Lodges will get Maine moose hunting permits this year

Maine sporting camps, lodges, inns, and guides will get moose hunting permits this year. In a surprise move, the legislature – which had defeated similar proposals in the past – last year enacted LD 738, An Act to Promote the Maine Economy and Support Maine’s Sporting Camp Tradition, sponsored by Senator Troy Jackson.

Governor Paul LePage sat on the bill for more than 6 months and then allowed it to become law without his signature in early January.

Bill Swan, Director of Licensing at Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, will be responsible for creating the special lottery that will distribute these permits. Bill told me today that the lottery will be held in advance of the regular moose lottery, and applicants will each get one permit unless there are more permits than applicants.

Photo by Eagle Lake Lodge

Photo by Eagle Lake Lodge

Here’s how this will work. In any year when the total number of moose permits exceeds 3,140, 10 percent of the permits exceeding 3,140 must be allocated through a chance drawing to “hunting outfitters.” DIF&W will get $1,500 for each permit.

Last year DIF&W allotted 4,100 moose permits. If they provide the same number of permits in 2014, outfitters would get 96 permits. The outfitters can sell the permits as part of a package that includes lodging and meals. Hunters who purchase those permits must be accompanied by a guide on their moose hunts.

But it’s the definition of “hunting outfitter” that is especially interesting. It opens the door to many businesses beyond traditional sporting camps – the group that initially advocated for the proposal.

“Hunting outfitter” is defined in this law as “a person who operated a lodging place licensed under Title 22, chapter 562 and who provides package deals that include food, lodging, and the services of a guide licensed under chapter 927 for the purpose of hunting.”

In other words, any facility licensed by the state to offer food and lodging qualifies for moose permit lottery. All they have to do is partner with a hunting guide to apply for permits.

I have talked with innkeepers who expressed interest in this. The opportunity allows the inn to provide the lodging and meals, while the guide conducts the hunt. The price of the hunt would be included in a package that included the lodging, meals, and services of the guide.

I expect the total price of a Maine moose hunt offered this way will approach the prices DIF&W gets for its auction of ten permits to benefit conservation education programs. Those permits go for between $8,000 and $12,000 – and don’t include a guide, lodging, or meals.

moose - Allagash Guide ServiceIt will be interesting to see who applies for these permits, and whether outfitters will go for top dollar for these special hunts – or give them away much more cheaply. The opportunity for significant profit from these hunts is definitely there. Few would argue that the moose at left, in a photo taken by Allagash Guide Service, should demand a very high fee!

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.