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BATAVIA — The county may give 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds the opportunity to hunt deer through 2023 by opting in to a temporary state program.

Legislators Wednesday set a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. May 12 at the Old Courthouse, 7 Main St. The hearing will also be available via Zoom video conference.

The program would allow 12- and 13-year-old licensed hunters to hunt with a crossbow, rifle, shotgun, or muzzle-loaded firearm, in areas where these firearms may be used, during hunting season through Dec. 31, 2023. The youth would hunt under the supervision of an experienced, adult hunter. The youth hunter and adult mentor are required 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 for this program was included in the state’s 2021-22 budget. Glen Adams, secretary for the Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and club representative from the Genesee Conservation Foundation, attended with Mike Ciociolo, Region 8 representative the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Fish and Wildlife Management Board.

“We’re both here to encourage this body to vote positive on opting in to the new state law for a two-year trial period for youth 12 to 13 years old to be able to hunt, with supervision, for deer,” Adams said. “We do support it and our federation clubs have supported this.”

Legislator Christian Yunker, who offered the resolution to set the public hearing, said legislators are also in support of the temporary program.

“This was put in the governor’s budget and we know that we need to get the next generation of hunters involved,” he said. “We know we have a deer management issue and that this is going to help us.”

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg said there was full support from this during the Ways and Means Committee meeting last week.

“We’re more interested to hear what the public has to say before we vote ... but it was unifying that we were for this. It’s time,” she said.

After the meeting, Adams said the federation knew it was a possibility that the state would offer the program, but added, “We’ve been pushing for a long time through the New York Conservation Council, through our federations, to move it to a younger age.”

“You’ve (an experienced hunter) got to be within physical restraint of the kid,” he said. “You’ve got to be on the grounds. We see it as a positive thing. I’ve got five boys I would have loved to have been able to take them out earlier than I was.”

Adams said he likes seeing girls out there hunting as well.

“We encourage that. I do coach the Le Roy trap team. We have female youth. We’d love to see them out there also,” he said. “I think a lot of parents will take advantage of this. That’s mainly where it’s going to come from.”

Ciociolo said he agreed with Adams.

“I was very surprised that New York state would actually put that in the bill this year,” he said. “Normally, I wouldn’t have thought that public opinion would have steered them in that direction, but I think it’s going to be a good thing for the reasons Glen listed, but also ... I believe that the education of hunting, rather than waiting until they’re 14, 16, I think they’ll make for safer hunters or ethically better hunters, if they start at the age of 12. I’m looking forward to it.

“This will affect my grandchildren. I still have grandchildren that are in that age group, both boys and girls, and I’m sure they’re going to take advantage of it,” he said.

The county would have to opt in by passing a local law.

The state DEC said earlier this month that for nearly two decades, youth aged 12 and 13 in New York state have been safely hunting deer and bears 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 ...” the DEC said April 7.

“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 Basil 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.”

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