Connecticut Trappers Association - How It All Started
It was late summer in the year 1967 when I received a call from a man named Jim Lagrotteria. Jim was a trapper who lived in Niantic. He asked me if I would be interested in joining and helping start a trappers association here in Connecticut. I told Jim that I would be interested in joining and asked him how he happened to call me. Jim said that he was contacting all of the trappers that he knew and the trappers who had participated in the state land bidding process. We talked for a while and he told me he would set up a meeting soon.
Jim called me again shortly after and set up a meeting on Sunday at his house in Niantic. The next week I found myself driving to Niantic to Jim’s house. My dad came along with me as he did many times on my trap lines. When we arrived at Jim’s house we were greeted by Jim and his wife Jane. They bought us into their living room to meet several people who were all trappers. We all introduced ourselves to each other and shook hands. Most of us didn’t know one another but did know some of their names. I can remember shaking a hand and saying to myself “ so that’s Tom Hart “. I heard he was a good trapper. Present at this first meeting were Tom Hart from North Haven, Alfred Hryzan from North Grosvenor Dale, Dick “ the Frenchman “ LeFleur from Pomfret, Tip Garritt from Columbia, Stanley Dombrowski from Winsted, Larry Goodrich from Southington, Mike Eaton from Bristol, Leon and Sally Balukas from Hartford, Raymond Becker from Wallingford, Fred Becker from Durham, and of course Jim Lagrotteria from Niantic.
This was a small group but represented a wide spectrum of the state. Each of us took a turn to tell a little about himself and what kind of trapping he had done. Jim was an expert tidal trapper, Leon and Sally were school teachers and trapped muskrats and mink and lived in a small apartment in Hartford, Mike and Larry were partners and trapped along the rivers and streams I frequently trapped. They mentioned that they had come across my traps set in the Eight Mile River. I knew these guys were honest trappers because they never bothered my sets. Alfred called himself a farm boy and enjoyed trapping all animals in northeast Connecticut with his friend the “ Frenchman “. Tom hart trapped with Bob Carlson in a large tidal marsh in New Haven. Tom also had property on South Bay of Lake Memphremagog in Vermont where he also trapped and permanently moved to. Stanley trapped mink and otter in northwest Connecticut. Tip trapped water animals and trapped state land.
After our introductions, which were kind of brief ( as you might not know most trappers at this time were loners and never said much or ever gave trapping secrets ) we got down to business. We elected officers, Jim as President, Alfred as Vice President, and Leon as Secretary/Treasurer. We all reached down into our pockets and gave a donation to start out our treasury. I can’t remember how much money we came up with but it was a start. We set a date for our second meeting and some of us had things to do such as contacting other state associations to ask for help in setting up a constitution and by laws. Someone had to pick a meeting place and contact the new group.
We all left this first meeting with much enthusiasm ( at least I know I did ) and looked forward to our next meeting.
Each meeting was better than the one before. We met in several different schools, fire houses, and members homes. We has skinning contests and did Alfred ever show me how to skin a muskrat!!! We had lots of stories and experiences to share with each other from one meeting to the next. We immediately had the task of dealing with Anti-Trap groups and Anti-Trap legislation. Each meeting brought our group closer and we grew and even had our first Fall Convention. It was held at Peoples State Forest in Barkhamstead.
Each President, his slate of officers and county directors improved and strengthened the C.T.A. ( Connecticut Trappers Association ). The C.T.A. has worked to preserve our trapping heritage for all these years, through hard work and efforts by all of its members. It only took a small handful of people to start an association that grew to where we are today. I am proud to say I have met many good people who became my friends, shared trapping secrets and stories, trapped with and most of all will always be friends. I have known some of these guys so long I even know their real names, Butch, Tip, Sonny, and last but not least Thanks Jim Lagrotteria, father of the C.T.A..
Middlesex County Director