NEW BETHLEHEM – As deer hunters gear up for their big time of the year, one local hunting tradition continues as the annual Big Buck Contest in the Redbank Valley area is back.
Although the popular event appeared a month or so ago to have been shot down by the pandemic and inability to begin planning earlier in the summer, the contest was resurrected just in time to begin ticket sales for this year’s hunting season.
“I just didn’t want the buck contest to die,” this year’s lead organizer Mike Kundick said.
He explained that after the New Bethlehem Fire Company decided to call off the contest this year, he approached the group, offering to take it on so that the tradition wouldn’t end.
“It was a quick decision, but ticket sales are going well,” he said, noting that he’s received great feedback from the community regarding the decision to keep it going. “I know we made a lot people happy when we said we were having it.”
For the uninitiated, the Big Buck Contest, traditionally co-sponsored by the fire company and Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce, offers prizes for ticket-buyers in two ways. First, hunters who have purchased tickets ahead of time can bring in their deer to be weighed at the New Bethlehem Fire Hall on select dates during the season, with prizes awarded for the three heaviest deer.
The $5 tickets also enter all buyers into a raffle for 13 prizes, ranging from guns and other hunting equipment, to cash and gift certificates.
Ticket buyers can also take one of the pins for this year’s contest, something that Kundick said many people collect each year.
Tickets are available at several local businesses — M&S Meats, Heeter Lumber, Zack’s Restaurant, A-Plus Mini Mart and Long Shot Ammo & Arms — as well as directly from fire company members, and during times the firefighters have their trailer set up in the parking lot of Tom’s Riverside along Route 28 in New Bethlehem.
While the contest is supported well by local hunters and community members, Kundick said the trailer is set up to primarily catch those passing through the area, especially hunters on their way north to hunting camps.
“Out-of-towners buy a significant number of tickets,” Kundick said, noting that the trailer will be set up outside of Riverside on Nov. 20-21, and the full week of Nov. 23 through Nov. 27, which is the last day for ticket sales. “That’s our big push to catch the hunters traveling north.”
Kundick said he not only wanted to see the contest continued for the funding it generates for the fire company, but because too many traditions have been put on hold this year.
“God knows we need something to look forward to,” he said.