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MailTribune.com
  • For all hunters, it's money well spent

  • One of the 13 tickets Mike Kaiser had in the annual raffle drawing for the best pronghorn hunt in Oregon proved that money can't always guarantee success — but it can help buy every Oregonian better hunting opportunities.
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  • One of the 13 tickets Mike Kaiser had in the annual raffle drawing for the best pronghorn hunt in Oregon proved that money can't always guarantee success — but it can help buy every Oregonian better hunting opportunities.
    Kaiser won the May 15 drawing for a statewide pronghorn tag offered through the state's Access and Habitat Program, even though another raffle veteran, Alfredo Julian, owned two of every five tickets in the bin.
    "Over the years, I've put in for every known hunt but I never bought any raffle tickets," says Kaiser, of Eagle Point. "Basically, I didn't figure I'd ever win."
    Julian, on the other hand, figured to win something after investing $19,314.50 in the 2010 raffle. Julian, of Vancouver, Wash., won the statewide deer/elk combination hunt, as well as the statewide bighorn sheep tag during the drawing held at the Oregon Hunters Association statewide banquet in Canyonville.
    In a perfect world, the Kaisers of the world would beat the Julians of the world on each spin of the bin. In the real world, however, each approach plays a role in the success of a program that metes out coveted tags while raising money for wildlife habitat and improved access for Oregon hunters.
    The Kaisers, the Julians and everyone else who buys these tickets collectively make hunting better for each other and for every Oregonian who can enjoy the fruits of this 15-year-old program.
    "Can you buy the raffle? Almost," says Matt Kennan, the A&H Program coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. "As much as you're willing to spend, you can fill the pot and you can give yourself a 30- to 50-percent chance (of winning).
    "But say a guy buys $15,000 worth of tickets and loses," Keenan says. "Essentially, he's donated $15,000 to the program. With that $15,000, I can open 10,000 acres of access to prime deer and elk hunting in Eastern Oregon to every hunter in Oregon, just because one guy took a 50-50 chance."
    That's the allure of the raffle, during which the program sells chances at 10 extended hunt opportunities that mirror hunts sold annually to the highest bidders at auctions.
    The deer and elk tags sold in the raffle and auctions collectively raise close to $350,000 annually. The money is used to improve wildlife habitat and open hunting access through programs like travel-management areas and hunting easements on private lands.
    The auction is cut-and-dried: High rollers pay top dollar for the best tags.
    The raffle component was created as an everyman's chance at the hunt of a lifetime. Spend $101.50 and you get 100 chances at a deer or elk hunt that can last three months and occurs in locales with no other hunting pressure.
    Since its inception in 1995, the raffle has drawn a mix of the occasional, low-key player such as Kaiser and the high-dollar players like Julian and Portland doctor Gerald Warnock, who together have won 11 raffle tags in the past five years.
    Warnock this year spent $20,298 on tickets in three raffle drawings, ODFW records show.
    Warnock won the statewide elk tag and came in second to Julian for the bighorn sheep tag, records show.
    In the statewide elk draw, Warnock owned 2,000 of the raffle tickets in the bin. The rest of the field had 2,227.
    "A lot of people would call that buying the tag, but it's not quite," Keenan says. "There are no guarantees."
    Warnock could not be reached for comment. Julian, reached at home, declined to be interviewed.
    The small contingent of heavy players win about half or fewer of the raffle tags, while those spending less than $100 on tickets generally win the other half, Keenan says.
    Raffle players annually complain about Warnock and Julian, saying their tactics make casual players less likely to buy tickets and, therefore, hurt sales, Keenan says.
    But the odds of a single ticket winning has to do solely with how many tickets are in the bin. And in the end, more tickets is better for Oregon hunting regardless of whose name is on them.
    "I have no problem with those guys dumping a lot of money into it," says Kaiser, a hunting guide and a volunteer on a regional Access and Habitat Program panel that helps screen grants for program funding. "The whole idea is to raise money for wildlife, and the best way to do it is have those guys buying all those tickets.
    "How those guys spend their money is none of my business," Kaiser says.
    Despite his recent win, Kaiser has no intention of trying again, regardless of whether Julian and Warnock flood future ticket bins.
    "The chances are pretty small," he says. "And money's too hard to come by."
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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