The Maine moose lottery turns 30 years old Saturday, and, boy, has the state’s moose hunt grown and changed in that time.

There is now a hunt in southern Maine, more hunters going out than ever and a program where hunters turn in gut piles to help biologists learn even more about moose.

While the number of moose hunt permit applicants has waxed and waned — from as many as 92,700 to this year’s total of nearly 50,000 — the numbers of permits has risen.

The 2011 lottery at Cabela’s in Scarborough will award the most ever, with 3,862.

“From my perspective, we had the ability to increase the permits. … We flew aerial surveys with the double-count survey in (hunting) zones 2, 3 and 6. We’ve never done that before. We felt we really had the ability to estimate the abundance of moose. I felt from a biological perspective, we could increase some level of (cow) permits,” said Maine moose biologist Lee Kantar.

And starting last year the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife asked moose hunters who received cow permits in some of the northern hunting zones to return the gut piles, so that biologists can study the reproductive organs of the female moose there. The reproductive organs help gauge the productivity of moose in that region.

Kantar said this is just one way state biologists are gathering more data on moose than ever before.

“It gives you a relative idea of where the moose population is compared to other states,” Kantar said. “This is a really good measure. In Maine, because of the size of the moose population, we have the ability to collect tremendous amounts of data compared to our neighbors.”

Of the 310 cow permit holders in the key northern zones last year, Kantar received 75 gut samples. This year there will be 795 cow permit holders in the studied region, and Kantar is hoping for several hundred samples, which would far surpass similar studies in other states, he said.

Meanwhile, the lottery itself should be bigger and better, if all goes as planned.

Greg Sirpis at Cabela’s hopes to mark the benchmark anniversary with a markedly different moose lottery.

“When people leave here, I want them to say, ‘That is how you do a moose lottery,’ ” Sirpis said.

Sirpis has demonstrations and activities at the Scarborough store planned for the entire day leading up to the winning names at 4 p.m. In particular, he said kids events and a grand-style, tailgate-themed barbecue cook- off will distinguish this year’s event.

Some of the best chefs will be judged by public personalities — including Press Herald food writer Meredith Goad — and, while samples last, they’ll be free for the tasting.

“We want to keep people entertained and fed. Who doesn’t like a barbecue cook-off? Last year we had one. There were 760 people who voted,” Sirpis said.

For kids there will be ATV riding lessons, archery lessons, and a crafts center where they can learn to make moose calls.

“My theory is, the kids are our future stewards of tomorrow. It’s our responsibility that they know what this is about. … If a couple wants to be here and we have the ability to entertain the kid, I think that’s huge,” Sirpis said.

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

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