Maine moose are worth money. Lots of money. If you combine the revenues from the moose hunt, along with the tourism income from moose viewing, you are talking literally millions of dollars for this state.
It is income that is spread out among outfitters, meat cutters, hunting lodges, guides, rural stores, gas stations, and many, many other businesses.
In fact, a significant portion of the annual operating budget of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is derived from the income generated by the moose permit lottery and the sale of the moose permits themselves.
The allocation of these annual moose hunting permits, that this year exceeded 3,000, is a subject that never ceases to be a topic of conversation and, at times, a source of great controversy. Because there are always far more aspiring moose hunters than there are permits to be drawn, some applicants grow weary of the process or just give up. Some, who have gone more than 20 years without success in the lottery, grow resentful when their neighbor, their neighbor’s wife and son all draw permits the same year. The Department’s system becomes suspect. In a way, you can’t blame the sour-grapes syndrome.
The fact is, however, the lottery system and the random draw software devised by the Department is about as fair and well-designed as it can be. The luck of the draw can be a vexing phenomenon to those whose ship never seems to come in.
Over the years, state residents have expressed dislike for the fact that even a small percentage of the annual moose permits are allocated to nonresidents.
Given this historical backdrop, a new state law that allows the Department for the first time ever to sell a small number of moose permits to state outfitters and lodges may well stir up a hornet’s nest of discontent when the word begins to filter down to moose lottery applicants who have yet to experience a freezer of moose steaks.
The new law, LD 738, An Act to Promote the Maine Economy and Support Maine’s Sporting Camp Tradition, sponsored by State Senator Troy Jackson. sets aside about 90 moose permits that will be doled out to successful Maine outfitters and sporting lodges that compete in a special lottery draw. As I understand it, the outfitters will pay the state $1,500 for the special moose permits. The recipients of these special moose hunting permits can then turn around and include them in a moose hunting package that the outfitter can market to resident or nonresident moose hunters willing to pay handsomely for the privilege.
Predictably, this change is already getting mixed reviews among the outfitters themselves. This is probably going to be hard sell to the rank and file sportsman who has never lucked out in the moose lottery.
At my peril. I say that this is a good idea that is long overdue. In many of the big game hunting Western states, this is not a new thing at all. A limited number of big game tags are allocated every year to outfitters for their use in attracting paying sports. Critics need to focus, not on the fact that someone with a fat wallet can buy his way into a moose hunt, but the benefits that accrue to Maine outfitters and hunting lodges. A rising tide floats all boats. Over the years, state government and legislative policymakers have done far too little to support Maine’s hunting heritage and our equally important sporting camp heritage. As Don Kleiner, spokesman for the Maine Professional Guide’s Association (MPGA) pointed out, this new moose permit provision can only serve to help Maine’s sporting camp industry in the years ahead.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.” Online information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com or by calling Diane at 207 745 0049.