Over the past two decades, Maine’s moose-permit lottery — an unlikely tourist attraction that involves the recitation of a few thousand names in a sometimes overheated meeting hall — has hop-scotched its way across the state.
It’s been in Old Town and Rumford, Phippsburg and Freeport, Kittery and Fort Kent (among others).
On Saturday, prospective moose hunters will flock to Aroostook County, where the state-run lottery will take place at the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Gentile Hall.
Nick Archer, who is helping organize the event for the Presque Isle Fish & Game Club, said the event’s return to The Star City (Presque Isle also hosted in 2004) makes perfect sense.
“To the Presque Isle Fish and Game Club, the moose hunt and the moose lottery is the lifestyle,” Archer said on Tuesday. “It’s what we’re all about. We’ve been around since 1949 and we promote hunting and fishing.”
The city’s location in the heart of one of the state’s most moose-y areas doesn’t hurt, either.
“Presque Isle is in the center of seven [Wildlife Management Districts]. Zones 1 through 7 are all accessible through the Presque Isle and central Aroostook area,” Archer said. “This is part of life up here.”
Host communities now vie for the opportunity to annual lottery, which determines which prospective hunters will be allowed to pursue moose during one of several hunting sessions this fall. This year, 3.095 permits will be awarded to 48,459 applicants. Of those applicants, 35,132 are from Maine while 13,327 are non-residents.
Archer said he understands that some might not think sitting in a large room waiting for a particular name to be called would be exciting.
But he said when you’re present and you recognize a name that’s called, emotions run high.
“We went to the [lottery] in Greenville last year and you’ve got 700 people sitting there on the edge of their seats,” he said.
Maine’s modern moose hunt began on an experimental basis in 1980. After a year of study, the hunt returned in 1982 and has been held annually since.
And over the years, moose-permit lotteries have grown as well, with food and outdoor-related vendors setting up shop at the lottery site each year.
That trend will continue on Saturday, according to Archer.
Doors will open at Gentile Hall at 11 a.m., and vendors — mostly Maine guides and sporting camp owners — will be on hand to chat with attendees.
An added treat for this year’s Presque Isle show, according to Archer, is a two-hour bluegrass music concert featuring the Fiddle Heads and Left Over Biscuits.
A moose-calling contest will begin at 2 p.m., while the lottery itself will start at 3 p.m.
The event is sponsored by L.L. Bean.
If you’re unable to get up to Presque Isle to hear your name drawn in person, don’t fret. You’ll be able to check for your name at the BDN website as soon as the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife lifts its embargo on the data — probably around 7 p.m.
I’ll be on hand in Presque Isle to file a story or two, and will keep my fingers crossed for all of you … especially those who’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy their own hunt of a lifetime.