May 1—LOWVILLE — Tweens in Lewis County, specifically 12- and 13-year-olds, may be able to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow this season if a proposed new local law gets moved on to a public hearing during Tuesday's county Board of Legislators meeting.
Embracing the opportunity offered by a pilot program created in the 2021-22 state budget, the board's General Services Committee members forwarded a new law resolution during its April 13 meeting which will activate the state law in the county, allowing 12- and 13-year-old licensed hunters to hunt deer legally with certain guns and crossbows.
Rifles, shotguns and muzzle loaded firearms are the only guns allowed under the proposed legislation.
"Lewis County is passing this local law as hunting is a valued tradition for many families and this new opportunity allows experienced, adult hunters to introduce the value of hunting to the next generation," the proposed law states. "Teaching young people safe, responsible and ethical hunting practices will ensure a rewarding experience for the youth, while providing quality food to families and contributing to important deer management population control practices."
If the local law passes in June after the public hearing, young hunters in Lewis County must follow a few rules to take deer with the specified weapons.
They must be supervised by an adult, licensed hunter who is at least 21 years old. Both the youth hunter and their adult supervisor are required to wear a certain percentage of fluorescent orange or pink gear while hunting.
Like with all other hunters, the various weapons can only be used during the designated seasons in appropriate areas for those weapons.
Additionally, the youth hunters guided under this law are not allowed to hunt from trees or stands.
"All licensed 12- and 13-year-old hunters shall remain at ground level while hunting deer with a crossbow, rifle, shot gun or muzzle loader," the law indicates.
Only deer can be hunted by the tweens with firearms and crossbows under this law. Bear are off the menu, but only with these particular weapons.
"For nearly two decades, youth ages 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," a state Department of Environmental Conservation news release about the pilot program stated.
The supervising hunters are expected to have at least three years of hunting experience and both hunters are expected to follow existing hunting rules.
As a pilot program, the middle schoolers will continue to be able to hunt deer with firearms and crossbows until 2023. The DEC is required to file a report by Feb. 1 every year of the program indicating the number of violations of the law, hunting related incidents and the number of counties participating, minors participating and deer taken.
The state law officially goes into effect on June 1.
The county board meeting Tuesday will held in person in the legislative chambers at the county court house with limited seating in order to respect COVID-19 protocols. It will also be livestreamed on the county YouTube channel. A resolution setting a public hearing for the proposed local law on June 1 from 5 to 5:30 p.m. is expected to pass.