April 19, 2021

Expanding Access to Hunting for New York Youth: A Joint Statement from the Co-Chairs of the NY Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus

As Co-Chairs of the bipartisan and bicameral New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, State Senator Joseph Griffo, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, and Assemblyman Colin J. Schmitt are proud to report on the recent progress made through the FY 2022 Budget towards providing the youth of New York and their families with additional opportunities to enjoy time afield.

One of the Caucus’ long-standing legislative priorities has been to rectify the injustice of New York having the highest starting age in the nation for deer hunting with a firearm at 14 years old. We recognize that this is a significant barrier to participation in a time-honored tradition that dates back further than the state itself, and for the past decade, we have been actively working to bring New York’s starting hunting age in line with states across the nation. Finally, through the recent FY 2022 budget agreement, we were able to make significant progress towards that goal.

Over the years we have sought to advance stand-alone legislation on this issue and have also attempted to advance it through the budget process. We have not been alone in these efforts. Numerous groups and individuals have been in the trenches beside us, and their efforts made a significant impact in generating the widespread bipartisan support we were able to achieve on this matter in the FY 2022 budget agreement. Specifically, we wish to thank the dedicated individuals and member organizations of the New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council for their tireless efforts, advocacy, and long-standing support.

Part ZZ of the agreed-upon budget authorizes a pilot program for upstate youth aged 12 and 13 years to participate in deer hunting during firearms season provided they are accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or other adult mentor designated by the parent/guardian. The adult must hold a hunting license, remain near the minor while hunting, and possess at least three years of hunting experience. Although this is not the blanket authorization for all New York 12- and 13-year-olds to have a mentored hunting experience that we have been working towards, this allowance represents a significant step forward. We are confident that this new program will enrich the lives of the youth participants and their families while simultaneously strengthening conservation funding and our economy and it will help to ensure that hunting remains a vibrant component of the cultural fabric of our upstate communities.

In the coming months, the legislatures, or boards of supervisors for the eligible counties will need to vote to authorize this change within their jurisdictions. We encourage all eligible counties and their resident sportsmen and women to support these changes and embrace this new opportunity.

Though this progress is significant and should be celebrated, we recognize that work remains in the legislature on this matter as well as many other priorities, such as: expanding crossbow use afield, safeguarding conservation funding, defeating the ever-present onslaught of attempts to ban various forms of hunting and trapping and more. We stand resolute in our commitment to our state’s sportsmen and women, our fish and wildlife resources, and the habitats on which they depend. With the strong support of the sportsmen’s community demonstrated through this budget process, we are confident that additional victories lie before us, and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure the voices of New York’s sportsmen and women ring loud throughout the Capitol.

Senator Joseph Griffo stated, “Hunting is a significant facet of New York State’s culture. Lowering the hunting age will allow more youth to enjoy this sport with their families and for important traditions, practices, and skills to be passed down to future generations.”

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther stated, “I am thrilled to see New York State lower the age for deer hunting with a firearm to 12 years old through the FY 2021 budget. Hunting is a tradition and now the youth of New York State will be able to participate and learn safe hunting practices from a young age. The passage of this legislation means that New York will preserve this wonderful tradition for generations to come.”

Assemblyman Colin J. Schmitt stated, “I was pleased to work in a bipartisan fashion with my colleagues in the Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council to expand hunting access across the state of New York, ensuring younger state residents the same access every other state had already granted to their residents and visitors. I will continue to pursue opportunities to protect and expand hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation activities.”

Established in 2004, the New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus is a bipartisan and bicameral group of New York legislators organized to protect and advance the interests of New York’s sportsmen and women in the legislature. New York Co-Chairs: Senator Joseph Griffo, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, and Assemblyman Colin J. Schmitt.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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