New York’s Youth Big Game Hunt Kicks Off

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that New York’s annual Youth Big Game Hunt is set for Columbus Day weekend. Oct. 7 through 9, licensed 14 and 15 year olds may use a firearm to hunt deer and bear while accompanied by an experienced, licensed adult hunter.

“The early bow season is a great time to be in the woods and a perfect opportunity to introduce new hunters to deer and bear hunting,” said Commissioner Basil Seggos. “With abundant apples and good crops of acorns and beech nuts across the state, hunters can key in on food sources for early season success with deer and black bear. I also encourage bowhunters to pass up shots on young bucks, and in areas where deer populations are larger than desired, to focus hunting on antlerless deer.”

Early bowhunting seasons for deer and bear began in the Northern Zone on Sept. 27, and in the Southern Zone on Oct. 1.

All eligible junior hunters may take one deer (either sex) and one bear during the youth hunt. Antlerless deer taken with a firearm may be tagged with a regular season tag, a deer management permit (DMP), or deer management assistance program tags; antlered deer may only be tagged with the regular season tag. Junior hunters, including those with multiple deer tags, may only take one deer with a firearm during the Youth Big Game Hunt.

This special hunting opportunity takes place throughout the state, except in Suffolk County and bowhunting-only areas. Additional rules that apply to junior hunters and their adult mentors can be found in the Hunting & Trapping Guide (pages 36-37) or on DEC’s website.

The Youth Big Game Hunt is a great way for experienced, adult hunters to help young people enjoy a successful hunt and teach responsible and ethical hunting techniques. Hunting is a safe activity that is getting safer thanks to the efforts of DEC’s Sportsman Education Program and its 2,500 volunteer instructors.

DEC reminds hunters going afield to follow the four cardinal rules of hunting safety: (1) assume every gun is loaded; (2) control the muzzle – point your gun in a safe direction; (3) keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot; and (4) be sure of your target and beyond.

Hunter orange or hunter pink is mandatory for junior hunters and their adult mentors during the Youth Big Game Hunt. Hunter orange and hunter pink prevent other hunters from mistaking a person for an animal or shooting in a hunter’s direction.

While participants in the Youth Big Game Hunt are not allowed to hunt from an elevated treestand, it is a popular hunting method for many bowhunters. Bowhunters hunting from a treestand are reminded that the proper use of treestand equipment will help prevent injuries and even death.

Before the hunt, learn about your equipment:

Reread and understand the instructions and warnings that came with your stand and full body fall arrest harness system (FAS). Practice at ground level;
Check stands, straps, chains, linesman’s belt, and cables for signs of wear before use. Your harness should have an expiration date on it. Replace needed equipment;
Readjust your FAS for a proper fit. Single strap belts and chest harnesses should not be used;
Use a sturdy, portable stand. Permanent stands nailed into trees damage the tree and they rot; and
Have a plan and let family and friends know exactly where you will be hunting. An if you change plans, let them know.

During the hunt:

Wear your full-body harness and fall arrest system at all times while climbing and while in the stand. Most falls happen when going up and down the tree, and in and out of the stand. Live to hunt another day, wear your harness;
Don’t go too high. Remember that the higher you go, the smaller the vital zone on a deer becomes. And the likelihood of a serious injury escalates if you fall from high up. Usually, 15 to 20 feet is high enough;
As soon as you get in a tree stand — strap in. A short tether connecting your harness to the tree to prevent a fall is safer than a long one to catch you after a fall. Also, a short tether can make you a better shot. It lets you concentrate on shooting instead of balancing;
Use a haul line to raise and lower your equipment and gear. Never carry guns or bows up and down trees. And make sure the guns are UNLOADED. Incidents of a hunter shooting himself hauling a loaded gun is more common than you think;
Keep your cellphone and a whistle on you and not in the pack attached to the tree; and
Know your limitations. The average age of a person involved in a tree stand incident is 46 years old. It’s okay to use a ground blind.

Know the rules. On state lands, it is illegal to place nails or other hardware into trees, or to build permanent structures, such as tree stands, platforms, and blinds. On private lands, it is illegal to cut or remove trees or other plants, or to cut limbs or damage bark (such as from putting up blinds or tree stands, or cutting shooting lanes or trails) without the landowner’s permission.