FREEPORT – Several hundred people who came to L.L. Bean on Thursday for the annual moose permit lottery witnessed a seminar on the vagaries of chance.

After moose calling, moose hunting and moose biology seminars filled the afternoon beside L.L. Bean’s Hunting and Fishing Store, hopeful hunters defied the odds at every turn when the lottery drawing got under way.

There was the father-and-daughter team of Tim and Emily Parker of Yarmouth, who both won permits, 18-year-old Emily on her first try.

There was Ephrem Paraschak of Naples, who won for the first time after entering every year for the past 15.

“I didn’t think I’d get drawn,” Paraschak said. “I just came to this tonight because it was close.”

Then there was Barry Hammond of Livermore, who has entered 30 years in a row. He did not win a permit.

Computer programmer Mark Ostermann with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said the permit lottery is random, despite the odd twists of fate that play out every year.

Those who buy a chance every year accrue bonus points that help increase their chances of winning a permit. It costs Maine residents $7 to buy a chance; for non-residents, it’s $15.

Ten percent of those who have entered every year since 1998 received permits this year, while only about 3 percent of the 13,907 first-time applicants had their names drawn, Ostermann said.

Statistically speaking, one in 13 state-resident entrants wins a permit, but only one in 41 out-of-staters receives one.

“That’s how lotteries are. If you’re really lucky, you get drawn. The program doesn’t lie,” Ostermann said with a smile. “It’s just numbers.”

But it’s hard telling that to someone who has entered for years without winning a permit.

George Smith, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, finally gave up last year after entering annually and never having his name drawn.

“They should increase the number of permits and drop the success rate. For a big-game hunt, 80 percent (success rate) is ridiculous. I lost interest,” said Smith of Mount Vernon, who came to watch.

The lottery issued 3,140 permits for the fall moose hunt, which is held in September, October and November in different parts of Maine. Of those, 2,832 went to Maine residents and 308 to non-residents.

For those who attended to hear their names drawn and announced, the excitement led to cheers, screams, even dancing.

“I did dance around for about five minutes,” said Emily Parker, who just turned 18. “I really want to go. This is a good birthday gift.”

Others came but had little hope, knowing only about 6 percent of 50,000 applicants would get to hunt moose this fall — and that’s the lowest number of applicants in the hunt’s history.

After hitting a high of almost 95,000 in 1994, the number of entrants has steadily decreased.

However, Ostermann said the recent drop may well be due to the economy, given a moose hunt can cost up to $3,000.

For the several hundred who waited Thursday under and around the tent at L.L. Bean, the price would be worth it.

“I’ve been hunting in the Alaskan Yukon, in British Columbia and Colorado. It would mean a lot to have a Maine moose join my Alaskan Yukon moose,” said Russ Wilhour of San Antonio, Texas, who came from his summer home in Stockton Springs.

Wilhour also failed to win a permit this year.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]