Maine's annual moose lottery is now open

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The 2018 Maine Moose Lottery application process is officially open to Maine residents and non-residents alike. No longer are mailed applications acceptable. Applications must be filed online. The deadline for submitting applications for the moose lottery is May 15, and must be posted no later than midnight on that date.

In 2016, 54,893 hunters applied for a Maine moose permit. Of these, 38,746 were Maine residents and 16,147 were nonresident applicants. The tagging stations last fall recorded a total moose harvest of 1,609 moose. Of those who applied, 5 percent of Maine residents drew a moose permit and 1.3 percent of non-residents drew.

The average hunter success rate was about 75 percent. Non-residents — many of whom hire guides — tended to enjoy a higher success rate than resident hunters. The average bull weight was 741 pounds.

The largest bull taken, an Aroostook County behemoth, tipped the scales field-dressed at 1,061 pounds!

A different 10-year old bull had the largest antler spread at a jaw dropping 64.5 inches!

This time around, 2,080 moose hunting permits will be issued. Ten percent of these will go to non-resident applicants. This is a far cry from the heydays of the Maine moose hunt when more than 3,000 hunt permits were issued and hunter success rates were topping 85 percent.

Times have changed. Moose are more wary. Changes in forest harvest practices have reduced visibility for hunters in the field. And Maine’s moose population has been reduced by an era of severe winter tick infestations. In response to this and the documented loss of yearling moose due to ticks and predation, wildlife biologists have been conservative in allocating permits, especially for cow moose. This is as it should be.

Except for Wildlife Management Areas 1-4 in northernmost Maine, hardly any cow permits are being issued. Throughout the state only 275 cow permits will be issued this year.

The online address for moose lottery applicants is www.mefishwildlife.com. Just click on “moose lottery” and follow the prompts. You don’t have to hold a current big game license to apply, but you must be eligible to buy a hunting license before the hunt dates listed at the online site. There is a three-year waiting period for anyone who has drawn a moose permit. Recent moose hunters can still apply, however, and build their bonus points.

Under a new provision in the law, applicants who are 65 years and older, who hold at least 30 bonus points, are guaranteed a hunt permit. There is also a moose auction for high rollers, which distributes 10 moose permits among the highest bidders. There is also a special controlled moose hunt that is open to disabled veterans, which provides a total of 25 permits to qualifying individuals.

The application fee is $15 for one chance in the lottery, and $52 for the actual permit if you get lucky. Non-residents pay $52 to apply and $500 if they get lucky. Speaking of good fortune, there is also an application proviso that allows non-residents to basically buy as many chances in the lottery as their wallets will withstand. So, if you do draw and wind up in the moose woods, don’t be surprised if you bump into Bill Gates or Warren Buffet in one of those County clearcuts.

The moose lottery drawing takes place June 9 at the Skowhegan fairgrounds.

Good luck.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.

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