Gov Signs Jr. Hunter Bill

James L. Seward

July 28, 2008

State Senator James L. Seward (R/I/C-Oneonta) today praised Gov. Paterson’s approval of legislation (S. 8228) allowing young people to hunt big game.

"I applaud the governor for signing the bill to expand hunting and trapping opportunities for young people," Seward said. "Hunting, fishing and trapping are part of our outdoor sporting heritage, and they pack a big economic wallop when you think about purchases of firearms, ammunition, tackle, clothing and related gear. This is good news. I supported the bill and am glad to see it signed into law."

Seward noted that New York is the only state in the nation where 14 year-olds cannot hunt big game with firearms. Forty-six states allow 12 year-olds to hunt big game with firearms, and 12 year-olds have been allowed to hunt small game in New York with firearms since 1991 while accompanied by adults.

The new law allows 14 and 15 year-olds to hunt deer and bear with a firearm under certain conditions while supervised and creates a trapper mentoring program.

New York's hunters have long pushed for additional opportunities for youth to hunt big game. Allowing interested young people to hunt deer and bear with can foster lifelong participation in hunting and help to increase recruitment of hunters. Requiring strict supervision of the junior hunter by experienced sportsmen and sportswomen enhances opportunities to develop a strong safety ethic in young hunters.

A 2005 youth hunting report compiled for the Families Afield initiative, a collaborative effort of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, and U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, concluded that states with barriers to youth participation, such as the existing age restrictions in New York law, are failing to recruit hunters at a sufficient rate to replace those retiring from the sport. The study has garnered national attention and generated renewed interest in statutory changes to ensure the future of hunting as a valued family tradition and key component of wildlife management.

Young hunters have demonstrated the best safety record of any age group in the state when accompanied by an adult, as required by law. Under current law, persons 14 and 15 years of age have been restricted to hunting deer and bear with longbows, even though they may use firearms (including the same weapons that would be used to hunt deer and bear) to hunt small game from age 12.

"This is going to afford New York families hunting opportunities that are already available in every other state in the nation," Seward said.

The new law permits a mentoring opportunity for youths to accompany and assist licensed, experienced trappers prior to completing the training requirements required for them to be eligible to purchase their own trapping licenses.