Why It Matters: Mentored youth hunting programs are crucial for introducing the next generation of sportsmen and women into the outdoors, and language such as what’s included in Governor Hochul’s proposed budget has the potential to leave a legacy of opportunities for New York’s youth hunters. The State’s Pilot Program, which allowed counties to opt-in and authorize mentored deer hunting for 12 and 13-year-olds, began during the 2021-22 hunting season, and its overall acceptance (all but two eligible counties opted in) is a testament to the program’s wide-sweeping success. Couple this with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reporting for two years in a row that the Pilot Program was a major triumph socially and in harvest rate successes, it’s no wonder that the DEC recommended making the program permanent – and that’s exactly what the Governor’s budget proposes to do.
- On March 29, in-state and national sportsmen/conservation-centric organizations submitted a letter to legislative leadership in New York, calling for support of Part RR – Make the Youth Deer Hunting Program Permanent in the Fiscal Year 2023-2024 State Budget.
- This provision would permanently authorize 12 and 13-year-old hunters to pursue deer with a firearm or crossbow when supervised by an experienced adult hunter
- Previously, New York had the highest firearm deer hunting age in the nation at 14 years old.
- For the second year in a row, New York’s pilot program has proven to be an overwhelming success.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), who drafted the letter that was signed onto by 15 other organizations, has long advocated for making this program a permanent fixture within New York.
On March 29, CSF and 15 other organizations took part in a sign-on letter of support for Part RR – Make the Youth Deer Hunting Program Permanent in the Fiscal Year 2023-2024 State Budget. As currently written, the Governor’s budget would permanently authorize 12 and 13-year-old hunters to pursue deer with a firearm or crossbow when supervised by an experienced adult hunter in the Empire State.
As was previously reported, following the 2022-23 hunting season, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation reviewed the data compiled from the Pilot Program – a decade-long effort spearheaded by the New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, the New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council, and CSF, which first allowed this mentored hunting opportunity – in preparing a report back to the State Senate and Assembly on the overall success. The sign-on letter that the organizations submitted to legislative leadership highlighted many points from the DEC’s report to the legislature, including the overall safety of the Pilot Program, the strong harvest success rate, the overall satisfaction experienced by participants, and need to build up programs that encourage youth participation in outdoor recreation.
CSF would like to thank each organization that took part in this letter, including: the American Woodcock Society, Ducks Unlimited, National Deer Association, National Wild Turkey Federation – New York Chapter, New York 4-H Shooting Sports, New York Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, New York Crossbow Coalition, New York Houndsmen Conservation Association, New York State Conservation Council, New York State Conservation Fund Advisory Board, New York State Council of Trout Unlimited, New York State Fish and Wildlife Management Board, New York State Trappers Association, Ruffed Grouse Society, and Safari Club International – New York Chapters. Additional updates on this topic may be provided as they are made available.