Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Did Oct. 1 opener seal youth hunt fate?

Steve PiattBy now everyone is pretty much aware that the state's proposed youth hunt over the Columbus Day weekend isn't going to happen, its fate sealed when a crossbow extension – extension, not expansion – bill was approved and carried a clause that limited firearms use during the regular archery season.

It's pretty obvious that was a clear effort to ax the youth hunt, and it succeeded.

But the whole scenario leaves me wondering whether DEC's own regulatory package – one that included an earlier start to the Southern Zone archery deer season – may have helped seal the fate of the youth deer hunt for 14- and 15-year-olds.

Let's do a quick analysis of it all.

The major concern (or maybe it was simply used as a front for those selfish archers who didn't want some snotty-nosed punk whacking a big buck before they got a chance to draw on it) of the youth hunt opponents was that firearms would be mixed into the archery season. Those safety fears, founded or not, were used as the lever to trigger legislative action that led to the scrapping of the youth hunt.

Sure, there was also the contention that the three-day youth offering would send deer into nocturnal mode, but it was the safety issue on which opponents hung their compounds, recurves and longbows.

But wait a minute. The proposed youth hunt would have taken place over the Columbus Day weekend, which traditionally would have been held before the Southern Zone archery deer season even began. But the DEC's regulatory package, in addition to the youth hunt, included an Oct. 1 opener to the Southern Zone archery season, thus placing the youth hunt within the bow season.

One has to wonder what the youth hunt opponents would have used as their chief argument had the archery season opener not been bumped up to Oct. 1. Chances are it would have been an outlandish claim the youth hunt would have resulted in the slaughter of thousands of deer, with the remainder KO'd out of their natural pattern of movement and unavailable to bowhunters.

Instead, it was the safety issue sold to lawmakers, who readily bought it and passed final-day legislation that not only did not expand crossbow use into the archery season for seniors and physically challenged hunters, it trumped DEC's decision to establish the youth hunt.

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