A variety of factors have substantially reduced the interest among hunters in pursuing moose in New England.
Moose populations in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire have fallen by 10 to 50 percent over the past few years. Maine saw a decrease of between 6,000 and 11,000 moose in the last two years. New Hampshire's moose herd fell from 6,000 to around 4,000. Vermont had the greatest reduction with a former population of 5,000 being reduced to only 2,500 moose today.
Simultaneously, the number of hunters that are applying for moose hunting lottery permits in these states has decreased. The number of entries in Maine's lottery went down by over 20,000 while New Hampshire and Vermont moose hunting lottery applicants decrease by around 5,000 each.
Hunters have attributed shrinking herds, expensive and time consuming hunts, and loss of patience with the odds of getting a permit as contributing factors to the waning lack of interest.
"In the early years, it didn't matter -- you'd quit your job to go shoot that moose," said Howell Copp, who owns a popular gun store in Gray, Maine, and has hunted moose since the state's hunt began in 1980. "It's just not as big of a thing as it used to be."
Last year, Maine moose hunters harvested 3,015 animals. This year, Maine only issued 3,095 permits total, a cut of more than 1,000 permits. New Hampshire and Vermont have a shorter, more controlled season than Maine but both of those states cut the number of issued permits substantially.
On the other hand, the odds of getting a moose hunting permit in any of the three states has actually become more favorable recently. 20 years ago, over 90,000 people applied for just 1,200 moose permits in Maine.
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The marginally interested hunters seem to be dropping out. When the number of permits being issued was relatively high, it seems anyone with mild interest applied for a chance. Now, with fewer permits being allotted, the hunters with mild interest are not applying.
Moose hunting is also a lot of work and often involves navigating waterways and trekking far back into the wilderness. The job of packing out a 1,500 pound animals is more than some casual hunters want to take on as well.