BETHEL — It’s getting easier to win a moose-hunting permit in Maine, although the odds are still steep.

On Saturday, 2,740 permits were allocated in the annual Maine moose lottery, down 11 percent from last year’s 3,095. Nearly 90 percent of the permits went to Maine residents.

The chances of winning a permit this year were 1 in 70, according to Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. About half as many hunters put in for a permit compared to a decade ago, when upwards of 90,000 bought chances in the lottery.

More than 1,000 hunters gathered under a large tent to hear the names drawn Saturday, and hundreds of others wandered around vendor booths with hunting and outdoor gear that lined Bethel Commons.

Before the names were read at 3 p.m., master of ceremonies Kevin Rosenberg wished luck for those in attendance – especially those entering the lottery for the first time.

He looked right at Richard Rodrigue of Windsor. Sure enough, Rodrigue’s name was called.

“I never thought I’d be drawn,” said Rodrigue, who couldn’t stop smiling.

“I never bothered in the past. My wife and I had a restaurant in Augusta for 10 years that we closed last year. My buddy asked me to be his sub-permittee and go on his moose hunt. So I decided to enter so he could be mine.”

Rodrigue grew up hunting around his parents’ home in Manchester. But running a restaurant left him no time, so he let his hunting license expire until last year. Then he won a hunting rifle in a raffle held by the Maine Trappers Association.

“I did not think I had very good odds,” Rodrigue said.

Amanda Bauer of Monmouth, who has been drawn twice, heard her 13-year-old daughter’s name drawn for the first time Saturday. Deanna Bauer, who already has bagged three turkeys, a bear and deer, has been entering the lottery for just three years.

The Bauers are a family of hunters who don’t miss too many Maine moose hunts. Amanda Bauer said between her mother, father, father-in-law and husband, not too many years pass before one in their clan gets drawn in the lottery. They’ve won permits four of the past five years

“We’re a hunting family. We’ve gone a lot, but the freezer’s empty now. And this is what we eat. I don’t buy any meat,” said Amanda Bauer, 35.

The first 32 names drawn Saturday put an end to a drought for one group of hunters: Mainers 70 and older who had never been drawn before. A new law automatically qualifies them to received a permit, said Chandler Woodcock, commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

“That will take away a large portion of the complaints that come to my office,” Woodcock joked.

None of the 32 senior hunters was in attendance. Decades ago, hunters would jump up and cheer or run up to the podium when they won. Now there is very little fanfare when a hunter at the lottery is drawn.

This year, 52,374 hunters entered the lottery – 70 percent, or 37,528, are Maine residents.

But a Maine moose permit is still highly coveted. The 14,846 nonresident hunters who bought lottery chances were from all 50 states, five Canadian provinces, and as far away as Guam, England and New Zealand.

Maine residents pay $15 to enter the lottery. Residents accumulate bonus points the more consecutive years they continue to put into the lottery. Aroostook and Cumberland counties had the most moose hunters who entered the lottery, with 3,804 and 3,312, respectively.

Nonresidents can buy a single chance for $15, or 10 chances for $55. Pennsylvania had the most out-of-state hunters wanting a permit (2,587), followed New York (2,196) and Massachusetts (1,716).

A permit costs $52 for residents; and $585 for nonresidents who have a valid Maine hunting license.

Maine’s moose hunt will be held this fall in three zones: Sept. 28 to Oct. 3 in northern Maine, Oct. 12-17 in northern and western Maine, and Nov. 2-28 in southern parts of the state.

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

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