by Karen Mehall Phillips - Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Photo (from left to right): Suzie Brewster, NRA Board Member William Bachenberg, Bill Brewster.
Hunters' Leadership Forum (HLF) members Bill and Suzie Brewster know how to rack up accomplishments. In the 1960s and '70s they owned and operated a Texas drugstore, started a family, opened a real estate firm and launched Brewster Angus Farms. Driven to make a difference in their community, Bill served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1983-1990, giving up his seat to run for and win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. In keeping pace, while juggling their political and philanthropic commitments, Suzie launched a Washington, D.C.-based consulting company and, in 1994, founded and chaired the Washington Women's Shooting Club, introducing more than 1,000 women in the Washington metropolitan area to the shooting sports. When Bill retired from Congress in 1996 and joined a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., he assumed a position on the NRA Board of Directors while Suzie became increasingly entrenched in NRA women's programs and big-game hunting. Today Bill chairs the D.C.-based Capitol Hill Consulting Group government relations firm while Suzie is co-chair of the NRA Women's Leadership Forum, uniting women of influence to defend Second Amendment freedom and secure the future of the NRA through philanthropic leadership.
While the pair's tip-of-the-iceberg accomplishments are diverse, over five decades they have shared one constant: hunting and the shooting sports. As Suzie pursues big-game species worldwide, Bill just completed hunting all 50 states. Unbeknownst to him at the time, an inaugural quail hunt with Dad and a .410 shotgun at age 6 would inspire a 67-year journey culminating in a wild goat hunt in Hawaii in July 2014. "And I got to do it alongside Suzie, my wife and best friend, while on vacation celebrating our 51st wedding anniversary," he says. "There we were in Maui at 3,000 feet, shooting goats in the canyon."
For Bill, hunting all 50 states wasn't something he set out to do, especially since it's so tough not to go back to the same places when you've had such a great time. "It wasn't until I'd hunted in 37 or 38 states that I got serious about hunting all 50," he explains. "I got here accidentally over years and years of enjoyment, and I'm going to keep on going. I'm at an age where I now can't handle the high-altitude mountain hunts, but I can still sit on a dove bucket and hunt ducks and deer." The object," he says, "is to just be realistic, and then continue enjoying what you love to do."
Suzie continues to check off big-game species on her North American and African game wish lists. As the only woman to have been awarded both the NRA Sybil Ludington Freedom Award (2003) and the Diana Award (2011) in recognition of her accomplishments in the international hunting and wildlife conservation arena, she is on a roll considering her trophy room now includes a sable she dropped alongside Bill on a 2012 safari in Mozambique after a stalk through the water and then a long crawl. "Suzie is even more into big-game hunting than I am," Bill says. "She's been to Africa more times than I have and has organized multiple trips to take new women hunters. Now that's adventure!" It's fitting that Suzie went to school to be a teacher, judging by the impact she has had in getting women involved in hunting and the shooting sports, and her active membership in the NRA Women's Leadership Council.
For this couple who has been together since meeting in college at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, hunting is a way of life. Their favorite hunt is the one they're going to do next. While they enjoy all hunting methods—shotgun, rifle, muzzleloader, handgun—Bill says he is not a bowhunter. "But I certainly enjoy shooting a bow," he says. "Suzie and I shoot everything—and if a state offered a spear season, we'd do that, too!"
As conversation turned to hunting the Northeast, he explained, "In some cases I had no choice but to go duck hunting if I wanted to be able to cross that particular state off my list because of the difficulty of even being able to get a hunting license in those places. In the case of Massachusetts, for example, you can't even buy ammo."
Last year, with four states in the region to go, Bill hunted New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut all in one trip. "Can you imagine hunting sea ducks in New Hampshire one day and sea ducks right in Boston Harbor the next—right near the airport?"
The conversation turned back to two more special duck hunts in the Northwest that stand out for offering a chance to get unique local species. "On one great trip I got a scoter and a common eider, then in Washington state a few more unusual sea ducks—harlequin and golden eye—that I couldn't have gotten anywhere else. After I picked up those four Northeast states, I picked up Oregon where I dropped ducks and geese in the eastern part of the state."
Oklahoma and Texas top the list of "most hunted" states, considering Bill has spent years in both states. As for No. 3, "It's Maryland," he says, considering the years he spent in Congress and now with his D.C.-based consulting firm. "Cambridge, Maryland, is like the cornbelt and offers everything from whitetails and even sika deer to waterfowl and turkeys."
After years in the political arena, looking at issues and realizing how they are being perceived by the public, Bill and Suzie know that perception is reality. As for why they so generously support the NRA Hunter's Leadership Forum, Bill explains, "The NRA needs to interact more with the hunting community and the hunting community needs to be more cognizant of everything the NRA does for them. Without NRA, we wouldn't be hunting. We're a family of NRA Life members and, in fact, bought our grandson, Braxton Billy Canton Brewster, his Life membership when he was 3 days old!"
When the Brewsters commit to something, they are rock solid. In addition to serving as Vice President and Trustee of The NRA Foundation and previously on the NRA Board, Bill has served on the boards of numerous other organizations including the Congressional Sportsman's Foundation, Safari Club International, Southwest Energy Council, Oklahoma Angus Association, the First National Bank of Coleyville, Texas, and, like Suzie, the National Wild Turkey Federation. He is also a member of Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Texas Trophy Hunters, among other organizations.
All in all, that's some conservation track record for this power hunting couple, who while fulfilling lifelong dreams of seeing the world has also humbly managed to commit their time and personal resources to giving back to the hunting community that has become their family. HLF membership is just one more feather in their sportsmen's cap.
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