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Moose hunt opens Saturday

NEW HAMPTON — Randy Baker of North Haverhill, Floyd Grimes of Las Vegas, Gayle Gates of Hopkinton and Mark Bradford of Newmarket have the same plan for the coming week.

They are among the 275 hunters chosen from 13,000 for the 24th annual New Hampshire Moose Hunt that begins this Saturday at dawn.

Hunters chosen for the limited take are scouting land recently cleared by loggers, packing supplies and scouring maps in their designated zone in an effort to prepare for a successful hunt.

Odds are in their favor.

About 70 percent of those who win the moose lottery make the tag, on average.

Kris Rines, the state&#';s moose project leader, said the conditions are excellent for hunters this year.

She was in Berlin Monday and noticed that most of the leaves are off the trees, making it easier for hunters to see in the woods.

&#';We&#';ve definitely seen an increase in winter tick concerns,&#'; however, said Rines.

She said the state has about 5,000 moose right now, not far from the record number.

But two successive mild winters have led to an increased mortality from winter ticks.

In Minnesota, it has devastated that population over many successive mild winters and that bad news has made some believe that there are no more moose to hunt in this region. But that is wrong, Rines said.

This year, there were about 2,000 fewer entrants in the lottery, down from 15,000, which she attributes in part to that misinformation about winter ticks here, but she noted it could also be because the state reduced the number of permits from 2011.

Last year, there were 395 permits issued; this year there are 120 fewer.

In the first year of the modern-day hunt, 1988, the moose were larger because they were expanding their territory and munching on some of the finest browse, what she compared to &#';ice cream.&#';

&#';There was lots of untrammeled territory,&#'; she said. As the moose have now populated every corner of the state, they have less great stuff to eat and are not as big.

Hunters have 24 hours after they tag their prize to register it at seven check stations statewide.

She said that at the check stations, biologists will be better able to evaluate the condition of the animals to see the level of parasite damage.

A snowy winter would help kill out the winter tick, she said and help reverse a two-year trend.

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Paula Tracy may be reached at ptracy@unionleader.com.

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