Big game archery season opens at sunrise Monday and youths ages 14 and 15 have an opportunity to hunt with firearms during the Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 6 to 8.
Many sporting groups and supporting legislators deserve credit for moving the bow-season opener up from the first Saturday after Columbus Day to Oct. 1 in the Southern Zone, which includes all areas of Western New York.
Legislative efforts were also made to include the crossbow in the archery season. New York Bowhunter lobbyists saw to it that crossbows remain legal only during gun-hunting seasons.
But the Bowhunters organization bunch failed in an attempt to quash a youth firearms hunt that was proposed for the 2012 season. Similar hunts had been conducted in nearby states and Pennsylvania has held an early muzzleloader hunt during the archery season for nearly a decade. The Bowhunters lobbyists succeeded in opposing a firearms hunt for youths during what is now open-season dates that were previously closed to all big game pursuits in years past.
The only change from regular big-game harvest rules for youths is that during this Youth Hunt a 14- or 15-year-old can take a deer of either sex on a buck license/tag.
Youths are allowed to take one deer during this early season with gun or archery gear. Other youths may accompany a hunting youth and mentor but cannot assist in the hunt; youths and mentors may legally hunt with archery gear after a youth has harvested a buck or doe during this special weekend.
As for gear and hunting techniques, Youth Hunt participants must wear hunter orange while hunting and the mentor must be in constant supervision of the youth. That means all hunting must be conducted on the ground; neither youths nor mentors can use a treestand during this hunt.
As for hunting pressure, Rick McDermott with the Crossbow Coalition points out an estimated 16,000 kids will participate in this hunt across the state. That averages one hunter every 1,250 acres.
Nonetheless, those opposed to this hunt have made reference to youths as "gun slinging kids." An New York Bowhunters alert cites outdoor writers as "the unscrupulous press" for reporting opposition to the Youth Hunt as an NYB self-concerned effort.
NYB critics referred to "The arrogant DEC." pointing to a press release in which the DEC commissioner noted and suggested, "Bow hunting seasons remain open during the youth hunt, but we encourage bow hunters to set aside their bows for the weekend and be a mentor for a youth's first firearms deer hunt."
In the final analysis, conservation and sportsmanship minded adults and youths now have a chance to enjoy being afield with hopes for a safe and resourceful hunt on Oct. 6 to 8 and throughout the season.