Orleans extends youth hunting program for 12- and 13-year-olds

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 April 2024 at 9:53 am

DEC recommends state make the change permanent

File photo by Tom Rivers: These deer are pictured on Nov. 20, 2014 when they were close to the road on the west side of Route 279 in Gaines, just south of Route 104.

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature has extended a pilot program that lowered the age from 14 to 12 for people to hunt deer with a crossbow, rifle, shotgun or muzzle-loading firearm.

The county approved the program in 2021, and there have been “absolutely no accidents reported,” said Lynne Johnson, the County Legislature chairwoman.

The state has allowed counties to opt in in the pilot program with the lower age. Orleans was among 52 of 54 eligible counties that approved the initial pilot program. Only Erie and Rockland counties didn’t opt in.

The youth hunters need to be under the supervision of an experienced adult hunter.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation reported statewide there were 9,859 licensed 12- and 13-year-old hunters in 2021-22, and then 9,416 in 2022-23, and 9,610 in 2023-24.

The DEC said the first three years of the program showed 12- and 13-year-old hunters and mentors “have proven they can safely and successfully hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow and should be authorized to retain this opportunity permanently.” The DEC said there were no documented hunting-related shooting incidents among 12- and 13-year-olds during the first three years.

The DEC is recommending the state make the change permanent and lower the age to 12 for people to hunt deer with a firearm and crossbow.

Click here to see a report from DEC on the first three years of the pilot program.