Wowza – Fair contest showcases big bucks
Jerome Balliet, 13, of Tamaqua won the Youth Division of the Schuylkill County Sportsman’s Association Big Buck Contest, held at the Schuylkill County Fair. The rack for Balliet’s buck is 26 and 3/16 inches wide. LISA PRICE/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Chuck Fayash of Brockton, a Schuylkill Township Supervisor, won the adult division with this buck. The rack for Fayash’s buck is 23 and 1/4 inches wide. LISA PRICE/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Like a lot of events that start with one good idea – and one determined person – this one has all the earmarks of an event that will get bigger every year.
Just like the racks of the bucks it showcases. In fact, after viewing the entries, Riley Zeigenfuss, 14, made a vow for the coming deer season.
“This time I’m going to wait,” she said, as her buck rack from last season was measured. “I want a big one like these.”
Craig Morgan, now retired, past director of the Schuylkill Conservation District, thought that visitors to the Schuylkill County Fair might enjoy an eyeful of some of the state’s biggest bucks.
Although the contest was open to all Pennsylvania legally-harvested bucks, from the past three hunting seasons, the majority of entries were from Wildlife Management Unit 4C.
And Morgan had other motives as well. He wanted fair visitors to see the Schuylkill County Sportsman’s Association Building, a relatively-new addition to the fair structures.
During the recent fair, the building housed the big bucks, as well as representatives from Schuylkill County Trout Unlimited, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission.
Buck racks were brought to the building from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 28. They were measured at their widest point.
Although it wasn’t needed, if racks tied in width the tie-breaker would be the number of points. There were two categories, adult and youth (20 or younger at the time the buck was taken).
At first, it seemed that the first entrant, Jim Dietz, New Columbia, would win with the buck he got in WMU4D. The gorgeous 12-point rack measured at 22 and ¼ inches, setting the bar high.
The next entrant was Keith Degler, Schuylkill Haven, who at 64 years old downed the biggest buck of his life last season, a 10-pointer from WMU5B.
Degler was hunting through the season with his trusty 30.06 rifle but hadn’t seen a buck to shoot. One day he thought he’d use a different 30.06 rifle – the one used by his late father.
“I was determined to hunt all day and when my buddy and his wife went for lunch, I think they spooked that deer,” Degler said. “I though, oh my God what is this thing coming here.”
“After I shot it and walked up to it, I just sat down on the spot and cried,” he said. “I was shooting my dad’s reloads (bullets). I still choke up when I think about it. I said, thanks Dad.”
All deer hunts, whether successful or not, come with a story. As the hunters arrived with their entries, they shared the stories of that hunt and hunts past.
There were many big racks, and the leader board sometimes changed by mere fractions of an inch.
Until a couple “no doubters” arrived. Schuylkill Township Supervisor Chuck Fayash arrived with his buck, also taken with a 30.06, in 2016. A real whopper, the buck’s rack was 23 ¼ inches wide. It too, came with a story.
Fayash’s late brother, Andrew, had loved to race cars and always used the number 157 on his car. When Fayash shot his buck, it was – you guessed it – 1:57 in the afternoon on the dot. The rack’s Boone & Crockett gross score is nearly 180.
The true jaw-dropper belonged to the winner of the Youth Division, 13-year-old Jerome Balliet, Tamaqua.
The buck was taken on the last day of rifle season, 2017, in West Penn Township. At its widest point, the rack is 26 and 3/16 wide.
“It was very cold and the last day, and he just came walking slowly towards me,” Balliet said. “As I got ready to shoot I took off my gloves, made a small noise and he stopped and turned – giving me a perfect shot.”
“He dropped on the spot,” Balliet said. “What I remember the most about the day is my dad (Jeremy) – he was yelling and yelling and kicking up dirt.”
Sponsors of the contest were Yuengling Brewery and Cabela’s.
1. Chuck Fayash, Schuylkill Township, 23 and 1/4
2. George Barnyock, Pine Grove, 22 and 5/8
3. Jim Dietz, New Columbia, 22 and 1/4
1. Jerome Balliet, Tamaqua, 26 and 3/16
2. Courtney Greblich, Deer Lake, 21 and 3/16
3. John Mease, Pine Grove 19 and 7/8