The odds of winning a moose hunting permit get better every year.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has issued moose permits since 1980. The number of applicants peaked in 1994 with 94,543 applications for 1,200 permits, and odds of one in 79 applicants winning a permit. In 2011, there were 49,889 applicants for 3,862 permits; with the odds of one in 13 applicants winning — a substantially better chance.

Changes to the 2012 moose permit lottery will further improve the odds of a longtime applicant winning. Since 1998, a bonus point was earned for each year a person applied, but did not win. Last year, the Legislature changed the bonus points earned to one point for years 1 to 5, two points for years 6 to 10, three points for years 11-15 and 10 points for each year over 15. The maximum number of years anyone has accumulated into 2012 is 14 years — equaling a total of 27 bonus points.

In addition, residents can only buy one chance — increasing the value of the bonus points relative to the number of purchased chances. Last year, the longtime applicant with 13 bonus points and six purchased chances was three times as likely to win as the person with zero bonus points and who purchased six chances. This year the longtime applicant with 27 bonus points and one purchased chance are 28 times more likely to win when compared to the person buying their first chance. About 3,500 people have applied every year since 1998 and not won. With all of the changes outlined above, and if they continue to apply annually; almost all of them will win a moose hunting permit within the next five years.

Applications for this year’s moose lottery are now available online through the department’s website mefishwildlife.com. Completing the application online is a convenience that thousands of hunters are using, because the forms are easy to fill out and the hunters receive instant confirmation that they have been entered into the lottery.

The paper application deadline was April 2. The online application period will close Monday, May 14.

Courier Publications sports staff can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at sports@villagesoup.com.