Youth Big Game Weekend Provides Guided, Hands-on Learning Opportunity

September 15, 2017

Upstate New York has some of the best hunting, trapping and fishing in the country with thousands of lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and millions of acres of forest and open space that are rich in wildlife. Those who venture out to hunt and fish tend to appreciate and often help conserve our areas’ natural resources. About 2 million people hunt, fish and trap in the state ranking New York third in the nation for the number of sportsmen obtaining licenses and permits. Locally, Oswego, Onondaga and Jefferson counties are among the top 10 counties in the state for total hunting and fishing license sales.

The state estimates that consumer spending on outdoor sports totaled more than $5 billion in 2011, the last year data was available. Nearly $1.9 billion of that was spent on trip-related purchases including transportation, food and lodging. To build on this important part of our economy and increase youth involvement, in 2008, New York enacted a law that lowered the hunting age from 16 to 14.

Thanks to the lowered hunting age, the Department of Environmental Conservation began a statewide Youth Firearms Big Game Hunt in 2012. Only youth ages 14 or 15 are permitted to hunt deer and bear with a firearm during the hunt which takes place during Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 7-9. This three-day hunt is designed to allow youth hunters one of their first opportunities to hunt big game. It also gives them a slight advantage over more experienced hunters who must wait until regular season which begins Oct. 21 for the northern zone and Nov. 18 for the southern zone this year. Unlike the regular season, the mentor is not allowed to hunt with a firearm alongside the youth and is there simply as a guide. This is the fifth year of this special hunting weekend.

The DEC posts rules on its website for the youth hunt which include:

  • An adult mentor must be close enough to the youth to talk without the aid of a radio. The mentor must have at least 3 years of big game hunting experience.
  • Youth must have completed a course in hunter education.
  • Both the youth hunter and mentor must remain on the ground and not hunt from a tree stand.
  • Both the youth hunter and mentor must wear hunter orange or pink which is visible from all directions.

A complete list of rules can be found at

Lowering the hunting age has increased youth involvement and was a step in the right direction. I support going even further and lowering the hunting age to 12 years old. By doing so, we would bring New York hunting laws in line with other states and help our youth spend more time learning from experienced hunters and their families. I also sponsor and support legislation that would incorporate hunting, fishing, and outdoor education into physical education classes for grades 9-12. One of these bills I supported was signed into law by the Governor last week. This new law directs the DEC and the Department of Health to study and develop a long-term strategy for integrating outdoor environmental education. The study will result in a recreational plan that focuses on creating, developing and retaining opportunities for outdoor play and learning. The study will consider the overall health of our youth including the current obesity rates, economic trends, and the impact on access to outdoor spaces to create a blueprint for outdoor education and recreation. Hunting and fishing are important facets of our Upstate New York culture that offer opportunities for more outdoor recreation.

In addition to the Youth Big Game Hunt, locally a youth pheasant hunt in planned. The pheasant hunt is sponsored by the Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs in both Oswego and Onondaga counties and the Salmon River Strutters Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and is scheduled for Oct. 1 to be held at 232 Blumer Road in Penneville. For information or to register, call 315-882-1540 or email To find a hunter education course nearby, visit If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at or by calling (315) 598-5185.