Butler, Pa. — Attendees to the recent Pennsylvania Trappers Association District 2 trapping school received a wealth of knowledge packed into seven hours of demonstrations and personal instruction by some of the state’s best trappers.
At the school, which was held Aug. 12 at the Butler City Hunting and Fishing Club, registration was free, lunch provided, and the 48 students who showed up were divided into six groups upon arrival.
Each group was then sent to one of six stations – Trap Preparation, Fur Handling, Canine Trapping, Raccoon Trapping, Mink and Muskrat Trapping, and Beaver Trapping – where they learned tips and techniques to get them started on their trapping journey, or served as a refresher course for those seasoned veterans.
Jason Barnett, of New Bethlehem, attended with his two sons, Nolan, 9, and Cale, 7. “I haven’t trapped since 2002, but now my kids are getting interested in it, and I want to expose them to the sport,” he said.
“It was neat to go through all the different stations and learn new things. For instance, I never trapped beavers before, so I enjoyed learning about what you have to do to catch them.”
Learning about the animals is the neatest part of trapping, agreed Nolan and Cale. The fun is in figuring out why they do what they do and then trying to catch them. “It definitely kept our attention all day, which says a lot, added Barnett.
Jim Colosimo has been involved with the trapper’s school for almost 20 years and was an instructor at the Trap Preparation station. “Any knowledge anyone can get about trapping is beneficial for the whole system,” he said.
“Trapping gets a bad rap in our society today because most people only know what the anti-trappers tell them. Our goal at this station is to educate people about proper trap care and maintenance and how to select the right size trap for the animal you’re pursuing.”
Over 20 years, Colosimo has seen a lot of changes with the types of people who attend the trapping school.
“Along with the young boys, we now see a lot of girls, and we see a lot of retired Baby Boomers who now have time on their hands and want to get back into trapping,” he said. “They want to learn about things that have changed since they trapped years ago, from laws and regulations to techniques and even types of traps.”
There are also a lot of people who are just curious about trapping, according to volunteer Brenda Fennell.
“We encourage them to sign up for this school, too,” she said. “Even if they don’t trap, they can come here for free and learn about the sport, and that’s one more knowledgeable person out there.”
Chase Williams, 21, has been an instructor at the school for about five years. He started out giving demonstrations on trapping mink, but this year switched to fur handling. Last year we had a little over 30 students, he recalled. But this year we’re up around 50.
“That’s really good considering the low fur prices right now,” he said. “ It shows that people are still interested in the sport, and as many eyes as we can open to trapping, and showing people how to do it right and respectfully, the better we can serve all sportsmen.”
There’s a lot of misinformation out there, noted Williams, especially about the types of traps. He gets questions from people who think trappers here use giant bear traps that have been illegal for decades.
“And there are others who never realized we still trap and wonder what we do with the fur,” Williams added. “I’ve been around trapping my whole life, so it’s second nature to me, but it’s eye opening to see how many don’t understand the value of trapping as a management tool.”
Trappers Association District 2 Assistant Director Joe Fennell was grateful the weather held out for the event. He performed demonstrations on trapping foxes and coyotes. He enjoys educating people who have a desire to learn.
“I’ve devoted my entire life to trapping in one way or another. If I’m not trapping, then I’m studying research about trapping, or I’m involved in the association and helping out whenever I can,” he said.
“I hate to give up on something I feel so strongly about. If you don’t contribute to the cause, and it dies, then you have only yourself to blame.
“If just one out of 50 students decides to join the organization or come back next year and volunteer, then it’s all worth it. We don’t survive if people don’t educate and join.”
Student Mike Steiner, 30, of East Brady, is already looking forward to attending the school next year. “I’d like to bring my brother-in-law with me since we just started trapping together,” he said. “I learned a lot of great stuff that should help us this fall.”
District 2 encompasses five counties in Pennsylvania: Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Clarion and Lawrence. Similar trappers schools will be hosted in September by the Pennsylvania Trappers Association in districts 1, 3, 4, 9 and 11.
These schools are intended to provide a solid opportunity to learn about the methods and mystique of trapping while connecting with other trappers in your area.
Registration and information about upcoming events are available online at www.patrappers.com.
The Pennsylvania Trapper’s Association is the largest state trapping organization in the country and plays an important role in fighting anti-trapping and anti-hunting legislation. Donations can be made online as well, and all proceeds go toward protecting the right to hunt and trap.