For the last 35 years — since a Cub Scout reached into a hopper and pulled out the first lucky name — Mainers have been fascinated with their moose-permit lottery.
Nowadays, computers, not Cub Scouts, do the drawing. But on Saturday afternoon, when 2,740 hunters learn that they’ve earned a Maine moose hunt for this fall, hundreds of hopeful spectators will be on hand to cheer their success.
And while early lotteries were single-day affairs, this year’s drawing will be held in Bethel, and is staged as part of a three-day Moose Festival and Moose Lottery.
Thinking of heading west for the festivities? Here are a few reasons that might be a good idea:
Being there is half the fun. Sure, reading your name on the BDN or Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website is cool. But being on hand when your name pops out of the cyber-hopper is even better. Believe me: Back in 2006, I was in Scarborough when my name was among the first 10 to be drawn. Although I was there to cover the event, I may have spent the next several minutes accepting well wishes and notifying my hunting party; all were as happy as I was.
You can make a day of it. Or a weekend. Bethel is a pretty cool place, and this weekend, it’ll be bustling with all kinds of activities for adults and kids. Simply put, if you can’t find something fun to do at the festival, you’re not trying. Here are some examples:
- Watch the moose calling. On Friday evening, some of the state’s best moose callers will gather for the qualifying round in the Moose Calling Championships. Then, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, the best of the best will compete for honors under the big tent at the festival.
- Drive the moose loop. Organizers of the festival have outlined a fantastic day trip for families to take while they’re in the area. The entire drive is 146 miles, and will take about 3 hours and 15 minutes to complete. Always said you wanted to see a moose? Get the official festival program and look for the handy map and story.
- Meet the wardens from “North Woods Law.” The “cast” of the Animal Planet reality TV show will be at the Bethel Inn Resort conference center from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, and they’ll be happy to pose for photos and sign autographs. Take your favorite NWL fan — they’ll love it!
- Make a bid on a fly rod. OK, let’s be clear: This is not just any fly rod. The Mollyockett Chapter of Trout Unlimited is staging the auction. Up for grabs is a 1000th anniversary, limited edition rod from Brewer’s Thomas Rod Co. And trust me: It won’t go cheap. The listed value is $3,495. Bring your checkbook, if you dare.
- Watch a demonstratoin. If you’re interested in versatile hunting dogs, they’ll be there. If you want to learn more about tournament fishing, there’s a presentation for you. If you want to learn how to find a big woods buck, you can talk to an expert. And that’s just a partial listing.
- Your children will have a ball at both Saturday’s Kids Fun Zone (face painting, archery demos, games and a photo booth), and Sunday’s Youth Field Day at the UMaine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond.
- Tee it up. Yes, there’s a golf tournament set for Sunday. Stick around, win some prizes.
- Oh … and there’s also a moose-permit lottery. The lottery will run from 3 p.m. to about 7 p.m. on Saturday, and will be held under a tent on the town common.
And as always, if you can’t get to the lottery, check in with us here at bangordailynews.com. We’ll have the results up as soon as we’re allowed to do so — 7 p.m. at the latest.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke