Master of ceremonies Roger Lambert entertains the crowd during the moose-calling contest at the Maine Moose Permit Lottery and Festival at Cabela's in Scarborough in 2019. Credit: John Holyoke

There will be no large throng at this year’s moose permit lottery, as there has been in years past. You won’t meet up with your friends and relatives there. You won’t join in as the crowd tries to set a world record for most people making a moose call at one time.

No, COVID-19 has, for the moment, made things like that a mere memory. This year’s lottery on Saturday, June 13 will be “virtual,” with a few Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife staffers bunkered at the department’s Augusta office building, streaming results live across the internet.

How different will this lottery be from those we’ve become accustomed to since Maine’s first modern moose hunt back in 1980? Very.

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Even that first lottery was staged with some pomp and circumstance, with dignitaries watching as the names were pulled, one by one, from a large rotating drum, then read aloud. In more recent lotteries, a steady parade of readers, including department staff, legislators and journalists have pitched in to announce 50 or 100 names at a time.

That won’t be the case this year.

“We usually have lots of community members and others join in and read names. This year we’re limiting that to just a group of four people, and only one person in the room reading names on camera at a time,” said Emily MacCabe, the DIF&W’s director of information and education. “So people are going to be seeing one face for a significant amount of time.

Those four — Commissioner Judy Camuso, Deputy Commissioner Tim Peabody, Game Warden Col. Dan Scott and Wildlife Director Nate Webb — will take turns reading the names of 3,135 lucky hunters who will be chosen from a total field of 65,634 applicants.

You’ll be able to tune into the permit drawing live beginning at 1 p.m. The Bangor Daily News will livestream the event, and it will also be viewable on the DIF&W website.

While the change to a virtual lottery will certainly feel different, viewers may find a couple of new features particularly helpful.

“We are going to be projecting the names on the screen at the same time so that will actually be an enhancement for a lot of people because they’ll be able to see the name, the town and the permit type,” MacCabe said.

Additionally, the department recognized that sometimes, attendees (or in this case, viewers) need a bit of help from staff members.

“We also wanted to be able to maintain some level of two-way conversation with viewers,” MacCabe said. “Everybody who’s tuning in can ask questions or leave comments in the chat, and we will have dedicated staff monitoring that. So if somebody thinks they heard their name but missed it, we’re going to encourage them to speak up in the chat and we can double-check the list for them. They won’t have to wait until six o’clock, wondering if they really did hear their name.”

In a normal year, visitors to the moose permit lottery often arrive early, perusing vendor booths and listening to a variety of speakers who share their knowledge of moose and moose hunting.

While this year’s event won’t feature vendors, visitors to the DIF&W website will still be able to learn plenty by watching a pair of presentations in the days and hours before the drawing begins.

The virtual moose tour begins on Thursday at 11 a.m., when the department will unveil “Magnificent Moose in Maine, a video that will explain all about the state’s moose, and introduce viewers to the moose that live at Maine Wildlife Park in Gray. You can watch that video live here.

And on Saturday at 11 a.m., the state’s moose biologist, Lee Kantar, will present a seminar called “Studying and Managing Maine’s Moose.” Among the topics he’ll cover: the status of the state’s moose population, research studies that are under way, the effect of winter ticks on moose, and the next steps the department will be taking in managing moose. You can watch that video live here.

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...