NEWTON TWP – Squirrel Snipers. Nut Busters. Drunken Trappers. These were a few of the 34 teams that participated in the Fifth Annual Hillbilly Squirrel Hunt. Men from Northeast PA hunted squirrels on hunting grounds of their choice during the day on Jan. 28. Later in the afternoon, they enjoyed dinner and awards presentation at the Newton Ransom Volunteer Fire Company building.
The dinner for the hunters consisted of roast beef, ham, chicken, mashed potatoes, pasta, and vegetables prepared by the Newton Ransom volunteer firefighters.
The event was a fundraiser to raise money for building maintenance and vehicle maintenance of the fire company.
“It’s a great event every year,” said Erin Barrett, president of the fire company, who mentioned Weis Markets in Clarks Summit provided monetary donations for the fire company. “We love the turnout. We love that our local hunters support the fire company.”
T-shirts with the event’s logo on it were also sold to raise funds and will be available for sale online soon.
This is the second year the Squirrel Hunt has benefited the fire company. During the second and third year, it raised money for the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 7069 of Clarks Summit.
The event was started by a Newton Twp. resident who began it in his garage. He chose the last weekend of January to have it because there isn’t much to do during that weekend.
Some of the participants of the Squirrel Hunt were first-timers. Phil Dunn, of Pittston, who had never before gone squirrel hunting, was influenced by his uncle and father-in-law.
“My uncle told me about it,” he said. “He has been coming to the squirrel hunt for years.”
After procrastinating for a few years, Dunn decided this would be the year he would ake part in the hunt. He was on a team called Team Pautzke.
“I’ve always wanted to squirrel hunt like John Kuchinski, my father-in-law,” he said. “You can’t beat the squirrel hunt. It’s cool that all the guys come together and talk about what they’re doing.”
This was also 9-year-old Chase Hanichak’s first time. He and his father, Mark Hanichak, hunted for squirrels in the woods of Union Dale.
“We had a good time.” said Chase. “It’s an enjoyable activity.”
“It’s a great fundraiser,” said Mike Pehonich, of Wilkes Barre, one of the hunters.
The weight of the squirrels determined the winners of the competition. A plaque and cash prizes were given for the first, second and third heaviest squirrels, called lunkers.
Dave Green and Joe Barrese, both members of a team called Drunken Trappers, won third place for an 8.52 lb. squirrel they got while hunting on Maple Road in Newton Twp.
“The squirrels weren’t moving today, but it was nice to be outdoors,” said Green.
Scott Twp. residents Carl Ferraro and Dave Makala, on a team called Rocky & Bullwinkle, came in second place with their lunker of 8.74 lbs. Makala, a former fire chief of the Justus Volunteer Fire Co., was glad to help the Newton Ransom fire company.
“As a former fire chief of Justus Volunteer Fire Company, past supervisor of Scott Township, it’s really an honor to support a neighboring fire company,” he said
CD Nutz, Matthew James’ and Angelo Rudolfi’s team, came in first place with a lunker of 9.12 lbs.
“It’s a great way to raise money for the fire department,” said James.
“It seems like it gets more fun every year,” said Bill Angel, who has been a volunteer firefighter for Newton Ransom for 14 years. “This is my second time helping out.”
Squirrel hunters enjoying a dinner provides by the Newton Ransom Volunteer Fire Co. are, from left, Chase Hanichak, age 9, his father Mark Hanichak, both of Mayfield; Mike Pehonich, of South Abington Twp.; Don Snyder, of Clarks Summit; Kevin Yetkowskas, of Clarks Summit; and Tom Murphy, of Wilkes Barre.
Members of Team Pautzke of Pittston are Pat Cumbo, front row. From left, back row, Ronald DeMace, Phil Dunn, Phil Dunn, Sr, Dennis Benzi, and Ralph Gambini.
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