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Antelope tag raffle goes for a good

The signature line Lee Bratlie includes at the end of his e-mail messages says a lot about his outlook on life: "Take a kid hunting, and you'll never hunt for the kid." Bratlie, 52, Drayton, N.D., is a certified North Dakota hunter education inst...

The signature line Lee Bratlie includes at the end of his e-mail messages says a lot about his outlook on life:

"Take a kid hunting, and you'll never hunt for the kid."

Bratlie, 52, Drayton, N.D., is a certified North Dakota hunter education instructor and serves on the board of directors of the North Dakota Hunter Educators Association, where he represents Walsh, Pembina, Cavalier and Ramsey counties.

The board is in the middle of a fundraising campaign to promote youth hunting, safety and the shooting sports around the state.

And like any good promoter, Bratlie's on a mission to get the word out.

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It's as simple as buying a $5 raffle ticket, he says.

Grand prize is a North Dakota antelope tag (residents only) and $750 cash to defray expenses. Nonresidents would receive the $750 cash if they're drawn for the grand prize. Raffle ticket buyers also can win more than a dozen other prizes, ranging from a half-day fishing trip on Devils Lake and $250 cash, to shotguns, rifles, archery equipment and $100 gift cards to either Scheels or Sportsman's Warehouse in Fargo.

Even for those who don't win a prize, there's no "lose" in this deal because money raised from the raffle goes to a great cause.

"I think it's really neat to get kids out and show them the right way" to hunt and handle firearms, Bratlie said. "Too many kids have no adult supervision -- they grab a gun or shoot stuff off the roads.

"We like to see kids do things the right way."

That's where the raffle comes into play. According to Bratlie, the Hunter Educators board is planning a three-pronged campaign this year using proceeds from the raffle to promote youth hunting opportunities and gun safety.

First up will be a series of mentored hunts, lining up first-time hunters -- it could be youths, single moms or anyone else with an interest, Bratlie says -- with landowners. An nonhunting volunteer instructor will assist the new hunters in the field and teach them what goes in to a successful trip.

Bratlie, for example, says he plans to take some young hunters afield during the youth waterfowl season.

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Hunter education volunteers in other parts of the state might mentor hunts for pheasants, grouse or any other number of species.

"We're going through some growing pains lining up landowners," Bratlie said. "We've got a lot of kids, especially in the south-central part of the state, a lot of first-time hunters looking for a mentor, but we're a little short on the land part and short on the instructor part, and we're afraid we're not going to get everybody unless we get some more places to hunt."

Money from the raffle also will fund a series of family shooting days around the state, Bratlie says, in which those who attend will be able to try their hand at trapshooting or shooting targets with .22 rifles. The events will wind down with a picnic.

Bratlie says the third and final prong in the campaign will be a series of media spots focusing on the 10 commandments of firearms safety.

Landing the grand prize of an antelope tag was a learning experience in itself for members of the Hunter Educators board, Bratlie says.

It all started more than a year ago, when board members at one of their quarterly meetings decided they should do something to reverse the decline in youth hunters. While not as apparent in North Dakota as other states, Bratlie says, the group decided to be proactive.

Their idea, he said, was a raffle patterned on a fundraiser the North Dakota Game Wardens Association uses, selling tickets for a chance at a single moose or elk license.

"We thought since we were the Hunter Educators Association, it would be fitting to give away some kind of hunting prize," Bratlie said. "We talked to the Legislature, and got an antelope tag."

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Thanks to a bipartisan effort, House and Senate lawmakers passed a bill during the 2007 legislative session allowing the group to receive an antelope tag to be raffled every year.

Sen. Joel Heitkamp, D-Hankinson, sponsored the bill, SB2201, in the Senate, Bratlie said, and after the mid-session crossover, Rep. Charles Damschen, R-Hampden, helped carry the bill through the House.

For their efforts, Heitcamp and Damschen this past winter received the Hunter Educators Association's Board Award. Bratlie says the Hunter Educators board gives the award annually to people who go above and beyond in efforts to promote youth shooting and hunting opportunities.

"We really owe those guys a lot," Bratlie said. "You hear about bipartisan efforts. It's not very often you really see it, but we sure did with this."

This year marks the first antelope raffle the Hunter Educators group has offered since lawmakers passed the bill. According to Bratlie, the raffle drawing is scheduled for 3 p.m. June 29 at the Scheels store in Bismarck.

Meantime, they're trying to sell as many tickets as possible.

So, in the interest of promoting a good cause, here are a couple of ways to buy a $5 ticket in the Red River Valley:

- Send $5 (or more, if you want additional raffle tickets) to Bratlie at 205 S. Fourth St., Drayton, ND 58225, and he'll mail you back the stub. Make checks payable to the NDHEA.

- Contact Al Klatt of Grand Forks, who's also on the Hunter Educators Association board, at (701) 772-5096.

No doubt, Bratlie says, the need is there, even in rural communities such as Drayton. He sees it all the time in the students who attend Hunter Education courses.

"A lot of kids have no place to hunt," Bratlie said. "They'd like to, but maybe their parents don't hunt or don't have a place to take them. That's kind of what brought this about."

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to bdokken@gfherald.com .

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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