Kelly Lamoreau cheered and reached for the sky when she heard her name drawn at the Maine moose lottery Saturday at Cabela’s. In many ways, she was celebrating more than her third moose permit in 15 years.
A hunter of 21 years, Lamoreau was not only one of the 2,770 permit winners announced at this year’s lottery (some of the 2,820 who will receive permits), she is part of what may be a growing number of big-game female hunters stalking moose. While the ranks of male hunters at the lottery far outnumbered those of women, observers said with the continued growth in the number of female hunters in Maine, many are sure to migrate toward the fall moose hunt.
“I think so. I know a lot of women who want to hunt. I think more will start to hunt moose,” said Lamoreau, 45, of Windsor. “It gives you confidence. I have confidence in myself. I don’t think it’s just a man’s sport anymore. I hope more women try moose hunting.”
Since 2010 the number of licensed female hunters in Maine has increased every year – from 17,078, or 9.6 percent of all hunters, to 21,178 women, or 13.3 percent of all hunters in 2017 – the last year for which the state has data, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
The state applications for moose permits only require a hunter’s hometown, and not the person’s gender, so there is no way to know how many of the nearly 52,000 moose permit applicants this year were woman. But when Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso read the first 100 names of the lottery winners Saturday afternoon – dozens were women’s names, such as Barbara, Ashley, Susan, Sandra, Theresa, Bernadette, Michelle and Rachael.
There will be 2,820 moose hunting permits given out this year. Of those, 50 went into a separate lottery for Maine Registered Guides, and 2,770 were announced Saturday. Of those, 2,546 went to residents, and 224 went to nonresident hunters.The moose lottery costs $15 to enter. Once drawn, a resident moose permit costs $52, while a nonresident permit is $585.
This year’s 2,820 permits were an 11 percent increase from 2018, when 2,523 permits were allocated. That followed a four-year stretch when permits were cut by 49 percent because of the winter tick parasites that have hurt the statewide moose population, which is estimated between 50,000 and 70,000 by state biologists.
The fall moose hunts spans from September through November in different parts of the state. It is held in the northern tip of Maine, eastern and Down East Maine the third week of September; virtually everywhere in Maine the third week of October; in northern Maine again the last week of October; and in just two hunting districts in central and western Maine throughout November.
This year’s lottery drew a crowd of around 1,000 that spilled out of a large tent.
Registered Maine Guide Ron Fournier, who is also director of the state’s 4-H camp at Bryant Pond, said as he looked around that the crowd was clearly mostly men. But Fournier has guided more women hunters in the past several years and believes it is only a matter of time before more turn to moose hunting.
“I’d say among the women hunters, about 40 percent want to hunt moose. It’s a minority,” Fournier said. “Moose hunting is a huge time commitment, and there are a lot of barriers. You need a week off. You have to haul it out of the woods. With turkey hunting, you can go near where you live before work.”
Master Maine Guide Bill Finney, owner of the Patten Hunting Lodge, has guided moose hunts north of Baxter State Park since the modern-day hunt first began in 1980. He also sees more women drawn to moose hunting, albeit slowly. In the past eight years, Finney had two female hunters who won moose permits stay at his camps. They were there on their own. One was a single mother from Maine and another was a woman from Michigan who came from a hunting family.
“There are more introductory programs for new hunters at places like L.L. Bean and Bass Pro Shop (which also sells hunting gear) and in wilderness areas,” Finney said.
And many Maine women at the lottery Saturday believe the ranks of female hunters here will continue to grow without a doubt, and one day that will be reflected at the moose lottery.
Jess DeWitt of Ellsworth, a hunter of 23 years, already was drawn in 2011, and many members of her family win permits. But she was hoping to hear her name announced again so she could do that “happy dance.” It was.
DeWitt, 38, said she’s seen more female hunters in the past eight years and thinks more will start moose hunting. She also believes more will pick up the outdoor activity – and her fiance agreed.
“A lot of her friends are curious about it. We’ve taken a half dozen to look for moose on the Stud Mill Road,” said Jason Crossman, also of Ellsworth.
Paula Billings of Wiscasset, who started hunting three years ago and got her first deer last fall, took it up after years of being a “hunter’s widow” because she enjoys being outdoors with her husband, Chuck. Saturday she was hoping to win her first moose permit.
Paula Billings was one of two women in a hunting group of 11 who were after a moose permit.
“I really like being in the outdoors with him, and I really like being outdoors – period,” Billings said.