Mainers aren’t necessarily known for their patience, but once a year several hundred residents (and more than a few folks “from away”) flock to a predetermined location and engage in a seemingly tedious procedure that tests their ability to sit still, remain quiet, and pay attention … for hours.
Their goal: To be on hand when their names are drawn for the hunt of a lifetime.
The reality: Most on hand will not be among those picked.
The simple fact: That doesn’t stop many people from heading to the site of the annual moose permit lottery, where they’ll sit for three hours and listen as list after list after list of names is read aloud by a parade of local organizers, fish and wildlife officials, and politicians.
And believe it or not, even those unsuccessful prospective moose hunters usually have a heck of a time.
Trust me … I’ve felt both the thrill of victory (once) and the agony of defeat (eight or nine or 10 times … they all run together), and have come to look forward to the yearly celebration of Maine’s moose hunting tradition.
This year’s event — the Moosehead Lake Moose Lottery Festival —is officially set for June 15 at Greenville High School. The drawing begins at 3 p.m., but you’ll likely want to show up early, stay late, and make a weekend of it. The Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce, along with partner Cabela’s and its media sponsor, the Bangor Daily News, is staging a full-fledged festival from June 14-16, with plenty of events and activities for families to enjoy.
There will also be a wide array of vendors on hand, including our own BDN Maine Outdoors staff.
And if you’re not a real “joiner,” you’ll still want to make a weekend of it. You can’t do much better than Greenville and the Moosehead Lake region if you’re looking to kick back and enjoy a Maine summer (or, more accurately, very, very late spring).
Maine’s so-called “modern” moose hunt began in 1980, when a hunt was staged on an experimental basis. That year, 700 permits were handed out and 636 (90.9 percent) of those hunters successfully took home a moose.
After a one-year hiatus, the hunt returned as an annual event in 1982, and has been held every year since. Last year a record 3,862 permits were allotted, with 2,582 hunters (66.9 percent) enjoying success.
Up for grabs this year: 4,110 permits that will allow the holder (or his or her second shooter, or subpermittee) the privilege of taking a moose.
State wildlife biologists estimate the state’s moose herd at a healthy 75,000 or so, and moose are managed according to several criteria that help determine harvest levels. Among the factors that are taken into account: Providing opportunity for hunters, providing moose-watching opportunities for Mainers and visitors, whether they hunt or not, addressing traffic safety concerns, providing a world-class hunt for participants, and maintaining the health of the herd.
The state’s moose permit lottery officially hit the road beginning in 1999, and since then it has been staged in Millinocket, Boothbay Harbor, Old Town, Bucksport, Scarborough (twice), Presque Isle, Rumford, Phippsburg, Kittery, Fort Kent, Freeport and Rangeley.
That means 11 of the state’s 16 counties will have hosted the event after this year: Aroostook, Piscataquis, Penobscot, Hancock, Kennebec, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Oxford, Franklin and York.
A couple of recent trends in the moose permit lottery: First, the state’s major outdoor retailers have hosted the event three times, with the Kittery Trading Post, L.L. Bean and Cabela’s each welcoming prospective moose hunters to their facilities in past years. Last year, host community Rangeley staged multi-day festivals with the lottery as the centerpiece of the weekend, and Greenville is set to follow suit this time around.