Legislation Brings New York In Line With Other States' Hunting Programs
Bill Creates Additional Outdoor Opportunities for Young Sportspersons Across the State
Governor David A. Paterson has signed into law a bill creating a special "junior hunter" mentoring program, which will allow persons aged 14 and 15 to hunt big game with a firearm while accompanied and supervised by an experienced adult hunter.
Current law allows persons aged 12 to 16 years to hunt small game with a firearm or longbow, and persons aged 14 and 15 to hunt big game with longbow, under supervision.
However, New York was the only state in the nation where 14-year-olds could not hunt big game with a firearm. Over 40 states allow 12-year-olds to hunt big game with a firearm.
"Hunting is a rich part of New York State's heritage, particularly in the North Country and our more rural areas, as well as a crucial part of the state's thriving sports industry," said Governor Paterson. "This bill will afford New York families, especially those Upstate, the same opportunities that already exist in other states by offering our junior hunters the opportunity to safely partake in such an important New York pastime with their parents, grandparents and other experienced hunters."
Senator Dale M. Volker also rejoiced. "This is tremendous news for sportsmen, sportswomen, and their families throughout the State of New York who enjoy hunting and promoting safe and responsible wildlife management," he said. "I would like to thank Governor Paterson for signing this legislation into law. His action on this bill embraces our strong hunting tradition in New York State. Both Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte and I have fought very hard over the years for this bill, and now families will have the opportunity to enjoy hunting with their younger family members and foster responsible wildlife management techniques for future generations of hunters."
According to Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, "Studies show that strict supervision by experienced hunters instills a strong safety ethic in young hunters, and ... the current licensing program has proven extremely successful and remarkably safe. The extended license will not only impart responsible hunting practices in hunters at a younger age, but it will also provide an opportunity to bolster more effective hunting recruitment."
"Through Governor Paterson's leadership, this long-sought measure has become a reality," said Pete Grannis, Commissioner for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. "Historically, responsible hunting has been valuable in instilling youth with an appreciation of the state's abundant natural resources and a responsibility to act as environmental stewards. This bill will increase opportunities for young people to get out of the house and experience the outdoors. In addition, given the trend of declining hunters and expanding deer populations, the recruitment of additional hunters is needed to effectively manage deer populations in the future."
"Wildlife causes a significant amount of damage to agricultural crops annually and the only practical way to control it is through regulated sport hunting," said Patrick Hooker, New York State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner. "I applaud the Governor's decision to usher in the next generation of hunters at an earlier age, who will not only help keep this sport alive, but will help farmers manage wildlife on their farms and in rural areas throughout New York State. This is an historic and very positive change in New York's hunting regulations and it epitomizes the Governor's acknowledgement of New York's rural heritage."
Currently, all first-time hunters in New York must take a ten-hour hunter safety course and pass a written and practical examination before being issued a hunter safety certificate which is required when purchasing a hunting license. Parents of minors must also give written permission for a minor to take the safety course and to be issued a license.
Today's bill establishes additional supervision and safety requirements for the new program to help ensure that the junior hunting experience occurs safely: [ul][*]Hunters who are 14 and 15 years of age who hunt big game with a firearm must do so under the direct supervision and control of the adult hunter who must be a parent, guardian or other adult over the age of 21 and be designated in writing by the parent or guardian; have a minimum of three years of big game hunting experience; and maintain close and constant visual contact and physical control over the minor hunter.[*]The junior hunter and his or her mentor must hunt at ground level (i.e., they may not hunt from an elevated blind).[*]The junior hunter and his or her mentor must wear blaze orange at all times while hunting.[/ul] The bill also creates a trapper mentoring program that allows youngsters to accompany and assist a licensed trapper who is at least 18 years of age and has at least three years of trapping experience.
There was overwhelming support for the bill from hundreds of individuals and groups from around the state who wrote in to urge that the bill be enacted.