SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Unlike many of the hundreds of eager hunters in the crowd on Saturday afternoon, Alan Baron of Sanford wasn’t too nervous about hearing his name read aloud during the Maine Moose Permit Lottery, which was held at Cabela’s.
In fact, despite never having been drawn (and having entered the lottery ever since it began in 1980), Baron was sure that this year, finally, was his year.
He was right.
For years, prospective moose hunters entered the state’s moose permit lottery, hoping that finally, at long last, they’d have their names drawn. Unfortunately, many never got the chance — they just didn’t live long enough. Over the past decade, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has rewarded more of those hunters who’ve continually supported the lottery, and Baron was one of the lucky beneficiaries.
Hunters who reach their 65th birthday, and who have accumulated at least 30 “preference points,” which are awarded for each consecutive year an applicant is unsuccessful, are now guaranteed to win a permit.
“[I needed] 30 [points]. I had 52,” Baron explained. “I’ve been on a few hunts. My son has been drawn, and a friend. So it’s not new to me. I’ve been to the hunt, but I’ve never actually pulled the trigger.”
Baron will hunt in Wildlife Management District 5 during the September season.
And he said that had the rule not been changed, he was nearing the end of his rope, and was considering abandoning the lottery altogether.
“I was giving it two more years,” he said with a laugh. “They changed the rules.”
Arnold Miller was in the same boat as Baron. The 71-year-old Dexter man just reached the 30-point threshold this year.
“[I’ve been entering] since the beginning. I was a non-resident and then I moved up here [from Connecticut] 12 years ago and lost all my points,” Miller said. “I had to start all over again, and it took 12 years. And being old [in order to win].”
Miller will hunt in WMD 2 during the September season.
A crowd of more than 500 gathered under a large tent for the lottery.
Master of ceremonies Roger Lambert offered hope to all who attended, suggesting that wheedling a spot on someone else’s hunt is a long-standing tradition. And actually hunting? That’s not necessarily the best part of the adventure.
“We can all go on a moose hunt. We’ve all got a neighbor or a friend or someone we haven’t met yet who is going to win a moose permit today,” Lambert joked. “That pulling the trigger stuff? That’s overrated. It’s all downhill after you pull the trigger.”
This year a total of 59,185 prospective hunters applied for 2,820 available permits. The odds weren’t in their favor: Maine residents had a 1 in 81 shot at winning for each chance they had purchased or accrued in the lottery’s “preference points” system. Non-residents had just a 1 in 1,217 shot per chance.
Preference points are awarded to entrants for each consecutive year they are not awarded a permit.
Maine’s modern moose hunt began in 1980 on an experimental basis, and 700 permits were handed out that year. After a one-year hiatus and a statewide referendum on the issue, the moose hunt returned in 1982 and has been held annually since then.
The most moose permits ever issued in Maine was 4,110 in 2013. The record number of applicants for permits is 94,532, which happened in 1994.
DIF&W commissioner Judy Camuso announced that next year’s moose permit lottery will be held at Sky Lodge in Jackman.
The 2019 hunt will be split into sessions, with a predetermined number of permits in play over a given number of Wildlife Management Districts. The seasons include:
— Sept. 23-29 in WMDs 1-6, 10, 11, 18, 19, 27 and 28.
— Oct. 14-19 in WMDs 1-14, 17-19, 27 and 28.
— Oct. 28-Nov. 2 in WMDs 1-6.
— Nov. 2 for permit-holding Maine residents only in WMDs 15 and 16.
— Nov. 4-Nov. 30 in WMDs 15 and 16.
No hunting is allowed Sundays.
This marked the third time that the moose permit lottery was staged in Scarborough. Other lotteries have been held in Bangor, Augusta, Millinocket, Boothbay Harbor, Old Town, Bucksport, Presque Isle (twice), Rumford, Phippsburg, Kittery (twice), Fort Kent, Freeport (twice), Rangeley, Caribou, Bethel and Skowhegan.
After beginning in Bangor, the event was staged in Augusta each year until 1999, when the tradition of moving it to different towns began.
Though the lottery and festival are nothing new, it’s not a stretch to say that this year, Maine finds itself at the epicenter of the moose world. On Monday, the North American Moose Conference kicks off at Sugarloaf resort in Carrabassett Valley, and many of the top moose scientists in the world will gather to share research with their peers.
The public will have the chance to participate in the conference on Wednesday when a public forum and discussion is held at 7 p.m. in the Carrabassett Room of the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel.
Watch these kids do their best moose calls