Photo contributed

Sam Bruck of Roundtop, pictured here with a great 8-point buck, had to wait until he was 14 to shoot his first deer in NY. It’s time to congratulate sportsmen who just got law passed so 12- year-olds can hunt when supervised by an experienced adult.

There’s no mistake about it. New York sportsmen and women won a huge legislative victory recently and it’s time to make it the law of the land for the State of New York.

The passage of legislation to allow 12 & 13-year-olds the right to hunt deer with a firearm was a hard-fought victory over 20 years in the making. NY was the only state that did not allow 12-year-olds to hunt deer with a firearm.

In the past, it looked like they would never get this golden prize across the finish line and signed into law. But that’s exactly what happened earlier this month thanks to the relentless efforts of NY’s dedicated sportsmen and women.

During the past two decades, sportsmen chipped away at opening up hunting to our youth a little at a time. It resulted in properly supervised 12-year-olds being allowed to hunt all small game with a firearm while accompanied by an adult since 1991, and since 2011, they could hunt deer and bear but only with a bow. Restricting them from hunting deer with a firearm just does not make any sense.

The chief opposition to the countless bills introduced to allow these youths to hunt deer with a firearm was not based on safety, logic, or the facts, and almost exclusively came from liberal, democrat, downstate legislators.

Yet despite democrats currently having a substantial majority in both the assembly and the senate, in addition to the governorship, now is the time the biggest youth hunting bill finally got passed and signed into law. Kudos to those involved in the successful political wrangling!

The only challenge left is the new law requires each county to pass a local law to “opt-in” to allow youth to hunt deer with a firearm. If a county takes no action, the absurd restriction that 12 & 13-year-olds can only harvest deer with a bow will continue to stand in that county.

Hank Coons and the Greene County Federation of Sportsmen immediately stepped up to urge the Greene County Legislature to quickly move on a measure to “opt-in” to the new state law. That paves the way for their county’s inclusion allowing 12 & 13-year-olds to hunt deer with a firearm in next season.

Those in the county who support the change should thank Greene County Legislators for their unanimous vote and swift action in support of youth deer hunting.

Kevin Busch, President of the Albany County Conservation Council, exercised his leadership and expressed his organization’s strong support of the new state law stating, “Albany County has started the “opt-in” position with the county legislature.”

The word from Kevin Hill, President of the Columbia County Sportsmen’s Federation is after a quick vote, a letter of support to “opt-in” was sent to Matt Murell, Chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors. Kevin is confident the measure will see its way through to adoption. Up in Saratoga, word is the county is moving forward supporting “opting-in”.

Jason Kemper, Chairman of the NYS Conservation Fund Advisory Board (CFAB), said of the youth deer hunting bill becoming law,

”This is a giant, significant step expanding big game hunting in NY. We have secured the future of deer hunting in NYS for generations to come. I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all organized sportsmen and other interest groups that have united to make this bill a reality.”

The united front supporting the “opt-in” in the Capitol District was not complete however.

Shockingly, the Rensselaer County Conservation Alliance has voted not to support “opting-in” to the new state law allowing 12 and 13-year-olds to hunt deer with a firearm citing “safety concerns.”

While you can expect some liberal downstate counties to “opt-out” and not allow youth their right to hunt deer with a firearm, (as several already have), it’s surprising it’s happening in an upstate county that serves as a republican stronghold.

Rensselaer County Conservation Alliance President, Frank Dingman said,

“Our only issue is safety. We support 12 and 13-year-olds hunting deer with firearms but oppose them hunting without getting in-person, hands-on instruction using firearms. 68,000 hunters got their hunter education certification last year using the online-only program with no hands-on instruction. Many hunter safety instructors are resigning from the program due to the option of getting hunter certification entirely online.”

While I respect the organization’s right to their opinion as to the benefits of hands-on vs online hunter education, I don’t see the logic of opposing 12 & 13-year-olds from harvesting deer with firearms.

Statistics do not bear out their claim that it’s unsafe for 12 & 13-year-olds to hunt deer with a firearm. Supervised junior hunters are the safest age/demographic of all licensed hunters and have been safely taking deer and bear with a bow and all small game species with a gun for many years.

According to DEC, of the approximately 75,000 hunters who took the online-only hunter certification class in 2019, none were involved in a hunting accident in 2020.

Plus, the new law states 12 & 13-year-olds hunting deer with a gun must be supervised and accompanied by a licensed adult hunter with three or more years of hunting experience. That means the mentor will have been certified under the hands-on, in-person instruction and only the youth hunter may possibly have received online-only certification.

In my opinion, if other counties took action in alignment with the Rensselaer County Conservation Alliance, it would be a terrible waste of years of hard work and sacrifice by many in the sporting community that got us to this point.

The Rensselaer County Alliance’s position against the measure does not necessarily dictate how the county legislature will proceed on the matter, but inaction on the part of the legislative body will lead to 12 and 13-year-olds not being legally able to harvest deer with a firearm in that county.

Rensselaer County Legislators have a reputation for standing up for hunting rights and the wise use of the state’s wildlife resources though hunting and plan to take up the matter soon.

Dan Casale, (R) Rensselaer County Legislator for Brunswick, Pittstown, and Schaghticoke, sits on their Environment Committee. He supports “opting-in” to the new legislation stating,

“It allows interested youths to hunt big game with a firearm that can foster lifelong participation, help increase recruitment of hunters, and perpetuate the effectiveness of hunters in managing deer populations throughout the state… early involvement in NY’s hunting tradition cultivates a conservation ethic among young people, encouraging appreciation for the State’s abundant natural resources and developing responsibility to act as stewards to protect these resources for future generations.”

Legislator Casale eloquently captured both the nuance and totality of the issue. Truer words on the topic were never spoken.

Its possible complete solidarity for the cause, (that in my opinion was an easy one for all sportsmen to get behind), may not become a reality. As noted, at least one organized sportsmen’s group is opposing the new law to protest online-only hunter education at the expense of junior hunters. I just wish they would have expressed their dissatisfaction with online hunter certification in a forum that did not sacrifice this hard-fought win for youth. After all, the kids just want to start hunting deer like the rest of us.

That aside, it’s time to celebrate this overwhelming legislative victory for NY’s sportsmen, sportswomen and of course, the future of our beloved tradition, our junior hunters.

Happy Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping until next time.

News and Notes

New Freshwater Fishing Guides Now Available in Print at Local Stores, LIOs: The new Fishing Guide includes the new, current trout fishing regulation changes.

May 1 is the Statewide Opener for Walleye, Pike, Pickerel, and Tiger Muskellunge, Not to Mention Opening Day of Turkey Season

Striper Update: Tom at River Basin Sport Shop in Catskill says they’re still catching stripers on live and chunk herring, and blood worms. Herring who had vanished are currently back.

Remember to report poaching violations by calling 1-844-DEC-ECOS.

You can share any comments with our sports desk at sports@registerstar.com

*If you have a fishing or hunting report, photo, or event you would like to be considered for publication, send it to: huntfishreport@gmail.com

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