BETHEL — Niilo Sillanpaa III, fresh off his second-place finish in a moose-calling competition at the Bethel Town Common, said he wasn’t going to stick around at the Bethel Moose Festival’s moose-hunting permit drawing to hear whether his name was called.

He works as a moose-hunting guide in New Vineyard, and while he has applied for a permit for 28 consecutive years, he has never had his name called at a permit drawing.

“I mean, they have that new law that says anybody who hasn’t received a permit by the age of 70 automatically gets a permit, so I guess I only have 32 more years to wait,” Sillanpaa joked, his grin nearly hidden behind several inches of beard.

Sillanpaa said he has hunted all his life, and at a certain point, he decided he wanted to become a guide to “bring a little money in.”

However, while a second-place finish in a moose-calling competition is nice, Sillanpaa said his heart is set on getting his first moose-hunting permit.

“When the drawing starts, I’m going to get into my car, start driving and listen to the radio as my name is not called for a permit,” Sillanpaa said with a laugh.


The Bethel Moose Festival kicked off Friday evening and will continue through Sunday.

Jessie Perkins, events and marketing director for the Bethel Chamber of Commerce, said the University of Maine 4-H Camp reached out to the chamber a couple of years ago about submitting a proposal for Bethel to be considered for the Maine Moose Lottery.

A committee consisting of local business owners, chamber members and 4-H camp employees was responsible for organizing the event, Perkins said.

The pièce de résistance of the festival was the permit drawing, at which 2,740 permits would be handed out to Maine residents and nonresidents alike. The drawing is randomized, with certain applicants being awarded bonus points based on how long they have gone without receiving a permit.

The drawing began at 3 p.m., and after several hundred names had been called, Harrison resident Carol Barker, 71, received her third moose-hunting permit in 25 years — an impressive feat considering more than 50,000 people from all 50 states and multiple countries applied this year.

Barker’s daughter, Kelly Silke, and Silke’s granddaughter sat next to her as she learned that her most recent permit would allow her to hunt in Wildlife Management District 4, a region in Northern Maine adjacent to Baxter State Park.


The first year that Barker went on a moose hunt was 1989. That year, she shot a 900-pound bull moose with a 63-inch rack.

While many of the officers with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife suggested Saturday that applicants who receive a permit this year hire a moose-hunting guide to take them on their hunt, Barker scoffed at the idea of hiring a guide.

“We’ve never had a guide when we went moose-hunting, and we’ve gotten a moose every year we went,” Barker said. “I’ve been hunting for 55 years, so I know a little bit about hunting.”

Steve Grey, treasurer and 10-year member of the Maine Bowhunters Association, was hoping his fourth time applying for a permit would be the charm.

“I’ve found that when people don’t expect to get a permit, that’s when their name gets drawn,” Grey said. “At this point, if I don’t get it, that’s OK with me — but if I do get it, it would make a great day even better.”

Prior to the drawing, people had the opportunity to visit dozens of vendors and demonstrations scattered throughout the downtown, including a beer garden tent at the Bethel Inn Resort and autograph-signing by the cast of “North Woods Law,” a television series on Animal Planet.


The Bethel Historical Society organized several games for children on the lawn between the Moses Mason House and the Robinson House, and demonstrations were held under the big tent at the center of the Bethel Town Common, including how to blood track big game with dogs from Lindsay Ware of, and how to differentiate between different hunting dogs, by the Sebasticook Chapter of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association.

According to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, 52,374 people from all 50 states, several Canadian provinces and countries as far away as Guam and New Zealand applied for moose-hunting permits this year. Maine applicants made up 34,288 of that count.

Maine residents had a 1-in-70 chance of receiving a permit, while nonresidents had a 1-in-994 chance.

The 2,740 permits for this year’s drawing was down from the 3,095 permits drawn in 2014.

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