Trapping remains a part of the outdoors landscape – for now

Andrew Zysek of Lockport is an amazing young man. At 22 years of age, he has already accomplished some pretty incredible things. As an avid trapper, he’s already written a book entitled, “The Man Who Taught Me,” paying tribute to his grandfather (George Jago), who was the father figure in his life and taught Andrew “everything I know about trapping.”

The stage for his outdoor learning experience was an area simply referred to as “the Alabama Swamps.” It’s a Western New York outdoor gem that combines the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge with the Tonawanda and Oak Orchard wildlife management areas to form just under 20,000 acres of public land.

It didn’t take much to ignite Zysek’s passion for trapping and the outdoors. However, his story started before he was born. Back in 1989, “Papa” (as Andrew affectionately calls Jago) was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor. It was in such a place that they couldn’t remove it all. It affected how he walked and how he could use his hands. And they told him it was terminal. The prognosis for longevity was only four to five years. He continued to live the trapper’s life with the help of his wife, who came along on daily trapping excursions when the furbearers were in season. That was 30 years ago, beating the odds and giving him the opportunity to pass along his knowledge to Zysek. He’s still alive today.

As Zysek grew up, he began to tag along with both of his grandparents. By age 8, he was doing his own trapping. The knowledge he absorbed from “Papa” was priceless, but it was much more than that. Zysek was a sponge, reading everything he could get his hands on, from magazines to books. Despite being surrounded by the trapping culture all his life, he didn’t have an easy time of it, either.

When he was 11, he was hit by a car while crossing the road. He was in the hospital for over a month and then went through rehabilitation for another month. It affected his memory. He had to work hard to get back to where he was before the accident.

“I trap for a variety of reasons,” Zysek said. “One of the most important, I’m a very outdoor-oriented person. I see the effects firsthand on unmanaged wildlife populations. Trapping is a necessary tool to help manage our animal populations. The second is carrying on a family tradition. I’m the fifth generation of trappers in my family. I also enjoy what I do. The freedom I get when I’m out trapping, I can’t get anywhere else. I’m the boss and I like that sense of freedom. It has a lot to do with liberty and a love for the outdoors.”

That could all change if some New York City politicians have their way. Assembly person Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan, a self-proclaimed animal rights advocate, is submitting a bill that would ban the sale of all fur in the state. Bill A5040 would take it a step further by saying that you couldn’t display, trade, give, donate or distribute any kind of a fur product.

As she sits from her lofty office in NYC, she doesn’t see the big picture of what that would mean to wildlife habitat by essentially ruling out any kind of trapping. Do you think she cares that raccoon populations would explode across the state or that muskrats would destroy acres and acres of prime wetlands habitat, to name but a few examples of adverse effects?

Trapping is an important wildlife management tool. Zysek is now sharing his knowledge with others. In addition to his book (available through, he has numerous articles under his belt in publications like Fur-Fish-Game, Trappers World, American Trapper, Fur Trapper, Buckeye Trapper and Trappers Post, to name but a few. (And who knew that there were that many trapping publications?)

Categories: New York – Bill Hilts Jr

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