The DEC has announced a new opportunity for young hunters in New York state. Included in this year's budget was legislation that now allows youths ages 12 and 13 to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow.

Youth hunters ages 12 and 13 years old can hunt big game with a firearm under the supervision of an experienced adult hunter in upstate counties that opt-in to participate. For almost 20 years hunters in this age range have been able to safely hunt deer and bear with archery equipment and small game firearms.

Up until now, New York was the only state that didn't allow 12-and-13-year-olds to hunt big game with a firearm. The Environmental Conservation Law 11-0935 is a temporary measure that will pilot lowering the age through 2023.

The provisions included with this legislation allow 12 and 13-year old licensed hunters to hunt deer with a rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloading firearm in areas these firearms may be used during hunting season. Youth hunters can also hunt deer with a crossbow during the times when other hunters may use crossbows. They must be supervised by an experienced and licensed adult hunter. All hunters must also wear fluorescent orange or pink clothing.

Each county must opt-in to the program by adopting a local law allowing 12 and 13-year olds to hunt deer in accordance with this legislation. The Department of Environmental Conservation is currently in the process of developing a website that lists all the counties that are participating.

Please note that this legislation excludes the Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, and Westchester counties from participation in the new program.

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