By John Toole
---- — It’s not as popular as Powerball, but the players in New Hampshire’s moose lottery are every bit as enthusiastic.
State wildlife program specialist Linda Verville said a standing-room crowd of more than 100 will convene over coffee and doughnuts tomorrow morning at Fish & Game headquarters in Concord.
This year the state will award 275 permits. About 14,000 people from across the country, Canada and Europe will await word, monitoring a live radio broadcast or checking the department’s website.
Winners get the chance to participate in the big hunt, Oct. 19 to 27.
Last year only about a dozen hunters from Southern New Hampshire towns won permits. They were from Salem, Pelham, Sandown, Londonderry, Danville and Plaistow.
Hunters pay $15 just to apply. If they win the lottery, they will pay another $150 for the permit. It’s more for people from out of state: $25 to apply, $500 for a permit winner.
Winning is not easy.
Hunters are selected through a computerized random drawing.
“Approximately 15 to 20 of our guys normally participate. There’s probably one that’s been successful every three or four years,” Plaistow Fish & Game Club member Bill McNulty of Atkinson said.
“Guys who get it feel very fortunate to get into the lottery,” he said.
Pelham Fish & Game Club president Mitch Kopacz said moose hunters from the club will have applied. “There always is interest. It’s a huge event,” he said.
A bonus system awards more chances to unlucky hunters who have failed to win a permit, Verville said. “It accumulates. We’ve got some people with 10 (chances).”
Even when a hunter gets a permit that doesn’t mean he will bag a moose.
Verville said only 64 percent of last year’s permit holders got their moose.
“A moose will roam. You still do have to find one,” McNulty said.
He related the story of the lottery winner from Plaistow who went to North Conway and saw a moose just before the hunt.
“He never bumped into the moose again. He said, ‘I did see it, but it was the wrong day,’” McNulty said.
People associate moose with the state’s wooded North Country, which provides them ample food.
“But they’ve become quite prolific. We’ve had moose in Pelham and Salem,” Kopacz said. “I saw a moose on Route 28 in Salem. That was within the last couple of years.”
But McNulty said hunters are still more likely to get their moose up north, where they can more easily find food. “If a moose is here, he’s not going to stay.”
The moose lottery started in 1988. The state first awarded 75 permits.
Verville said the number of permits varies depending on the findings of biologists and how the state wants to manage the herd.
There have been years when as many as 675 were awarded.
The drawing is scheduled to start at 9 a.m.
Verville said the names of winning hunters will be posted on the Fish & Game website, wildlife.state.nh.us, as soon as 11 a.m.
Radio station WTPL-FM, 107.7, will air the lottery live.