This Female Hunter Feature is for Cindy Stites. Here we go!
My name is Cindy Stites, I was born, raised, and currently reside, in west-central Indiana. I am a hunter, angler, and conservationist. I work as the Director of Education for Hunt To Eat, leading the Hunt Camp program. I am also an outdoor writer and a volunteer Indiana Hunter Education and Indiana 4-H Archery Instructor. I sit on the Citizen's Advisory Board for the Indiana Turn in a Poacher program, and I belong to numerous conservation organizations. When I am not working, I enjoy fishing and hiking with my partner of nine years, Chance, and his daughter, Cianni, or just hanging out with our three dogs, Ady, Teddy, and Buddy.
Why do you spend time outdoors?
Spending time outdoors, whether hunting, fishing, or hiking, helps me decompress. I am a very high-strung woman, I regularly feel overwhelmed with my “to-do” lists, and having time outside, oftentimes alone, gives me a chance to just breathe and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. It's a reset for me and not something I just enjoy doing, but something my mind and body need.
When was your first outdoor memory, and how old were you?
My first memories of the outdoors are all with my brother, Mike. He is three years older than me, but we were always together when we were kids. There was some wooded land across from our house that we would get to by walking through the culvert pipe that ran under the gravel road we lived on. After tromping through the creek, we would spend summer days making forts, catching crawdads and minnows, and shooting our slingshots. I have loved being in the woods from a very young age, and I loved that time with my brother.
What do you love most about spending time outdoors?
The peace it brings. I can't think of any place in the world that gives me more peace, and quite honestly, happiness, than being in the woods, or hiking around public land in Wyoming and Montana.
What’s your most memorable hunting experience?
There is no way I could choose just one! I have so many great memories in just the last nine years since I started hunting. A few include: sitting with my bonus kiddo, Cianni, when she got her first turkey at 11-years-old; taking my first Montana mule deer while hunting with a group of friends who mean the world to me; watching my partner, Chance, take his first pronghorn; doubling up on two mule deer does in Montana with my best friend, Sarah; watching a young man I was mentoring shoot his first deer; getting my first limit of squirrels; taking the oldest buck I have ever had walk in front of me, at 200 yards, off-hand, on a solo hunt last year…there are just too many to mention.
Do you have a favorite wild game recipe?
To be honest, I rarely cook. Chance is an amazing cook and I usually just let him run with whatever recipe he chooses because it's almost always a home run. We eat game meat 5-6 nights a week in our house, so he likes to try new dishes on the regular.
Do you have a dream hunting excursion?
I would really like to go on an elk hunt, either rifle or archery, I don't have a preference. Up until the last year or two, I never even considered applying, but I think I have as good a shot as anyone to be drawn, so I'll be applying in 2022, for sure.
What would you say to other women who haven’t tried hunting or spending time outdoors yet?
Don't let society's expectations determine what you are capable of. I never imagined I would be able to hunt an animal, let alone shoot one. But learning how to hunt changed my entire life, for the better. It has given me confidence that I desperately needed, after leaving a long-term abusive marriage. It has opened my eyes to conservation and ways that I can make a difference for wildlife. And lastly, it gave me a sense of strength, not in the “I'm bigger and badder than you” sense, but in the sense that I know where my food comes from, and I can provide that food for myself and for my family. That is an extremely powerful feeling.
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