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Austin Amstutz shows the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Foundation band on the goose he shot Jan. 1.

Hunter finds his purpose

Rare goose helps renew his faith

Courtesy photos
Austin Amstutz, right, with his friend, Kaleb Hetrick, after a hunting trip in Saskatchewan, Canada, on Oct. 10.

– Austin Amstutz needed to change his ways.

The avid goose and duck hunter had strayed from the Christian home he was brought up in when he went to Purdue. And after graduating in August, he moved to Iowa and was beset with unfortunate occurrences.

Amstutz’s girlfriend, Alyssa Crane, wanted the couple to take a six-month break. Then he ran into a deer, smashing the front end of his truck, and less than a week later, his black Labrador jumped out of the back of his truck and broke his femur.

These are a few of the reasons Amstutz has turned back to religion, and he has combined his faith with his passion for hunting and the outdoors.

Amstutz was rewarded for his life choice and years of hunting at the start of the year when he bagged a goose, which was tagged with the rare Jack Miner Migratory Bird Foundation band.

“It has been pretty tough the last few years,” said Amstutz, 23. “Since the last month and a half, two months, I’ve been getting back to the word and back to studying the Bible. I just feel like it is kind of cool that God blessed me with that.”

Amstutz shot the goose with the special band on Jan. 1.

He was hunting with three other friends – Matt Thompson, Joe Serovy and Jordan Muzzillo – on a farmer’s land in the Fort Wayne area.

The day before the four collected their maximum total of 12 birds, Amstutz scouted the area and found about 250 to 300 geese roosting in a field.

The next day the four set out in 20-degree weather as snow fell. Then the birds started flying around 9 a.m., and in the second-to-last group to fly off, Amstutz bagged his prize.

“I shot the one on the left and went out and grabbed it,” Amstutz said. “I knew right away what it was. It was a Jack Miner band. I was ecstatic. It had been my dream to kill one of those. You hardly every hear of anybody killing one. They are so rare. The last one killed in Indiana was 2010.”

The goose Amstutz shot is the only one to be registered on the foundation’s website so far this year. It was banded in 2011.

Jack Miner created the migratory waterfowl refuge system in 1904 by creating the foundation named after him in Kingsville, Ontario, according to the foundation’s website. Since he started the banding process in 1909, the recovery data has been instrumental in the establishment of the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916 between the United States and Canada.

Amstutz said about 150 birds are banded by the Jack Miner foundation every year, but the year that his goose was banded, the foundation banded 243.

The Miner band is distinct because of its larger size, and it contains information on when the bird was banded, where it was banded and has an identification number.

There is also a Bible verse written on the bands, and the one Amstutz retrieved had was Mark 5:36: “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.”

“It was really cool, because we had just gotten sweatshirts made that said, ‘Fear God,’ then it had our favorite verse on the back,” said Amstutz, whose sweatshirt has Proverbs 3:5-6 (“Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”) written on the back.

“It wasn’t that verse, but it kind of keyed in a lot with that verse that was on that band of goose. It is crazy to think that nobody has killed one in the last three years in Indiana out of almost 150,000 geese harvested.”

And more than just the odds of bagging a goose with the special band, Amstutz said he considers his fortune a sign that he is heading down the right path in life.

“I was out there hunting, doing what I’m passionate about, and he sends me a goose with a band that says, ‘Do not be afraid, only believe,’ ” Amstutz said. “It was kind of self-esteem booster, and it just really makes you think that he is really there.”