WATERTOWN — Jefferson County legislators are working toward passing a law that would allow 12- and 13-year-old hunters to use guns or crossbows to hunt deer.
During the meeting of the county’s General Services Committee on Tuesday evening, legislators preliminarily approved Local Law One. If passed by the full county Board of Legislators at next month’s meeting, Jefferson County would officially join into a pilot program authorized in this year’s New York state budget, which will allow licensed hunters aged 12 and 13 to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow until 2023.
The local law was introduced in Jefferson County by District 8 Legislator James A. Nabywaniec, R-Calcium. He said he hadn’t initially noticed the program in the state budget, but a constituent reached out and asked him to consider getting the county involved.
“He said it would be great if I could make sure this happens in Jefferson County, and I said absolutely,” Mr. Nabywaniec said.
Once passed, 12- and 13-year-old licensed hunters in Jefferson County will be able to go hunting with a licensed parent or specifically designated guardian and use guns or crossbows to take down deer in-season. Those guns can include rifles, shotguns and muzzle-loaded firearms.
The parent or guardian must be over the age of 21, have at least three years of deer hunting experience and both the adult and child must wear the proper high-visibility hunting gear. Additionally, the adult must be in full control of the child at all times, in view and able to issue verbal commands, and both people must remain on the ground at all times.
Legislators quickly approved the measure Tuesday evening by a near-unanimous vote. District 10 Legislator Jeremiah J. Maxon, R-Adams, abstained because the matter pertains to environmental conservation and he works for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The measure proved popular among the county legislators, and some who were not members of the General Services Committee even came to speak in support of the measure, including Mr. Nabywaniec and John D. Peck, R-Carthage.
“It’s a great thing to have this type of program,” Mr. Peck said. “I’m glad to see it introduced and I will certainly support it at the full board meeting.”
District 15 Legislator Anthony J. Doldo, R-Watertown, said he thinks lowering the age for kids to start hunting big game will encourage them to get out of the house and enjoy nature. He also said the law will help teach young hunters safety.
“It is important in learning how to operate either a firearm or a crossbow from someone that’s experienced with it,” Mr. Doldo said.
Legislators will vote again on the measure at the May 4 full board meeting, and on June 1, the board will host a public hearing to take comments on the proposal, before one final vote to pass or strike down the law.
That public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. June 1, in the county Board of Legislators chamber at 195 Arsenal St.