Legislation contained in the new state budget that was approved this week will allow youths ages 12 and 13 to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow under the supervision of an experienced adult hunter this fall.

But there are a couple of caveats in what essentially is a pilot program in Upstate New York that takes effect June 1 and extends to Dec. 31, 2023.

Eight downstate counties are already excluded in the legislation. They are Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, and Westchester counties.

As for the Upstate counties, each one is required to pass a local law allowing the new regulations to take effect within its boundaries. To keep hunters informed, the state Department of Environmental Conservation is developing a new webpage listing those counties that opt-in to participate.

“Once the governor signs the bill into law, DEC will engage in education and outreach to stakeholders and communities to ensure awareness of the pilot program. Counties may choose to opt-in at any time, there is no deadline for doing so,” according to statement released late Wednesday from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Currently, the minimum age for a junior hunter to hunt big game (deer, bear) with a firearm or crossbow with adult supervision is 14. The minimum age for junior hunters to use a bow to hunt big game in New York is 12.

Under New York’s new law:

*12- and 13-year-old licensed hunters will be allowed to hunt deer with a rifle, shotgun or muzzleloading firearm in areas were firearms may be used during the hunting season. The young hunters may also use a crossbow during the times when other hunters may use crossbows

*The young hunters must be supervised be experienced and licensed adult hunters (age 21 or above) at all times. Both are required to remain on the ground.

* Both the adult mentor and the young hunter will be required to wear a minimum of 250 square inches of solid or patterned fluorescent orange or pink “consisting or no less than 50 percent fluorescent orange or pink material worn above the waist and visible from all directions or a hat or cap with no less than 50 percent of the exterior consisting (of the same colors) and visible from all directions.”

Currently, 46 states in the U.S. allow hunters ages 12 or under to hunt big game with a a firearm.

New York’s new regulations originally included hunting bear, along with allowing young the young hunters to hunt from a treestand. Both items were eliminated during the budget negotiation process.

As part of the pilot program, the DEC will be required to prepare a report by Feb. 1 of each year that includes the number of violations, hunting-related accidents and revocations, the number of counties participating, number of minors participating and the number of deer taken.


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