As we arrive at number 5 in the series of profiles on women who work on the Pheasants Forever team in North Dakota, it’s time to meet Rachel Bush. Rachel’s journey to becoming the state coordinator is varied and interesting, and we think she imparts valuable advice to girls who might want to follow in her footsteps.
The WON: Name and title (job)
Rachel Bush: North Dakota State Coordinator
The WON: What type of training did you need for this job?
Rachel Bush: I’m a biologist by training and have my Bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Management and my Master’s degree in Zoology. While that education background is important in guiding my work when developing habitat programs, the skill that I use on a daily basis is relationship building. Whether that relationship is with conservation partners new and old, staff, peers, volunteers or members of the public, if I’m not able to build a relationship, listen to their goals and share Pheasants Forever’s mission, I wouldn’t be able to do my job!
The WON: Location of job
Rachel Bush: My position spans across the state of North Dakota, but I am based out of Dickinson on the western edge.
The WON: If you had to break down your job into percentages, how would that look?
Rachel Bush: That’s a hard one for me, since depending on what opportunities are available to either grow the team, create habitat or develop new programs, my day is different. At this stage of my career I spend a lot of time behind a computer writing or administering grants, meeting with partners or helping the team develop. I will say that I always try to find time to get back into the field and be a biologist again. These days definitely help me reconnect with the reasons and people that interested me in this career path in the first place.
The WON: When did you realize you wanted to work in the outdoor industry?
Rachel Bush: To be honest it was during my freshmen year in college. I always had an interest in the outdoors, but I started college as pre-vet. I signed up for an Intro to Fish and Wildlife class as an elective and part of the curriculum was A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. That book resonated with me and after that class I dropped pre-vet and started in the Fisheries and Wildlife Management program. I haven’t looked back since!
The WON: Did you do any internships or other jobs along the way to this job?
Rachel Bush: Yes. A lot. In college when I wasn’t taking classes over the summer, I was either volunteering in the field or working summer positions, working to fit in as many experiences as possible. The most memorable position had me stationed on the shore of Lake Superior – living out of an old Coast Guard boat house monitoring Piping Plovers that nested on the shoreline. I’m not sure I appreciated that job as much as I should have then, because I look back now and realize that was a pretty unique experience in a very beautiful place.
The WON: What’s your history with hunting?
Rachel Bush: I grew up around hunting and have been interested in it most all my life. I started out following my dad through the deer woods then spent my undergrad years chasing ruffed grouse through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with friends. It wasn’t until I met my now husband that I was introduced to waterfowl hunting – it was then that I transitioned from someone that hunts, to a hunter. Waterfowl hunting is still my passion, and other forms of wing-shooting rank a close second. Turkey hunting is my biggest challenge and I am learning to appreciate big game hunting and the ability to fill my freezer.
The WON: When girls ask how they can get into the same field that you’re in, what advice do you give them?
Rachel Bush: There are a lot of colleges out there that offer wildlife and conservation programs; research the program and school that fits you and go. Once you are on this path – especially if you are interested in field biology or management – get experience before graduation. Don’t be afraid to take internships or summer technician positions. Don’t be afraid to travel to experience new landscapes, work with a host of species and people. You’ll be a more competitive applicant when the time comes to start your career and all that perspective will help you figure out your path.
The WON: What’s your favorite pheasant recipe?
Rachel Bush: Up here in North Dakota, it’s the one where the weather works out just right: there is abundant high-quality habitat on the landscape, nesting success and brood survival are high, my dog is at 100% and my aim is true come October. After that, it’s pheasant tortilla soup.
The WON: Anything else?
Rachel Bush: Be an informed sportswoman. Learn who your state and federal legislators are, know their numbers and be engaged on issues that impact hunting, fishing, conservation and access.
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Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. She is a contributing editor at "SHOT Business," and her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at ozarkian.com. View all posts by Barbara Baird