Home > Features > You are here: The Trapping Judge, Part 2

The Trapping Judge, Part 2
By Mel Liston*

...As his father had done for him Jack passed on the enforced passion for reading. The old trapping magazines and collection of trapping manuals were soon being well read by Ethan. Questions about furbearing animals or the traps hanging in the shed were becoming the norm. Stones Throw Farm developed so that they now raised grass fed beef cattle and organic vegetables for their own table. Ethan exhibited growing signs of gratification when helping with chores or participating in the process of providing for the family. Ethan now marketed all surplus produce from his stand at the local farmers market. Three quarters of the farm acreage is managed as multipurpose woodlot. Timber stand improvement, annual firewood harvest, and wildlife habitat development are all aspects of the plan. The hunters and gatherers in this family looked forward to an increased harvest of renewable resources including natural and organically grown wild game meat for the table. As the encouraged numbers of wildlife species increased so too did the predator populations which prey on them. It was beginning to look as if their efforts to improve habitat so as to encourage certain game species was becoming futile because of predation. The ability to manage the predator species was missing and all knew that regular trapping was the solution. Young Ethan was adamantly a wannabe trapper and was increasingly persistent that he and Dad must trap together. Jack kept telling his boy that they would trap together but the someday down the road appeared increasingly unlikely as constant responsibilities in the legal career seemed to make that eventuality ever more distant. Jack had done as many fathers unknowingly do. The dreams passionately kept alive for himself, had become the passion of an adoring son who absorbed them as his own. The dedicated and responsible family man would now have to look closely and realistically at the timing of his entry into the trapping tradition for the intersection of powerful forces were coming together for maximum potential. Never again would the father find a situation and opportunity such as now presented itself. The need to be a trapper for multiple reasons was increasing sharply in priority. The analytical mind of a judge was finishing up the final deliberation before determining that a trap line with his son was the correct and appropriate verdict. Many parents never find a way to realize a lost or delayed dream, but in this case the father would be rescued and shown the way by his son.

Jack was appointed to be a District Court Judge by Governor Jean Shaheen in 2001. Much of the caseload is dealing with juvenile issues, fascinating and rewarding work but always challenging. Most of the youth before the bench are born with two strikes against them and now face a fastball pitch. Almost without exception these are youth without a solid parent or adult mentor in their lives, few can site instances of activities they enjoy together with a parent. When asked how they spend their time, most at-risk youth say they just hang out or play video games. The kids before the bench have been involved with drugs, shoplifting, assaults, or burglary and very often will have to be placed outside the home in an institutional setting for one or two years. With over a thousand such troubled youth coming before Jack the Judge, and their background stories so painfully similar, Jack the Father had much to compare and measure in his own story and that of his son Ethan. The opportunity for a father and son to bond through a common love and interest for outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, or trapping provides benefit, which is measurable and significant.

The practice of the hunter/gatherer family group and the opportunities to bond and mentor is a growth and maturity process which is as old as the human spirit, it has only recently been deigned to a significant portion of the modern population, and the consequence of its loss is evident in a growing population of troubled youth who are without purpose or goal. Jack can see the loss of affection, purpose, and hope in the face of troubled youth and knows the difference that is evident in his and other involved youth who beam when fishing, have pride in outdoor skills learned, and have purpose when contributing wild game for the family table. What a difference it could have made if only these other youth had a parent or adult mentor who would spend time with them enjoying a natural outdoor pursuit, learning about life, laughing and knowing they are loved, building confidence. Yes Ethan, your dad will take the time to run a trap line with you so that you may both have that experience together, so the old man may be a boy once again and the boy may grow into a fine young man.

In the fall of 2002 Elliot Brown, a young trapper in the area, was tending his fisher line near Stones Throw Farm. He and Ethan became great friends. Elliot would stop by and show his catch. That was all she wrote, as Ethan would be delayed no longer. The conversation that settled the issue was decided before it took place, as if written on a biblical stone before time began. Everyone knew it was right, it was good, and it was time. Mom was not comfortable with the coyote that were increasingly emboldened and coming ever closer to the house, or the fisher tracks in the snow along the tree line. Nancy had become a close-to-the-earth country farm lady and the idea of being a trapper's wife and a trapper's mom had a wholesome and enduring sound she embraced. Jack and Ethan both took the Trapper Education course given by New Hampshire Trappers Association Educational Director Mike Morrison in the spring of 2003 and were certified to become licensed trappers. Finally the old traps hanging on the shed wall would come down and be put to service. It was great fun for the father and son trapping partners with their first trap line having both water and land opportunities, they stayed in Sullivan county mostly on their own property and abutting farms along the Connecticut River. Mom was so emotionally thrilled when her son came running into the house with his first trapped fisher in his arms, so proud and happy for both her boys. Ethan and Jack did all the fur handling for their catch and one of the buildings on the farm is now officially the fur shed. It was tough to let go of that first years catch, as both father and son would go to the shed often and look at their collection of fur, remembering much from their quality time together. Eventually the fur must go to be utilized for the utility purpose that underlies its value as a renewable resource. The catch was entrusted to the local fur buyer Bill Bailey and shipped to the Fur Harvesters Auction in Canada. One of Ethan's fisher pelts in that collection sold for $47, which was the highest price paid for a fisher at that auction. The trapping Yazinski partners have two years experience to their credit and an invaluable life experience between a father and son. As with all trappers they are readying equipment, gaining permission to expand their trap line, and otherwise preparing in the off season for their third season. Most likely this father and son will trap together until Ethan is off to make his way in the world, then I would not be surprised to see that Jack continues to trap alone, as the momentum and lifestyle will now be his.

Because Jack is in the legal profession the circles in which he travels are different from most trappers. Occasionally trapping will come up in conversation or the experiences of the trapper will come out. Jack has no problem expressing the value and necessity of trapping in the modern era. In his own words-- "I live on land that has been farmed since before the Revolutionary War. We have coyotes, gray and red fox, mink, beaver, fisher, raccoons, and muskrats. Some die every year, all will die at some point. That is a fact of our existence. We harvest a sustainable amount. We manage our land in a way that enhances wildlife, which includes controlling their populations. I believe that will always need to be done and that trapping and hunting are the most ethical and humane ways. I have read volumes about the ethics and morality of trapping. I have resolved this question for myself on an intellectual and spiritual basis. As long as our wildlife biologists believe that they need trapping as a management tool, I will continue to trap."

It is true that many suffer in silence due to their disconnection from an active part in the natural world. Millions of years of genetic predisposition are challenged every day as we make our way in a modern world with most of the realities of survival and connection to the ecosystems masked by technology. As we move ever further away from lifestyles which provide opportunities for togetherness, mentoring, and development of positive aspects by example, young and old alike will suffer from the loss of something they have never known. The Honorable John J. Yazinski has seen this play out in far too many of our at-risk youth and chooses hunting, trapping, and fishing as the means to connect with his son and mentor those qualities which will instill meaning, confidence, purpose and love into the bond between a father and his son. I say, "Jack is the Judge, so you be the Jury."

*Mel Liston, from Strafford, New Hampshire is a freelance writer, Trapper Education Instructor, Director for the New Hampshire Trappers Association and a member of the National Trappers Association and the Fur Takers of America.

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