New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced a new opportunity for young hunters. The State Fiscal Year 2021-22 Budget signed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo includes legislation that now allows youths ages 12 and 13 to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow under the supervision of an experienced adult hunter in upstate counties that opt-in to participate.

“Deer hunting is a valued tradition for many families that provides millions of pounds of quality food to New Yorkers while reducing the negative impacts of abundant deer populations on agriculture, forests, and communities,” Commissioner Seggos said. “This new opportunity allows experienced, adult hunters to introduce the value of hunting to the next generation. Teaching these young people safe, responsible, and ethical hunting practices will ensure a rewarding experience every time they are afield. I encourage all upstate counties to consider ‘opting-in’ to support New York’s young hunters and their potential contributions to deer management.”

For nearly two decades, youth aged 12 and 13 in New York have been safely hunting deer and bear with archery equipment and small game with firearms. Until now, New York was the only state that didn’t allow 12- and 13-year-olds to hunt big game with a firearm. Environmental Conservation Law 11-0935 is a temporary measure that will pilot lowering the age through 2023, including the following provisions:

  • Allows 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;
  • Allows 12- and 13-year-old licensed hunters to hunt deer with a crossbow during the times when other hunters may use crossbows;
  • Requires that these youth hunters be supervised by experienced and licensed adult hunters at all times; and
  • Requires the youth hunter and adult mentor to wear fluorescent orange or pink clothing and to remain at ground level while hunting deer with a crossbow, rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloader.

The legislation requires each county to “opt-in” to the program by adopting a local law allowing for 12- and 13-year-olds to hunt deer in accordance with ECL 11-0935. The legislation specifically excludes Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, and Westchester counties from participation in the new program.

DEC is developing a new webpage listing counties that opt-in to participate.