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DEC says program allowing 12- and 13-year-olds to hunt was a success

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released the results of the second year of a pilot program allowing 12- and 13-year-old mentored hunters to harvest deer with a firearm or crossbow. According to the report, youth big game hunters had another safe, successful, and well-attended season afield.

Over 9,400 12- and 13-year-old hunters, representing nearly 9,200 families, were eligible to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow last fall. Youth hunters submitted more than 1,800 deer harvest reports, and the DEC conducted a post-hunting survey that found 82 percent of youth hunters and 87 percent of their adult mentors were moderately or greatly satisfied with their youth big game hunting experience.

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DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos praised the program, saying that he was proud to see that the next generation of environmental stewards is in good hands. The review of the data collected also showed that youth hunters followed safety guidelines and showed respect for wildlife and their fellow hunters while afield.

The legislation authorized 12- and 13-year-olds to hunt deer with an experienced adult mentor in eligible areas of the state under a three-year pilot program in 2021. The law required the DEC to analyze the results of the pilot program each year and report its findings back to the State Legislature. The DEC tracked participation, satisfaction, deer harvest, and safety compliance in the pilot program and submitted a report to the New York State Legislature, sharing its findings from the 2022/23 hunting season and recommendations for future actions.

During the first two years of the pilot program, no hunting-related shooting incidents, violations, or license revocations involving 12- and 13-year-old hunters occurred. The success of the program represents an opportunity for families across the state to share their hunting and wildlife conservation traditions with younger family members, and it could serve as a model for similar programs in other states.

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