KITTERY — David Geschke drove six hours from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two friends to attend the Maine moose lottery Saturday.

Geschke could have checked online Saturday night to see if he won a moose permit, but he wanted the experience of hearing his name called under the tent at Kittery Trading Post alongside more than 700 hunters – and he got it.

“Woooooh!” Geschke yelled as he pumped his fist.

“This is surreal,” said Geschke, 57. “I love the North Maine Woods. I’ve been hunting deer here for 11 years. I’ve been putting in for (a moose permit) for 11 years. I spend $110 each year for two books (or 20 chances). I guess it worked.”

The moose lottery moves around the state every year, and this time several hundred came to hear 2,140 permits drawn and read aloud. And many come from far afield.

Entries in the lottery increased to 48,900 this year, but overall applications have been decreasing since 2001, when more than 85,200 people applied. This year 35,100 Maine residents applied, and 13,800 out-of-state hunters tried for one of the 205 nonresident permits.

Nonresident hunters get nearly 10 percent of the permits each year, and hunters from every state apply.

Entering the lottery costs $15 for residents, who can only buy one chance. Nonresidents can buy an unlimited amount of chances, costing $55 for 10.

And each year, hunters from Pennsylvania show the most nonresident interest, with between 2,500 and 4,000 hunters applying, according to 15 years of applications from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Some even drive several hours to attend the lottery, as Geschke did.

Tom and Tomasene Szumlanski also drove seven hours, traveling from Sugarloaf, Pennsylvania. They made a week’s vacation of the trip, but sitting under the big tent waiting to hear if their names would be drawn was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“We’ve never done it before and it was closer (to Pennsylvania) this year. So it was a golden opportunity,” Tom Szumlanski said. “I’ve been putting in to the lottery 22 years. Being here today was on my list of things I wanted to do. People think of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh when they think of Pennsylvania, but it’s a very big hunting state. It’s very rural. People there love to hunt.”

Among the residents, Cindy and Howard Stevens of Greene drove four hours round-trip, and they do it every year with friends no matter where the lottery is held.

They’ve been to the lotteries in Presque Isle, Oquossoc and Greenville.

“We just go for the ride. There are about 15 of us from Leeds, Wales and Greene who go,” Howard Stevens said.

Kaylee and Nick Campagna came from Burlington, Vermont, making a six-hour round-trip journey. The husband-and-wife team went to the lottery last year in Bethel, and had such a good time they wanted to enjoy it again.

“Last year, Bethel was such a nice community. It was fun,” Kaylee Campagna said. “We enjoyed it. So we decided to come back again.”

Maine is allotting 675 fewer permits than in 2015, a 24 percent decrease. That comes a year after the permits were cut 9 percent from 3,095 to 2,815, as state biologists try to meet demands for more moose in the woods. The reductions this year took place in five of the 29 hunting districts – four in northernmost Maine, another Down East.


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