Editor’s Note: We are pleased to post the first of our occasional Q&A features with an elected official who supports hunting and the shooting sports. NSSF thanks Sen. Heitkamp for agreeing to talk with us.
Photo: U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) on a walk with her nephew, Mike Prochnow
Who introduced you to hunting/the shooting sports?
My dad, Ray Heitkamp, taught me. He loved to hunt and I still remember that picture of him and his hunting buddies standing next to all the whitetails they harvested hanging outside his lumberyard.
What is your favorite hunting activity? With whom?
For me the most fun I have had hunting was getting after pheasants. I love the walk and have a great time even if we don’t fill. My nephew, Mike Prochnow, makes sure we take the rust off by shooting trap before the season. I still can’t beat him but there is always hope.
Describe your favorite aspect of hunting?
I’m a big believer in eating what you shoot. I love to eat pheasant so that is what I hunt. Sometimes, with a tough winter, the bird numbers may be down. But I still love looking at my home North Dakota. I love to see all the beauty it has to offer.
Which piece of pending legislation related to the firearms industry is particularly important to you and why?
North Dakotans and those across the country have so many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors through hunting and fishing, and I’ve been proud to serve as vice-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus which enables me to help make sure hunters and anglers have a strong voice in Congress. To do just that, earlier this year, I introduced the Sportsmen’s Act with a bipartisan group of senators, just as we did in 2015. Our bill would promote hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreational activities by improving access to public lands, creating more shooting ranges, and providing for input from sportsmen on federal policies. It also includes legislation I introduced that would provide more federal support for shooting ranges to create more opportunities for North Dakotans to enjoy the outdoors through target practice and marksmanship. Simply put, our bill would make sure future generations have the same chance to take advantage of the great outdoors.
What do you see as the challenges and opportunities for hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts in this congressional session?
The Sportsmen’s Act could be a bipartisan success in Congress. I have always been someone to work with Republicans and Democrats to reach results and stand up for my state, but unfortunately that seems rare in Washington as hyper partisanship has become the norm. I’m hopeful we can keep building on the strong bipartisan support that already exists for this bill and soon enable it to pass.
Additionally, people always try to lump us as gun owners into one category. The biggest challenge I have as a senator is making sure people from all over the country understand how hunting and gun ownership are part of who we are in North Dakota.