In one of the state’s most unlikely traveling road shows, the annual moose permit lottery rolled into Freeport on Thursday evening, and a large crowd gathered to find out the answer to a simple question.
Is this the year?
For 3,140 people whose names were drawn and read aloud during Thursday’s festivities, the answer was yes. For other long-suffering applicants, many of whose names had never been drawn to hold a moose hunting permit despite entering every year, that answer was “finally … yes.”
Among the early permit winners was Daniel Sasse of Bowdoinham, who had to unseat his lap-sitting daughter, 8-year-old Victoria, in order to celebrate properly. Sasse also won a permit in 2001, and his wife’s name was drawn in the lottery last year.
Sasse said he has attended three lotteries, but wishes he had been on hand in Fort Kent a year ago so his wife could have been present when her name was drawn.
“It’s the excitement. It’s just the camaraderie, the atmosphere, the fellowship with fellow outdoorsmen. It’s a lot of fun,” he said.
Dorothy Sasse hunted with her brother from California last fall and bagged her first moose, but her husband said the family moose meat supply was beginning to run low. After receiving his own good news Thursday, he figured to have a celebratory feast when he got home.
“We still have a few packages left. We’re probably going to have moose meat tonight,” Daniel Sasse said.
Half the fun of the permit lottery is watching the reaction of the winners when one happens to be present to hear his or her name read. On Thursday, one group proved that it’s possible to have fun even if the name isn’t technically yours.
A loud cheer erupted when Kim Post of Greenville Junction’s name was drawn. Only one problem: Post wasn’t present.
Her relatives were, and that was close enough for a celebration.
“There’s probably 10 immediate family members who are in the drawing,” said Post’s sister-in-law Kim Phinney of Gorham, who scooted out of the tent to make an important phone call to the lucky winner. “And they’re all linked in with the cell phone.”
Thursday’s event marked the 30th edition of the popular lottery, and an overflow crowd packed a tent that was erected beside the L.L. Bean flagship store. The lottery had a humble beginning in Bangor back in 1980, when about 60 people watched a televised drawing at the Bangor Civic Center.
Over the years the event has drawn large crowds, and many communities, legislators and businesses lobby the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife each year, hoping to garner a future road show in their own town. Past lotteries have been held in Fort Kent, Kittery, Phippsburg, Rumford, Presque Isle, Scarborough (twice), Bucksport, Old Town, Boothbay Harbor and Millinocket.
An hour before the 6 p.m. lottery drawing, about 400 spectators filled all the chairs under the tent. In the hours leading up to the drawing, the DIF&W and L.L. Bean staged a number of seminars under the tent for early attendees.
In addition, a number of outdoor vendors set up booths and displayed their products.
This year’s lottery also marked a return to a traditional format in which nobody was allowed to find out who was on the list of winners until the names were read aloud. Over the past few years, advances in technology — combined with a decision to post the results immediately on the DIF&W Web site — had led to many at-tendees leaving the lottery early after finding out their names were not on the list.
In all, 2,832 of the permits went to Maine residents and 308 were claimed by nonresidents. According to state law no more than 10 percent of the allotted permits go to nonresident moose hunters each year.
The 3,140 permits allotted on Thursday were the most handed out by lottery since the state began drawing names in 1980. The previous highs: 3,015 permits in both 2009 and 2008. The DIF&W estimates that 26,000 moose live in the Maine woods.
This year, 49,729 prospective hunters — 37,012 Mainers and 12,717 nonresidents — filled out moose permit applications.
That total is 6,934 (12 percent) fewer than applied last year, and marks the second straight year with a roughly 12 percent reduction in permit applications.
The 49,729 total is also the second-lowest (behind just the 36,636 who applied in 1980) in the 30-year history of the state’s modern moose hunt. The record for the highest number of applications was set in 1994, when 94,532 applicants sought one of the 1,200 available permits.
Roland “Dan” Martin, the commissioner of the DIF&W, said the reduction in applicants wasn’t unexpected.
“The economy hit IF&W just like it did the rest of the state and the nation,” Martin said. “Fewer people are going out and spending money. That’s the bottom line. Clearly our hunting and fishing licenses [have not decreased as much as those in the nation as a whole], so that’s not as much of a concern for us.”
The state stopped sending printed applications to former lottery participants before the 2009 lottery, and DIF&W deputy commissioner Paul Jacques admitted that the decision also has likely played a role in the reduced participation. He does think that economics play a key role as well.
“It’s not the application fee that scares people. It’s that they’re finally beginning to realize how much it costs to do this hunt,” Jacques said. “The other big thing is a lot of people, because they haven’t gotten picked, said, ‘I’m not applying again.’”
Gas, lodging, equipment and butchering services — not to mention a guide, if desired — all add up.
The state’s first modern moose hunt, which was for Maine residents only, was held on a one-year experimental basis in 1980.
After a one-year hiatus, the annual moose hunt (with 900 Mainers and 100 nonresidents earning permits) was initiated in 1982.
In-state lottery participants paid between $7 for a single chance in the drawing and $22 for six chances. Nonresident entrants could buy a single chance for $15, six chances for $35, or 10 chances for $55. Nonresidents are allowed to buy as many chances as they like, in increments of 10 chances, for the same $55 fee. Maine residents are capped at the six-chance level.
The odds of winning: 1-in-13 for resident applicants, and 1-in-41 for nonresidents (per chance in the drawing). Hunters are given an extra chance in the drawing for every consecutive unsuccessful year they have applied before this year’s drawing. If a hunter does not enter the lottery in a given year, any extra chances, or prefer-ence points, are erased.
Adding the preference points and purchased chances together, the 37,012 Maine residents combined to earn 270,511 “chances” in the drawing (7.3 chances per prospective hunter). The 12,717 nonresidents combined to amass 148,223 chances (11.7 chances per entrant).
In addition to the lottery entry fee, hunters are required to buy a Maine big-game hunting license ($25 for residents, $114 for nonresidents), and the actual moose permit ($52 for residents, $484 for nonresidents) before taking part in the hunt.
Successful hunters then pay a $5 fee to register their moose.
In all, a Mainer who purchased just one chance in the lottery will have paid $89 after they tag a moose.
Nonresidents who bought a single chance will have paid state-required fees of $618 for their hunt of a lifetime. In 1980, only Mainers were allowed to hunt, and state fees for the privilege added up to $34.50 ($5 for a single lottery chance, $9.50 for a hunting license, $10 for the moose permit and $10 to tag the moose).
This year’s moose hunting season dates: From Sept. 27 to Oct. 2 for 1,070 permit-holders in eight Wildlife Management Districts; Oct. 11-16 for 1,480 permit-holders in 19 WMDs; Nov. 1-6 for 455 permit-holders in four WMDs; and Nov. 1-27 for 135 permit-holders in four WMDs. Oct. 30 is open to Maine residents who hold the Nov. 1-27 permit.