Moose permit lottery by the numbers

A young bull raises his head out of the water in Sandy Stream Pond in Baxter State Park in a photo taken June 2008 by wildlife photographer John Fast, 68, of New London, Conn.
Courtesy of John Fast
A young bull raises his head out of the water in Sandy Stream Pond in Baxter State Park in a photo taken June 2008 by wildlife photographer John Fast, 68, of New London, Conn.
Posted June 21, 2012, at 4:12 p.m.

Since 1980 (save a one-year hiatus in 1981), Mainers and nonresidents alike have sent in their entry fees, crossed their fingers and waited to see whether their name is drawn in the state’s annual moose permit lottery.

And since 1980, some have grumbled about the process, claiming, “there’s no way I’m ever gonna win.”

Of course, that hyperbole. There is a way you’re going to win. And it all starts with this: If you want to have a shot at winning the hunt of a lifetime, you’ve got to keep playing. Even when you’re frustrated. Even when you’re angry. Even if there’s “no way you’re ever gonna win.”

Because as Mark Ostermann of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife points out, there is a chance that you’ll win. And the more times you’ve entered the lottery consecutively, the better your chance becomes.

Many of this year’s prospective winners will head to Rangeley on Saturday for the annual drawing. The Rangeley Lakes Region Moose Lottery Festival began on Friday and runs through Sunday. The lottery itself will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 23.

Want a number to chew on? Try this: If you’re a Maine resident who has been putting your name in the computer-hopper for the past 14 years (the first year that “preference points,” or extra chances, were awarded for consecutive years of unsuccessful participation), you’ve got a very, very good chance of going on a moose hunt this fall.

How good? Well, you’ve got a 33.9 percent chance, if you’ve been playing the game since 1998 and have never been drawn. Of course, that also means that you’ve got a 66.1 percent chance of not going hunting on your own permit, but the odds are still better than the 1.5 percent shot a first-time prospective Maine hunter has this year.

It all depends on whether you want to view your glass as one-third full or two-thirds empty. And if you’re still frustrated, consider this: Membership in our exclusive “Maine resident” club has its privileges. A nonresident hunter who purchases a single entry into the lottery and has no preference points has just a 0.2 percent shot at success. The reason for that lower rate is simple: According to state law, no more than 10 percent of moose permits can be allotted to nonresidents each year.

Some other interesting tidbits culled from state statistics on this year’s moose permit lottery:

• This year a total of 54,338 people took part in the lottery. Of those, 39,681 were from Maine, 14,657 were nonresidents.

• The 54,000 applicants this year mark a substantial increase over last year’s total of 49,887. Other totals over the past five years — 2010: 49,729 applicants, 2009: 56,611 applicants, 2008: 64,450 applicants.

• The average Maine resident participating in this year’s lottery has 5.5 “chances” in the drawing, meaning that the 39,681 applicants have a total of 221,147 individual chances. Picture a chance as a numbered ping-pong ball in the cyber hopper. Though Maine residents were only allowed to purchase a single chance each this year, their preference points account for the other chances that they’ve accumulated.

• The average nonresident has 14.0 chances in this year’s lottery. Why is this number much higher than the total for Mainers? Nonresidents are allowed to purchase as many chances, in blocks of 10, as they like. Because nonresidents are competing only against other nonresidents in the lottery, this fact doesn’t give them an advantage over Mainers. And those who wish to keep purchasing chances pump a lot of money into the state’s coffers.

• If an individual will accept any available permit, regardless of what gender the moose must be or what zone or season the hunt takes place in, the odds of a resident winning on one randomly selected number is 1 in 66. The odds of a nonresident winner on one randomly selected number is 1 in 566.

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