By: Brett Hensley
As a part of the University of Illinois’ political science program that requires students to work an internship Monday through Thursday while taking classes on Friday in D.C., I conducted an extensive search to find an internship. I came across the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) while shopping for fishing and hunting supplies at Cabela’s where plaques of organizations they support, including CSF, hang on the wall in their stores. I researched the organizations promoted in Cabela’s, inquiring for internship opportunities associated with the outdoors. Leading up to my time in D.C., I knew that I wanted to work for an organization that advocated for fishing and hunting – traditions I have a passion for. After doing some research, it became apparent that CSF was the place to be as it seemed to be an excellent match for my interests. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation gives a voice to the sportsmen and women of America through their bipartisan, bicameral caucuses. Specifically, the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucus, or “NASC,” as it’s referred to, which has over 2,000 state legislative members, the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC) comprised of almost 30 governors, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) with nearly 250 Members of Congress.
My grandfather introduced me to fishing at a very young age at his lake house catching bass and blue gills. But as fun and satisfying as fishing was back then, I knew that I also wanted to learn to hunt. I always expected my grandfather to introduce me to hunting. Unfortunately, due to an illness, my uncle picked up this “privilege” of carrying on the tradition of initiating a newcomer into the world of hunting. In the past four years, he has taken me deer, turkey, and pheasant hunting. Without my uncle and grandfather as the two major influences in my life, it’s unlikely I would be at CSF today as an intern.
Working at the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has provided me the opportunity to further understand, advocate for and protect hunting and fishing rights, and develop expertise on the issues at stake for sportsmen. I have learned more in my first month at CSF than I expected from an entire internship. I learned about waterfowl hunting, something I am interested in experiencing, created legislative session reports for states where CSF works, learned about other policies that are affecting sportsmen and women, and gained more knowledge on how state-based conservation is funded and its important link to hunting and fishing. I’ve strengthened many skills; my communication skills have been enhanced through working with my mentors and with congressional offices. My research skills have improved through conducting research on the history of blue laws that affect hunting on the east coast, a policy of the Tennessee Refuge System that may affect waterfowl hunting for neighboring hunt clubs, and diving into the policies that some east coast states have implemented to deal with deer damage to crops. I have also refined my writing skills by creating questions for polls and drafting articles.
I am extremely grateful for my time at CSF and the staff that accepted me and immediately gave me meaningful projects that will make a difference and provide invaluable mentoring.
Aurelia Skipwith, Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and myself at the
C.A.R.E. event on Capitol Hill, where CSF had a booth to inform congressional
members and their staff about our mission to protect hunting and fishing rights.