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Penobscots open moose hunt to highest bidders

INDIAN ISLAND, Maine - The Penobscot Indian Nation has launched a project that will provide an opportunity to present the tribe's cultural traditions, manage its wildlife and fund its natural resources department.

For the first time in history, the nation is offering an open moose hunting season on the tribe's traditional hunting grounds to non-tribal members.

The five-day hunt will take place Oct. 1 - 5 and the package will include a Penobscot Indian guide, a moose-hunting permit, airport pickup and drop-off, transportation during the hunt by truck, ATV, and canoe, remote lodging, meals and meat processing.

Only four all-inclusive moose-hunting packages will be auctioned to the highest bidders - and bids begin at $10,000.

''We're pretty excited about it,'' said John Banks, director of the Penobscot Nation Department of Natural Resources.

Although the idea of an open moose hunt has been mulled over for years, it came to fruition last fall.

''It came about as a result of a lot of different things coming together, one of which is the fact that we have a professional wildlife biologist on staff now who has been able to help the tribe get a better idea of the status of the moose population on tribal lands,'' Banks said.

The nation has more than 130,000 acres of ''pristine and majestic Maine wilderness'' divided into eight separate territories, according to its Web site.

Big game biologist Kristin Dilworth studied moose habitat in and around the nation's territory. Moose populations are not stable in one location throughout the year; they move around over a wide territory from season to season. Dilworth concluded from her study that the moose population is more than adequate to allow a limited number of non-tribal members to hunt, Banks said.

Tribal members bring in around 50 moose a year.

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''They're huge, 500 pounds to 1,000 pounds, so they feed a lot of tribal members. And it's a traditional cultural activity that tribal folks have been involved in for a long time,'' Banks said.

The tribe's lands are spread out all over the state. The biggest parcel is about 32,000 acres, Banks said.

The non-Native hunt will be divided up into four different areas, with one permit per area ''in a way that makes sense,'' Banks said. One entire township of about 23,000 acres will be excluded and set aside just for tribal members.

The hunt will take place during the week from Monday through Friday, which will not impinge on tribal members' weekend hunts.

The nation has networked through the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society with other tribes in Indian country that offer similar hunting packages, Banks said.

''We've learned that a lot of tribes across the country have these sorts of big-game hunting for non-Indians and they have lotteries and auctions, and they harvest very few animals. That also fits with their wildlife management objectives, and they're able to raise significant monies through these limited hunts,'' Banks said.

Profits from the hunt will fund the Department of Natural Resources budget.

The non-Native hunters will get more than just a hunting trip. A pre-hunt orientation will highlight Penobscot history, land and the cultural significance of moose hunting to the Penobscot people.

''We want this to be much more than just a sporting type of a hunt. We want this to be an experience where the individuals who are lucky enough to get the permits will have some cultural experiences with the tribe. It also will provide the opportunity for the tribe to do some education outreach on our history and cultural traditions,'' Banks said.

There is a $25 nonrefundable fee to submit a sealed bid. The bids must be received by Aug. 31 and will be opened on Sept. 1.

More information is available by calling Banks at (207) 817-7330 or visiting