Moose hunters in Lower 48 have higher success rates than those in Alaska

Posted: Thursday, September 07, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The biggest difference between moose hunting in Alaska and the Lower 48 is not the size of the animal or number of hunters.

It's the success rate.

While one in every three Alaska moose hunters brings home the figurative bacon in an average year, the vast majority of Lower 48 moose hunters are able to kill an animal. But the odds of getting a moose permit in the Lower 48 can be as low as 150 to one.

Hunters in Maine, which issues the most permits to hunt moose (3,000) and has the biggest population of moose (30,000) in the Lower 48, have a success rate of 87 percent. So do hunters in Wyoming.

In Utah and North Dakota, where hunters kill about 100 moose a year in each state, the kill rate is 90 percent. The same is true in Washington state, where 49 hunters killed 44 moose last year. Eighty percent of Montana moose hunters come home with a moose.

The lowest success rate for moose hunters in the Lower 48 last year was in Vermont, where ''only'' 120 of 200 moose hunters -- 60 percent -- bagged a moose.

So what's the deal? Are moose in the Lower 48 that dumb? Are hunters that good?

''They're not real wary,'' said wildlife manager Lou Cornicelli of Utah moose. ''They're not hard to kill.

''Usually, unless you break your leg before the hunt you're going to get one,'' he said from his office at the Utah Game and Fish Department in Ogden. ''Even if you break your leg you could probably get one.''

The same is true in North Dakota, where 132 permits were issued for moose this year.

''They're highly visible,'' said big game biologist Bill Jensen in Bismark. ''They like to feed on in sunflower and alfalfa fields so they really stand out.

''If there's moose in an area, people know where they are,'' he said.

The hard part about moose hunting in the Lower 48 is getting the chance.

All 10 states that have moose hunts in the Lower 48 have lottery drawings to determine who gets a hunting permit. The odds of being drawn in almost every state are extremely thin because thousands of hunters apply for a select few permits.

Maine had more than 82,000 applications for 3,000 permits this year. That included more than 20,000 nonresidents vying for 300 permits.

In Washington state, only 67 permits were issued this year and close to 10,000 hunters applied. In Colorado, more than 8,000 hunters applied for 79 permits.

Utah hunters pay upwards of $5,000 to buy permits which are distributed to private landowners with more than 10,000 acres and some moose on their property. Some of the private permits are purchased by guides or outfitters, who then sell them to hunters.

''It was set up to put a value on wildlife,'' Cornicelli said.

Even though Utah moose hunters are limited to one permit in a lifetime, many kill the first moose they see, Cornicelli said.

''You'd be amazed at some of the bulls people shoot for $5,000,'' he said.

With 30,000 moose, Maine has by far the biggest population of moose among the Lower 48 states.

''That's what we brag,'' said wildlife biologist Karen Morris with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

The state's moose population is growing, as are hunting opportunities, she said. This year, the state gave out a record 3,000 permits, in part to cut down on the more than 700 moose-vehicle accidents last year.

''It mostly means people realize we have whole lot of moose and people are starting to get annoyed with them,'' Morris said. ''As the population has expanded and the number of roadkills has increased, people have been less and less opposed to hunting moose.''

Moose have been reported in Massachusetts, and a few strays have made their way into Connecticut. But there is no hunting season for moose in either state, Morris said.

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