Cottontail rabbits afford hunters enjoyable outings and some good harvest prospects despite predator presence.

Even with solid numbers in coyote and fox populations, area hunters have kicked out a bevy of bunnies during the first weeks of snowfall so far this rabbit hunting season.

Fishing guide Chris Cinelli often does morning charters and then enjoys quality hunt outings afternoons and weekends with young sons Connor, 13, and Parker, 10. They mainly work fields around bunny-holding bushes on Grand Island. Parker gets to kick brush and learn the lore, preparing for the 2015 season when he will be able to legally hunt and shoot with his dad and brother at age 12.

The trio regularly brings home nice bags of cottontails for a variety of table fare. “We like to cook them up with a receipt of my grandmother. She would smother rabbits with Hungarian paprika, then heat them until the meat came off the bone and serve the meat over noodles,” Cinelli said of a stroganoff repast from the past.

The recent thaw has slowed their outings, but dad and sons look forward to many more outings before the final day of the rabbit season on Feb. 28.

Rick Giermata of Smokes Creek Kennels gets out with two or three of his dozen rabbit hounds every day possible afield. “This is one of the best rabbit populations I’ve seen in 15 years,” Giermata said of his earlier hunts both on bare ground and over snow-covered areas.

For the past five rabbit seasons, he has coordinated the Frank Privitere Memorial International Rabbit Hunting Derby. This year, derby entrants head afield on Saturday, with weigh-ins and a dinner set for that evening at the American Legion Post No. 63 in Lackawanna.

This event draws hunters from across the state and from a distance. The derby doings include an expanding number of exhibitors at the legion hall; proceeds from each contest are forwarded to worthy recipients.

Giermata writes: “Each year, we have picked a good cause to donate the proceeds to. This year I found a 12-year-old boy, Michael Stranz of Orchard Park, who is fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. His treatments have made his bones brittle and he often needs to use crutches to get around. His mom, a school bus driver, is having a lot of financial difficulty. We can’t cure this, but maybe we can give him something to smile about for even one day.”

This malady hit home with the Privitere family. Evan McKernon, 19, a grandson of Privitere, suffered this same disease earlier in life and survived in good health.

If his health and energy level permit, Stranz will join Lackawanna Mayor Geoff Szymanski in presenting awards to the winning entrants.

For hunt and exhibitor information, check with Rick Giermata at 602-5017.