SKOWHEGAN — At one of the biggest Maine moose lottery gatherings in 22 years, many of the more than 1,000 people who turned out Saturday in Skowhegan were hoping their names would be drawn for a permit. But others who applied for a permit said they just wanted to support the state’s work managing the moose population.

Some just came for the three-day Moose Festival held at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds – and to help the town in its attempt at making the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people giving a moose call.

Hunter Ingersoll, 4, of Moscow sat in the front row and joined the massive moose call with his grandparents. Neither Adam nor Linda Ingersoll put in for a moose permit, but they said they took their grandson to the festival and lottery because that’s what he wanted for his birthday.

They still hoped to hear the name of a family member.

“We’re all hunters. We love moose meat,” Adam Ingersoll said.

The state issued 2,500 permits for the fall hunt, a 20 percent increase from last year’s allotment of 2,080 after state biologists deemed this spring that winter survival of moose was better than in recent years.

During the past four years, permit numbers sharply declined from the 4,085 allotted in 2013, largely because of state biologists’ concerns about moose survival rates after a winter-tick infestation was found in the herd. State biologists now estimate the moose population is between 50,000 and 70,000, down from 76,000 in 2011, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

The moose season is made up of three weeklong seasons held in different parts of the state in September and October, and another monthlong season in November.

When Katlyn Wells, 29, of Wales heard the name of her uncle, Mark Wells of Phippsburg, she tried desperately to reach him by phone. Wells managed to talk to her aunt, Betsy Wells, who screamed on the other end of the line.

“My dad is one of six, so we have a big extended family. We all put in for a permit,” said Katlyn Wells, whose name was drawn in 2008. “We enjoy moose meat. But we go north no matter what. (The moose hunt) is just fun. Being able to put meat on the table is a bonus. We still enjoy going north and being outside.”

Roxanne Shaw of Levant has put in every year and has been drawn only once. She came to the lottery with her husband, Scott, because they love hunting and enjoy the moose lotteries, which often are made into festivals by the host sites. The state holds the moose lottery at a different site each year.

“We go up to Kokadjo no matter what,” Roxanne Shaw said of the moose hunt near Moosehead Lake. “It’s a fun thing to do. It’s fun to see other people out hunting and to go to the tagging station.”

Skowhegan proudly boasts the nation’s oldest continuously running agricultural fair, which will celebrate 200 years this summer, so the town pulled together dozens of vendors, food trucks and outdoor exhibitions for the annual lottery – and even booked country singer Phil Vassar.

Joey and Crystal Levesque drove almost four hours from Caribou with their 10-year-old son, Riley.

“We put in every year, but even if we don’t get drawn, it’s just donating money to a good cause,” Crystal Levesque said.

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:[email protected]

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