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Derby proves rabbit population no worse for the weather

Despite a long, cold, snowy winter last year, cottontail rabbits survived and thrived in nice numbers as seen at the weigh station for the ninth Annual Frank Privitere Memorial International Rabbit Hunting Derby on Jan. 30.

Canadian teams and individuals dominated this derby in recent years, but this season the top three finishers by weight went to teams hunting Western New York. Teams of varying numbers can enter as many rabbits as harvested, but the top three prizes go to the top individual entry by weight.

When the final weights were tallied, U.S. teams dominated, with a mixed team of U.S. and Canadian hunters taking second place. The Polish Rifles team took top honors with a 3.71-pound winning entry. That team of four included Mike Jacobik, Vinnie Costello, Frank Giacobbe and Mark Mohr.

“We only got three rabbits all day,” Jacobik said after their hunt.

Second-place team Ram Rod posted a close 3.61-pound entry. Team G Dog from Eden finished third with its heaviest at 3.52 pounds. The Eden team bagged 45 bunnies that day. All team members accepted their trophies and medallions, but the money winnings of all three teams were donated to this year’s slate of fundraising recipients.

This hunt derby began as a local pub gathering of 20 hunters nine years ago and expanded to a major fundraiser each year, with 48 hunters registered as team members this year. About 500 people filled the Thomas E. Tehan American Legion Post in Blasdell that night, and event coordinator Rick Giermata estimates fundraising rose considerably above last year’s donations.

Rabbit populations vary around Western New York. Canadian climes, though not producing bigger rabbits this year, showed good numbers. Dan Duhaime of Thorold, Ont., lead a team that has won this derby three times and finished second once. His team of six bagged 10 rabbits that day. U.S. teams found better numbers away from snow-belt areas.

If you missed this contest and would like to get in on a competition, Eden North Collins Gun Club holds its Seventh Annual Rabbit Hunting derby out of the club on Saturday. Hunters can preregister or sign up the day of the derby. For entry details, call 597-8184 or 337-0308.