Bill to lower N.Y. hunting age set

Albany, N.Y. — Legislation that would lower New York’s minimum hunting age for big game from 14 to 12 is, as far as the sporting community is concerned, long overdue.

And supporters of the bills, currently lodged in the Assembly and Senate environmental conservation committees and facing uncertain odds of passage, say they have the figures to support that.

New York does, in fact, stand alone in its current 14-year-old age requirement to hunt big game with a firearm.

While the Empire State in 2008 lowered the minimum age for hunting deer and bears with a firearm from 16 to 14, that move didn’t alter the simple fact that New York still had the most restrictive youth hunting regulations in the nation.

Today, New York is the lone state in the U.S. with a 14-year-old age minimum for hunting big game with a firearm. Twenty-nine states have no minimum age; 20 others have minimum ages ranging from 7 to 12 years of age (12 states with the 12-year-old barrier; one at 11; six at 10 and one at 7).

Too, some of those 20 states – such as Pennsylvania – offer special mentored youth hunting opportunities in which youths of any age can participate. Many New York youths, in fact, cross into neighboring Pennsylvania and Vermont to take part in those deer and turkey hunts.

Supporters of the 12-year-old age minimum point to the sterling safety record of young hunters, as well as the Empire State’s glaringly high 14-year-old minimum age currently.

And Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, the sponsor of the Assembly version of the bill (A8358), says it’s time to loosen that restriction.

“Hunting and outdoorsmanship are important facets of the culture of New York state. Many families have long traditions of hunting that define their way of life,” she said in a memo attached to her bill. 

“People across New York are eager to pass the traditions and skills of hunting down to their children. Under current law, parents are unduly limited in the ways they can pass down the meaningful practice of hunting to their children. 

“Removing these restrictions will allow parents to teach their children the valuable skills and values of hunting at an early age, and further solidify the tradition of hunting in this state for generations to come.”

State Sen. Joseph Griffo introduced the Senate version, S5434.

N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation fish and wildlife leaders have long supported a reduction in the mandatory minimum hunting age, and the state’s Conservation Fund Advisory Board, too, has weighed in regularly on the issue.

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