New York will have a youth-only October gun deer hunt this year—at least as of right now.
After years of debate and opposition from some bowhunters—and despite the fact that a bill sitting on the governor’s desk could still quash the hunt—the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) confirmed last Friday that junior hunters ages 14-15 will be able to hunt deer during a special youth firearms deer season over Columbus Day weekend this year, Oct. 6-8.
“Implementation of this youth deer hunt is a hallmark moment for New York hunters and represents continued efforts of DEC to engage more young people in nature and outdoor recreation,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens.
The youth deer hunt will take place Columbus Day weekend in both the Northern Zone and Southern Zone; a youth hunt was not established on Long Island due to restrictions in the Environmental Conservation Law. Junior hunters (ages 14-15) with a big game hunting license will be eligible to take one deer of either sex with a firearm when properly accompanied by a licensed and experienced adult. Junior hunters may use a Deer Management Permit or Deer Management Assistance Program tag for an antlerless deer or, during the youth firearms season only, they may use their regular season tag to take a deer of either sex.
In areas restricted to bowhunting only (Westchester County and parts of Albany and Monroe counties), junior hunters may only use bowhunting equipment to take deer during the youth hunt weekend.
“Bowhunting seasons remain open during the youth hunt, but I encourage bowhunters to set your bow aside for the weekend and be a mentor for a youth’s first firearms deer hunt,” Martens said.
While there is pending legislation that may impact future youth hunts, until it has been acted on, DEC’s regulations remain in effect, the department indicated in a news release. The special October youth gun hunt was opposed by the group New York Bowhunters Inc., which objected to a firearms hunt (even for kids) during bow season.
At the group’s urging, language was inserted into a crossbow hunting bill earlier this year stating that only a youth archery hunt could be held during bow season, which would effectively eliminate the October firearms hunt. However, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not signed that legislation into law, so the DEC is moving forward with the junior firearms hunt.
In July, the DEC moved up the start of this year’s archery deer season in the state’s Southern Zone by two weeks, to Oct. 1. Early archery season in the Northern Zone begins Sept. 27. The earlier start to the archery season and the October youth gun hunt were both implemented as part of the DEC’s five-year deer management plan.
More details about the Youth Firearms Deer Hunt are available here: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/46245.html.
Youth Pheasant Hunts Also Set for September, October
The DEC also offers special opportunities for junior hunters (ages 12-15) for waterfowl, wild turkey and pheasants.
On Tuesday, the DEC announced that approximately 30,000 adult pheasants will be released on lands open to public hunting for the upcoming fall pheasant hunting season. The pheasant hunting season begins on Oct. 1 in northern and eastern portions of New York; Oct. 20 in central and western portions; and Nov. 1 on Long Island.
For the sixth consecutive year, junior hunters have the opportunity to hunt pheasants the weekend prior to the regular pheasant hunting season. In western New York, the youth pheasant hunt weekend is Oct. 13-14. In northern and eastern New York, the youth pheasant hunt weekend is Sept. 29-30, and on Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk counties) it is Oct. 27-28.
Pheasants will be released at a number of select sites across the state to provide ample youth hunting opportunities. All current pheasant rules and regulations remain in effect during the youth hunt. Please note that a 2011-12 hunting license is required to hunt during September, and a 2012-13 license is required starting Oct. 1.
The majority of birds will be released on state-owned wildlife management areas and cooperative hunting areas prior to and during the fall hunting season. All release sites for pheasants provided by state-funded programs are open to public hunting. A list of statewide pheasant release sites and sites receiving birds for the youth pheasant hunt weekends can be found here: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9349.html.
The Day-old Pheasant Chick Program provides additional opportunities for pheasant hunters. This program was developed in the early 1900s to provide day-old pheasant chicks to cooperating 4-H groups and sportsmen and sportswomen. The chicks are distributed to program participants in May and June, and cooperators incur all costs associated with rearing the birds, including feed, water, utilities and facility construction. The birds are raised to adulthood and released on lands open to public hunting before the season opens. This year, more than 42,000 pheasant chicks were distributed statewide as part of this program. Anyone interested in raising and releasing pheasants to expand next year’s hunting opportunities should contact DEC’s Reynolds Game Farm at (607) 273-2768.
New York’s pheasant release program was almost eliminated in late 2008 when former Gov. David Paterson and former DEC chair Pete Grannis announced the closure of the Reynolds Game Farm in a cost-cutting move. However, after an outcry of support for the pheasant rearing program from New York’s hunting community, and facing legal action from NRA and other sportsmen’s groups, Paterson and Grannis announced in January 2009 that the game farm and the state’s pheasant program would continue.
Without the pheasants raised on our distributed through the Reynolds Game Farm, pheasant hunting opportunities would likely cease to exist in much of New York.
For more information on pheasant hunting in New York, including details on pheasant release sites, visit www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/8363.html.