Dubois County Herald, https://bit.ly/2kFWwVP

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Information from: The Herald, https://www.dcherald.com

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