Moose Lottery: Applicants Up – Revenue Down

While the number of lottery applicants for Maine’s moose permits may never regain its peak of 94,532 in 1994, this year’s modest gain in sales and participants was encouraging. But the revenue picture is not as rosy.

A total of 54,338 hunters applied for moose permits this year, a gain of 4,451 over 2011 (9 percent). Applications from residents totaled 39,681, a gain of 3,362 over 2011 (8.6 percent), and from nonresidents totaled 14,657, a gain of 1,297 over 2011 (9.7 percent).

The latter might be the more significant gain, because more than half of the lottery revenue comes from nonresidents who can purchase all the chances they want in an effort to win the 363 permits allocated to our friends from away. Residents got 3,725 permits this year.

Legislatively enacted changes in the lottery for Maine residents kicked in this year, partly to improve the chances of winning a permit for Mainers who have applied for the past 13 years without success.

As explained by DIF&W’s Mark Osterman, “Last year, the long time applicants with 13 bonus points and 6 purchased chances was three times as likely to win as the person with zero bonus points and who purchased 6 chances. This year the long time applicant with 27 bonus points and one purchased chance are 28 times more likely to win when compared to the person buying their first chance.”

Got that? Well, few are able to understand what has become a complicated system. I am remembering the advice of a former State Senator from Aroostook County who always pleaded with DIF&W to keep the lottery simple! Sure wish we’d done that!

The lottery changes included limiting residents to the purchase of only one chance, while increasing the price of that chance and reconfiguring the bonus points system. Trust me, you don’t even want to try to understand it.

This year’s slight up-tick in interest, however, may mean the changes had a positive impact, and Maine may have bottomed out in the number of applications. The number of applications in 2010 and 2011 was the lowest in the 29 years of the state’s modern moose hunt. DIF&W’s cash cow stopped giving milk!

More than 60,000 residents and nonresidents applied for moose permits in the first regular moose lottery and hunting season in 1982. An initial “experimental” season held in 1980 attracted 36,636 applicants. That lottery was closed to nonresidents. While the number of moose hunting permits has risen sharply over the years, the number of applicants trended in the other direction.

Despite the increase in applicants this year, DIF&W’s lottery revenue fell far short of what it was just 4 years ago. For an explanation of that, and more details about the 2012 lottery, read this column in my website news blog.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.