Why It Matters: Beginning during the 2021-22 hunting season, a pilot program was implemented in New York, allowing counties to authorize mentored deer hunting for 12 and 13-year-olds. The overwhelming acceptance of this program brings New York’s hunting age in line with most other states in the country. The success of that first year was remarkable, as 9,859 12 and 13-year-old hunters harvested 1,564 deer. The following year, 9,416 12 and 13-year-old hunters saw a harvest of 1,824. The evidence is clear: the mentored youth hunting pilot program has proven itself to be safe and effective. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has long advocated for making this program a permanent fixture within New York, and it played an instrumental role in making the past two years possible.
- For the second year in a row, New York’s pilot program authorizing mentored 12 and 13-year-old hunters to harvest deer with a crossbow, rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloader has proven itself to be an incredible success – both statistically and socially.
- This pilot program began during the 2021-22 hunting season after a decade-long effort spearheaded by the New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, the New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). Prior to the passage of the authorizing legislation New York had the highest firearm deer hunting age in the nation at 14 years old.
- In a report provided by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to the State Senate and Assembly, the DEC made three recommendations for the pilot program, including the State “make permanent the authorization for 12- and 13-year-old hunters to hunt deer with a firearm and crossbow.”
Following the 2022-23 hunting season in the Empire State, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reviewed the facts and figures for the pilot program authorizing mentored 12 and 13-year-old hunters to harvest deer with a crossbow or firearm in preparation for reporting back to the State Senate and Assembly on the program’s overall success. The results were simple, “The second year of the pilot has proven to be as successful, safe, and popular as the first.”
The total number of Deer Harvest Reports submitted to the DEC by 12 and 13-year-old hunters increased by over 14%, going from 1,564 during the 2021-22 season to 1,824 during the 2022-23 season. In addition to this, the DEC stated that “No hunting-related shooting incidents, violations, or license revocations involving 12- and 13-year-old hunters were reported/occurred during the first two years of the pilot program,” which is further emphasized by the DEC’s assertion that “youth hunters are the safest group of hunters.”
In its report back to the State Senate and Assembly, the DEC offered the same three recommendations this year as the last:
- Make permanent the authorization for 12- and 13-year-old hunters to hunt deer with a firearm and crossbow;
- Extend the authorization for 12- and 13-year-old hunters to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow to all of New York State (subject to other provisions of ECL) and remove the requirement for counties to pass a local law opting-in; and
- Allow 12- and 13-year-old hunters to also hunt black bear with a firearm and crossbow.
As CSF has previously reported, coordinated efforts alongside the New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council (NYSAC) took nearly a decade to make this possible. CSF looks forward to continuing its crucial work alongside the Caucus and NYSAC towards securing a permanent authorization for 12 and 13-year-old hunters in New York.