GREENVILLE, Maine — After welcoming an overflow crowd of more than 400 spectators to the 2013 moose permit lottery drawing on Saturday afternoon, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner Chandler Woodcock gave the most unnecessary piece of advice of the night.
“Feel free to get excited,” Woodcock told the crowd, to a chorus of chuckles.
He needn’t have worried.
For more than 30 years, Mainers have been gathering at the annual permit lottery, hoping against hope that this year … finally … would be the year they’d get to hunt moose.
And if they’re drawn, and present at the drawing, they get plenty excited.
Take Linda Libby of Bowdoin, for example.
“My dad, when they first started the moose hunt, he was one of the first to be drawn,” the 64-year-old retired teacher said. “My dad has got a moose. My uncle has got a moose. My nephew has got a moose. My cousin has got a moose. My brother got a moose. Five people in my family.”
But until Saturday, Linda had been moose-less. Not that she didn’t try everything she could think of to change her luck.
“Three years ago I decorated my bathroom in a moose motif, because my husband has been dying to [go on a moose hunt],” she said. “We wanted to try to change our luck with moose curtains and a moose motif and a moose shower curtain.”
That didn’t seem to help, either. So this year, the Libbys tried something else.
“We came here camping to Lily Bay, saying, ‘Maybe that will change our luck.’ You never know. You don’t know how many things we’ve done to change our luck,” she said. “And then, my son just had a job interview on Friday — I could cry — that went so well. He said, ‘You’re going to get drawn tomorrow. I know you’re going to get drawn, because everything’s going so well for us.”
Her son was right: Linda’s name was called during the lottery’s first 10 minutes. She’ll be hunting for a bull in Wildlife Management District 6 during September.
Not far away, Robert Harvey of Durham dealt with his long-awaited success more quietly. He pumped a fist. Nodded his head. And started to cry.
It’s been a long wait for Harvey: He says he was one of the original applicants back in 1980, when the modern moose hunt began.
And until Saturday, he’d never had his name read aloud as a winner.
“I guide out of my camp and have been on a lot of hunts, but never one of my own,” he said. “I’m tickled.”
The 4,110 permits awarded on Saturday was a record for Maine’s modern moose hunt, surpassing last year’s total of 3,725. In all, 52,604 people applied for a shot at hunting moose in Maine this fall.
Woodcock also announced that next year’s lottery will be held in Presque Isle.
Hundreds of prospective moose hunters and curious locals flocked to Greenville Middle/High School on Saturday for the drawing and a full day of other events.
Organizations selling food lined the parking lot outside the gymnasium, where other vendors set up booths inside. Activities for families were staged throughout the town nestled on the southern tip of Moosehead Lake, and at about noon a lottery attendee reported that the downtown area was packed with people. A mile drive took her 20 minutes, she said.
Hunters were selected to take part in one of four hunting sessions this fall: Sept. 23-28, Oct. 14-19, Nov. 4-9, Nov. 4-30.
Maine’s so-called “modern” moose hunt began in 1980, when an experimental season was staged for the first time in 44 years. A moose hunt was not held in 1981, but returned as an annual event in 1982 and has been held ever since.
Maine’s moose hunt is open to both resident and nonresident hunters, but Mainers receive the bulk of the permits. By law, no more than 10 percent of moose permits may be awarded to nonresidents in a given year.
A total of 38,564 Maine residents entered this year’s drawing. Because many hunters receive “bonus points,” or extra chances in the lottery, for entering unsuccessfully in previous years, those Mainers accumulated 199,648 “chances” in the lottery. The odds of any single Mainer with one chance in the lottery actually receiving one of the 3,708 in-state permits was 1 in 54.
Additionally, 14,040 nonresident hunters participated in the lottery, vying for just 402 nonresident permits. The odds of any nonresident with one chance having his or her name drawn was 1:532.
Adding to a complicated formula, prospective hunters are allowed to get fairly picky (or not very picky at all) when they fill out their lottery application. Some hunters may decide they’ll only accept a license if it allows them to shoot a bull moose during the month of September in a Wildlife Management District near their home, for instance.
If the person’s name is drawn and their wishes can’t be met, that prospective hunter will not receive a permit, even though there may be 2,000 names left to be drawn.
Those who are less selective are more apt to get a license, because they will not eliminate themselves from inclusion because their needs can’t be met.
According to the DIF&W, Maine has about 76,000 moose roaming its woods. The majority of those are in Wildlife Management Districts that are in commercial forests stretching from Bethel in the west toward Princeton in the east, and north all the way to the Canadian border.
Recent moose permit lotteries have been staged in Rangeley, Scarborough, Freeport and Kittery. For the past three years the lottery has turned into more of a festival, with several days of activities organized to keep attendees and their children entertained.
The moose permit lottery and resulting moose hunt is a big moneymaker for the DIF&W. A year ago, lottery entrant fees and license fees added up to $1,547,624, all of which went to the DIF&W.
Those who win during the lottery don’t earn a permit instantly. Residents must purchase an actual moose permit for another $52, while nonresidents are charged $585 for their moose permit.