The wait is nearly over.
On Saturday afternoon, 2,820 lucky moose hunters will learn that they have received a permit and will embark upon the hunt of a lifetime this year. For thousands of others, the news won’t be so good.
That’s just the way the annual Moose Permit Lottery and Festival works. This year’s event will take place at Cabela’s in Scarborough. The actual drawing begins at 2 p.m., and results will be available at bangordailynews.com at 6 p.m. A variety of other activities and seminars are planned for attendees who arrive early.
Maine began its modern moose hunt in 1980, when 700 permits were awarded for an experimental hunt. After a one-year hiatus, the hunt returned in 1982 and has been held annually ever since.
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Typically the lottery to award those permits — 90 percent of which go to Maine residents — draws a large crowd of interested prospective hunters.
“It’s an exciting time, and people are always hopeful that they’ll be selected and excited for those who do get selected,” said Mark Latti, communications director for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “Even though we’ve got almost 60,000 people applying and we’re pulling less than 3,000 names, we always seem to get a dozen to 20 people who [are there and] get selected. And they’re all treated very well. They get a huge round of applause, and everybody’s happy for them.”
Back in 1980, and for several years after that, the names of prospective hunters were on cards that were pulled by hand from a rotating chicken-wire hopper. Nowadays, computers handle the selection process, and applicants can choose which hunting districts they would accept a permit in and what season they would like to hunt.
And after a slow and steady decline in the number of people who apply for the lottery, this will mark the second straight year — and the sixth in the past 10 — that the number of applicants has increased, year over year. The high-water mark remains the 94,532 applicants in the 1994 hunt.
This year’s total: 59,185 applicants, a 3.6 percent increase over 2018.
Latti said his department’s efforts to boost its social media presence appears to have played a role.
“I hate to toot our own horn, but with social media and some of the traditional forms of media, we’re publicizing things much more than we’ve been able to in the past,” Latti said. “I think more and more people are hearing about things through a variety of methods, and that’s why we’re seeing that increase in the number of people.”
Seminars and events on tap at the lottery and festival:
— Representatives from various vendors will be available throughout the day.
— Best choices in Vortex Optics for hunting in the Northeast, by Rick Campbell of Vortex, 9:30 a.m.
— Introducing a kid to hunting with registered Maine guide Ron Fournier of the University of Maine’s 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond, 10 a.m.
— Gear prep for backcountry Maine moose hunts, with Cabela’s ambassador and outdoorswoman Kristy Titus, 10:30 a.m.
— Common issues of moose hunting and how to be prepared for your hunt, with moose biologist Lee Kantar of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Maine Game Warden Lt. Tom Ward, 11 a.m.
— Moose hunting tips from Hal Blood and the Big Woods Bucks team, 11:30 p.m.
— International Invitational Moose-calling Contest, 12:30 p.m.
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:
— 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.
Cabela’s is located off the Maine Turnpike’s Exit 42.
Watch: Skowhegan Moose Festival attendees attempt world-record moose call