This seemingly random set of numbers bears no immediate significance. They hold no mathematical consequence, nor do they represent any sort of riddle, puzzle, teaser or cipher. Chosen with careful consideration and plenty of deliberation, they found their way to an application.
Thousands of others selected their own numbers in hopes of hitting it big in the lottery to rule all lotteries. With no money at stake, what prize was being vied for? A coveted Maine moose permit, of course, and these were my wildlife management district choices.
Every June, there’s an event held in Maine so important, so crucial and so highly anticipated that it could rival any holiday or major occasion, such as a marriage or the birth of a child.
At least for some folks, anyhow.
They flock in great numbers to witness in person, while others glue themselves to computer screens. The hours and minutes leading up to the big moment are filled with emotion and suspense. Nails are bitten, fingers are crossed and heart rates increase. A tremendous sense of hope and optimism momentarily overtakes each participant and then it begins: the annual Maine Moose Permit lottery drawing.
Lotteries are a funny thing. They captivate by creating a sense of optimism and confidence in winning a prize, though winning is unlikely. They’re a chance and opportunity, not a guarantee. They attract repeat participants who will rarely, if ever, win but who joyfully participate. As far as moose hunting is concerned, many agree it’s the crown jewel of all Maine hunts, so being drawn for such a prized permit can become an obsession.
In February, I completed my application and officially submitted it to the lottery’s mercy. In truth, I don’t have much to complain about, having been drawn for a cow permit in 2011 and named as a sub-permittee on two other bull permits. Success was found on all three of the hunts and I told myself that if I was never drawn again, well, that would be just fine. However, just like anyone, I want to be drawn again, then again, and again. A frustration for many is being passed over year after year, while their neighbor is drawn for their second, third or even fourth permit. Some families get drawn for multiple permits while others are left to dream year after year.
What makes moose hunting so great anyhow? The adventure of traveling to the North Woods, carrying extra gas and spare tires. The challenge found in calling a rut-crazed bull into the open for a shot. Figuring out how to get an animal weighing up to 1,000 pounds out of the woods. High-quality meat to fill the freezers of family and friends. Spending time with those family and friends, making memories.
Maybe most of all, it’s the fact that the only way to experience it is to be drawn in the lottery or otherwise associated with a permit in some way. There’s a chance you may never get the chance, and that is intoxicating.
After months of waiting, June 11 dawned and with it, this hunter’s Christmas Day. In an effort to keep my obsession with the moose lottery at bay, days earlier I had started construction of a new woodshed in hopes of holding my attention long enough to get me to 6 p.m. when the results were scheduled to be posted on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website. The drawing would be held earlier in the afternoon in Jackman. I contemplated attending in person but ultimately opted to stick to the woodshed. Both the 2020 and 2021 drawings were held live online by the DIF&W, which I enjoyed a great deal. I’d hoped this year would also be streamed online but, in its absence, I did my best to get through the day. Just after 6 p.m., soaked in sweat from the afternoon’s work, I made my way into the house and toward the kitchen for a glass of water.
My girlfriend, Emily — well aware of my anticipatory excitement — subtly mentioned the time and asked if I had checked the results of the lottery. My preoccupation plan had worked all too well, I’d completely forgotten all about the lottery! I reached into my pocket and found my phone, which I’d silenced in order to focus on my mediocre, at best, carpentry. There was no need to check the results. Six text message notifications and a dozen missed calls from friends prompted my heart to race and a smile stretched from ear to ear as Emily smirked and chuckled. She already knew and the first text from a best friend confirmed it: “CONGRATULATIONS BUD!!! Zone 6 September!”
The remainder of the evening, I rode cloud nine, doing my best to work through disbelief and pinching myself to make sure it wasn’t all just a dream. With the numbers 6-6-3-3-2-5-8-7-4-1, I truly had won the lottery and with it, a prize more important to me than any amount of money. Whether fair, unfair, deserved, undeserved, luck of the draw or a gift from the Hunting Gods, this September I’ll have the opportunity to make lifelong memories with people I love, doing what I love in a place I love, and that will make me the richest man in the world.