Some days you eat the bear. Some days the bear eats you.
And some days, when the stars align, you go hunting for deer with a $50 million Powerball jackpot-winning ticket in your pocket and you don't even know it.
Such was the serendipity of Roger Custer of Levittown, who presented his winning ticket Friday to the Pennsylvania Lottery Commission for validation.
"It's a good feeling to know that my family will never have to worry," Custer was quoted by lottery officials as saying when he accepted a ceremonial check for $33,134,526.18. He elected to take his winnings in cash, minus federal withholding tax, instead of as an annuity.
According to a lottery spokesman, Custer did not want to speak to reporters.
Custer, a retiree, told officials he purchased the ticket on a whim at a Fairless Hills news and tobacco shop Dec. 5.
"After stopping for supplies for a hunting trip, I purchased two Powerball tickets, a Treasure Hunt ticket, and some instant tickets," Custer said, according to a release from the lottery. "I won $5 on the instant ticket and gave it to my wife. I kept the Powerball tickets in my wallet during the five days I was hunting."
When he returned from the hunt, "a friend mentioned that the jackpot-winning ticket was sold nearby," said Custer, "and I jokingly said, 'I'm the winner.'
"I went home, handed the ticket to my wife, and said, 'Check this and tell me how many millions we've won.' "
Custer said his wife, Linda, checked the ticket. Seeing the numbers match up, she began to cry with joy and said, "You'd better not be kidding me, Roger."
It was no joke. The ticket correctly matched all five white balls, 13-17-19-27-38, and the red Powerball, 12, making Custer Pennsylvania's 16th Powerball winner since the state joined the multi-jurisdictional game in June 2002. Powerball is played in 42 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Players pay $2 and select five white balls from the first set of 59 numbers, plus a single red ball, the Powerball, from a second set of 35 numbers. They may select their own numbers using a play slip or opt for computer-selected quick picks.
It was not immediately known how Custer made his selection.
His was the second Powerball jackpot-winning ticket sold in Pennsylvania this year. Last spring, a group of SEPTA workers from the Philadelphia area claimed a $107.5 million cash jackpot from the April 25 drawing.
Levittown News & Tobacco, on Oxford Valley Road in Fairless Hills, where Custer played, earned a $100,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket.
Lottery officials said Custer's good fortune marks the 15th largest prize ever awarded in Pennsylvania. The largest prize was a $110.2 million Powerball jackpot cash prize from the May 8, 2004, drawing claimed by a couple from Skillman, N.J.
All lottery proceeds in Pennsylvania are used to provide benefits for elderly residents.
After discovering he had won, Custer told only immediate family members, according to the lottery. As for what's next, he said: "I'll be doing a lot more hunting and fishing - for sure."