Lower minimum age proves popular
Elizabethtown, N.Y. – New York’s bowhunting roster has tripled over
the past 30 years, and it’s about to get even bigger this
Legislation that lowered the state’s minimum age for bowhunting
from 14 to 12 is seemingly sparking an influx of new hunters into
the sport this fall, based on reports from archery shops around the
“Tons of kids are getting into bowhunting this year,” said Joe
Guernsey, owner of Klein’s Archery in Dryden (Tompkins County).
“I’ve done six Bowhunter Education classes this year and I’d say 95
percent of the attendees are 12-year-olds. So the response (to the
new law) has been huge.”
Nick Trotta of Sunset Archery in Glennville (Greene County), echoed
“It’s a good thing,” he said of the lowered minimum age. “If you
don’t get them out there when they’re young you’ll never get them.
They’ve moved on to other things.”
And early indications are bowhunters young and old should have
plenty of opportunities to connect on a buck or doe this season,
which starts Sept. 27 in the Northern Zone (for hunters with
leftover tags from 2010-11); Oct. 1 in Suffolk County and Oct. 15
across the Southern Zone.
“We’ve had guys bring in some trail cam pics of some unbelievable
bucks,” said Don Barrett of Barrett’s Bowhunting in Elmira Heights
(Chemung County). “So big I wouldn’t be showing them around.”
Statewide, DEC says there are about 245,000 archery hunters, a
number that’s triple the estimated 80,000 back in 1980 but down
slightly from a peak of about 250,000 in 2009.
Last year, the state’s bowhunters harvested 34,530 whitetails,
including 31,768 in the Southern Zone. The overall bow harvest was
virtually identical to the 2009 tally of 34,546, while the Southern
Zone kill was up by 0.5 percent from 2009’s total of 31,596.
DEC wildlife biologist Jeremy Hurst said it’s a bit too early to
determine the impact of the lowered minimum age for archery
hunters, since licenses are still being purchased.
But the reports of jam-packed Bowhunter Education courses – largely
with young hunters – is a clear indication the legislative change
has been met with enthusiasm.
Guernsey says today’s technology will serve the youngsters well
when it comes time to get fitted for a new bow for the first
“There should be no concerns at all,” he said. “Youth bows today
have 10 inches of draw length adjustment and go up to 50 pounds
(draw weight). We’re selling a ton of them, and they should last a
youngster right up until they’re 18 years old and they finally grow
out of it.”
Success rates for the state’s bowhunters has climbed over the
years, from 5 percent in the early 1980s to a peak of around 17
percent in the late 1990s. It stood at about 15 percent last
season, a figure which includes both bucks and antlerless
New York’s bowhunters generally have to make some strategic
decisions when they head afield each fall, such as whether to take
an antlerless deer early in the season and then look for a buck, or
perhaps pass on does until the buck tag is filled.
Hurst says a check of 2008 data showed about 60 percent of the deer
harvested during the first week of the bow season were antlerless
whitetails; that figure dipped to 40 percent by the last two weeks
of the season.
The Southern Zone archery deer season runs through Nov. 18, and is
followed immediately by the firearms deer season. In the Northern
Zone, the archery season ends Oct. 21, the day before that region’s
firearms offering kicks off.
Bowhunting in Westchester and Suffolk counties runs through Dec.
There’s also a late muzzleloader-archery season Dec. 12-20 in the
Many New York bowhunters, depending on the unit in which they’re
hunting, have an added bonus of a chance at a black bear. In the
West-Central and Southeastern zones, bowhunters have contributed up
to 40-50 percent of the bear harvest in recent years. And this
season several additional wildlife management units from
Westchester to Washington counties along the state’s eastern border
have been opened to bear hunting.
Hurst also urged bowhunters to assist DEC’s wildlife management and
monitoring efforts by participating in the Bowhunter Sighting Log,
in which hunters record their wildlife sightings while
“In 2010, we had participation from 3,529 hunters who recorded
their wildlife sightings over 47,329 days and 187,504 hours,” he
said, “That may sound like a lot, when broken down over our many
WMUs, we’ve got a lot of areas that could benefit from more
Hunters interested in participating can e-mail DEC at
email@example.com . They should specify “Bowhunter
Sighting Log” in the subject line and provide their name, address,
hunter ID (back tag) number, a list of the counties where they
hunt, and whether they have previously participated the bowhunter