PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Ina H. Cyr showed up plenty early for the Maine moose-permit lottery on Saturday afternoon and took a seat right in the front row, even though nothing in her history with the event told her she should be optimistic.
Cyr said she might not have applied for a moose permit for a few years in the early 1980s, but has been a regular entrant ever since.
Just five minutes into the annual event, the 82-year-old Cyr was smiling from ear to ear, and accepting the congratulations of friends and strangers alike.
Cyr is going on her first moose hunt: She was drawn to hunt bull moose in Wildlife Management District 6 during the September hunt. She’ll be joined on her hunt by her son-in-law, Larry Murphy.
In all, 3,095 permits were awarded to applicants during the event, which drew more than 500 people to the Gentile Building at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
Cyr said she used to hunt a lot, but admitted that age has begun to take its toll.
“I’ve had a couple of hips replaced, so that kind of laid me low,” she said.
Cyr said she’d always held out hope of going on a moose hunt, and spent a lot of time greeting other moose hunters over the years.
“I worked for North Maine Woods for 15 years,” she said. “It’s just the idea of being in the woods [that appeals to me]. I love the woods.”
Cyr said she really didn’t know how to react when her name was drawn, but admitted that she was a little overwhelmed by all the media attention that had been focused upon her.
“I’ll come down tomorrow,” she said.
Another lucky winner was well-known to many in the crowd: Maine Game Warden Kristopher MacCabe, who has been featured prominently in the Animal Planet TV show “North Woods Law,” cashed in with an October bull permit for WMD 7.
The permit is the second for MacCabe, who hunted near Greenville several years ago. Entering the lottery is a family tradition for the MacCabes … winning has been tougher, especially for his dad.
“I entered as soon as I could when I was a young kid,” MacCabe said. “My dad’s actually been in the lottery since it started and he’s never had a permit … he is the subpermittee on this one, although my wife would probably like to be.”
Don Kleiner, the executive director of the Maine Professional Guides Association, was working at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife a number of years ago when a state senator — Marge Kilkelly — suggested the lottery be taken on the road, away from Augusta.
The resulting traveling road show, which hopscotches across the state, has been a huge hit, drawing big crowds wherever it is hosted.
“This is, in my wildest dreams, what I hoped it would become,” said Kleiner, who was serving as the director of the DIF&W’s Information and Education Division at the time. “It has turned into a celebration. It really has. We draw the moose permits, but it’s really a celebration of what we all do.”
Before names were read, the DIF&W announced that next year’s lottery will be held in Bethel.
Kleiner said the allure of Maine moose and a moose hunt is powerful.
“[I know a person who calls moose] ‘talisman species,’ species that everyone has a feeling about,” Kleiner said. “And it’s such a relatively small number of people who can participate [in a Maine moose hunt] as opposed to the number who want to participate.”
Chandler Woodcock, the commissioner of the DIF&W, said the annual event never ceases to amaze him. And moose never cease to amaze many Mainers.
“If you’ve ever been up close to a moose, you realize two things. First, they’re bigger than you thought, and second, they can run faster than you thought,” Woodcock said.
Maine began a modern moose hunt on a one-year experimental basis in 1980. After a one-year hiatus, the hunt returned in 1982 and has been held annually ever since.
Hunters are allowed to specify which of four seasons they wish to hunt, what zones they prefer, and whether they want to hunt for bulls or cows.
According to the DIF&W, a total of 53,577 people entered this year’s permit lottery. Of those, 15,158 were nonresidents vying for 300 permits, or 10 percent of the tags available.
Moose hunting is open in a total of 25 Wildlife Management Districts during different seasons. Those WMDs cover a total of 21,000 square miles. Hunting takes place from September through November.
Past lotteries have been held in Augusta, Old Town, Millinocket, Boothbay Harbor, Bucksport, Scarborough, Rumford, Phippsburg, Kittery, Fort Kent, Freeport, Oquossoc, Greenville and Presque Isle.