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New York Creates Junior Hunter Mentoring Program

From New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

-- New York Gov. David A. Paterson recently signed into law a bill that created a special "junior hunter" mentoring program which will allow persons aged 14 and 15 to hunt big game with a firearm while accompanied and supervised by an experienced adult hunter.

Current law already allows persons aged 12 to 16 years to hunt small game with a firearm or longbow, and persons aged 14 and 15 to hunt big game with a longbow, under supervision.

However, New York was the only state in the nation where 14-year-olds could not hunt big game with a firearm. Over 40 states allow 12-year-olds to hunt big game with a firearm.

"Hunting is a rich part of New York State's heritage, particularly in the North Country and our more rural areas, as well as a crucial part of the state's thriving sports industry," said Gov. Paterson.

"This bill will afford New York families, especially those Upstate, the same opportunities that already exist in other states by offering our junior hunters the opportunity to safely partake in such an important New York pastime with their parents, grandparents and other experienced hunters."

Currently, all first-time hunters in New York must take a 10-hour hunter safety course and pass a written and practical examination before being issued a hunter safety certificate which is required when purchasing a hunting license. Parents of minors must also give written permission for a minor to take the safety course and to be issued a license.

Today's bill establishes additional supervision and safety requirements for the new program to help ensure that the junior hunting experience occurs safely:

-- Hunters who are 14 and 15 years of age who hunt big game with a firearm must do so under the direct supervision and control of the adult hunter who must be a parent, guardian or other adult over the age of 21 designated in writing by the parent or guardian, have a minimum of three years of big game hunting experience, and maintain close and constant visual contact and physical control over the minor hunter.

-- The junior hunter and his or her mentor must hunt at ground level ( i.e., they may not hunt from an elevated blind).      

-- The junior hunter and his or her mentor must wear blaze orange at all times while hunting.

The bill also creates a trapper mentoring program that allows youngsters to accompany and assist a licensed trapper who is at least 18 years of age and has at least three years of trapping experience.

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