Heard on the Hill

Take Five: Sen. Jim Risch

Idaho Republican goes home every weekend

Sen. Jim Risch calls his granddaughters his "little princesses." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch, 73, talks elk hunting in the Gem State, taking a high school aptitude test and getting into politics by accident.

Q: Tell us about your cows in Idaho.

A: We run a few hundred pairs — a pair is a mother and a baby. It’s a family operation. We’ve been doing it all my adult life. My wife blames it on my mother, who wouldn’t let me have a dog when I was little, so now we have lots of animals. I have three sons and they’re all married and two of them live virtually on the ranch. And now I’ve got some little princesses and that’s a different ballgame, believe me. One of them is a barrel racer and the other one does precision riding. And my one daughter-in-law is a real avid barrel racer too. I go home every weekend and [Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell always says, ‘Why do you go home every weekend?’

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Q: You’re a member of the Sportsmen's Caucus. What’s your favorite outdoor activity?

A: Hunting. Sept. 1, hunting season opens in Idaho. It’s doves. It starts gently and moves up through elk. We all get together and hunt doves on the ranch on Sept. 1. It is a modestly competitive event, I might add. I like hunting elk. It opens, generally, the middle of October. The fun part is finding them and shooting them, and then it gets to be real work.

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Q:  You studied forestry at the University of Idaho. What did you originally want to do?

A: I didn’t know. When you’re that age, you don’t really know. … In high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do and then they gave me this aptitude test and said you should be a forest ranger. I said, "A what? They pay people to do that?" And they said, "Yes, they do." So I went to forestry school at the University of Idaho.

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Q: How did you first get into politics?

A:  I was in politics, before I ran my own law firm, by accident. When I graduated from [the University of Idaho] Law School, I was a deputy prosecuting attorney and then my boss didn’t run for re-election and so in order to keep my job, I had to run. So I did — that was 33 elections ago.

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Q: What’s your favorite football team?

A: [Seattle] Seahawks. Instead of "expect," one should always say "hope [they’ll be good]." For college, Boise State and University of Idaho but it is always a heartbreak following the University of Idaho. Boise State’s a different ballgame.

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