BETHEL, Maine — A 34-year wait finally ended Saturday afternoon when Joseph K. Bowman heard his name called at the Maine Moose Hunting Permit Lottery at the Moose Festival. Even though his name and hometown of Dresden appeared on the TV screens set up throughout the big tent at the town common, Bowman needed to see his name on the paper read by announcer Marie Keane — so he decided to go up on stage and see for himself.
“I didn’t doubt it, but I wanted to make sure. And I wanted to let everybody know I’m pretty happy about getting this permit,” said Bowman, 57.
“I’ve been picked in New Hampshire and Vermont, but this is the first time in my own state. It’s really exciting because all the hunts that I’ve been on [in Maine] I’ve either been a subpermittee or I’ve been helping on hunts. This is the first one that I actually have control, it’s my permit, so I’m going to take every day and cherish every bit of it – and I’m going to hunt for decent bull,” he said.
The drawing was the highlight of the four-day Bethel Maine Moose Festival. The event attracted an overflow crowd of well over 1,000 hunters. Many had to stand outside the tent while hoping to hear their name called.
Chances of winning a permit are slim. This year 52,374 people applied for the 2,740 permits awarded to moose hunters. Entries came in from all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, England and New Zealand.
First-time entrant Bryan House of Fayette beat the odds when he heard his name called about halfway through the drawing. House threw back his head with a huge smile and then pumped his fist several times.
“I’m pretty elated,” he said. “I saw the chances and knew it was like winning Megabucks.”
Most hunters had high praise for Bethel’s effort putting together a successful festival, which included the popular moose calling competition. Many activities were geared toward encouraging youngsters to hunt and fish.
Greg Sirpis, a retail events coordinator for Cabela’s, said the festival and moose lottery reminded him of being a kid. He knew the chance of him ending his 25-year wait for a permit was unlikely, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying the atmosphere.
“This is like Christmas, but without all of the presents you wanted. Just some of them. It’s still good,” he said.