Fulton County to allow youth deer hunting

State Assemblyman Robert Smullen speaks in favor of a local law allowing 12 and 13-year-olds to hunt deer in Fulton County during the Board of Supervisors meeting Monday at the County Office Building in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday unanimously adopted a local law authorizing 12 and 13-year-old licensed hunters to hunt deer during hunting season, under supervision of a licensed adult hunter.

The temporary law is effective immediately upon filing and publication in accordance with Section 27 of the state’s Municipal Home Rule Law.

The state is allowing counties to decide whether they want 12 and 13-year-olds sanctioned as deer hunters within their borders.

Hunting for this younger population would allow hunting deer with a firearm — to include rifles, shotguns and muzzle-loaded firearms, or crossbows.

Action by the board at the County Office Building followed a public hearing in which state Assemblyman Robert Smullen of Meco spoke in favor of Fulton County’s proposed local law. He said he liked the instruction, rules and guidance the newest hunters will receive along the way.

“That’s really how you learn how to hunt,” Smullen stated.

Smullen said the new bills being adopted by counties to allow 12 and 13-year-olds to hunt deer has the support of state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, who he has spoken with.

Fulton County’s new local law says its intent is to permit 12 and 13-year-olds to participate in “new and safe hunting opportunities,” in accordance with state Environmental Law.

New York state’s enacted 2021-22 state budget includes a pilot program allowing the opportunity for young hunters 12 and 13 to hunt white-tailed deer through 2023 if county legislators pass such action.

“Fulton County is passing this local law as hunting is a valued tradition for many families and this new opportunity allows experienced adult hunters to introduce the value of hunting to the next generation,” the law says. “Furthermore, teaching young people safe, responsible and ethical hunting practices will ensure a rewarding experience for the youth, while providing quality food to families and contributing to important deer management population control practices.”

Smullen told the Board of Supervisors that currently 27 counties have adopted the law, with 25 counties pending.

“It’s very rare when you have a rule that is extended back to the counties from the state,” the assemblyman said.

He said he was hoping Fulton County would adopt the pilot program locally. He said such a program will develop excellent data on how many young hunters will participate, deer population and other data that may determine the success of the program.

“I think good hunters teach their children to hunt responsibly,” Smullen said.

Currently, Smullen said there are also several “anti-hunting” bills proposed in the state Legislature, such as big game hunting bans.

According to Fulton County’s new local law, the 12 and 1-year-old hunters would be under the supervision of licensed adult hunters aged 21 or older. The adult hunter must have at least three years of experience, and control over the youth hunter is required at all times.

Hunters involved would be required to wear fluorescent orangE or pink clothing. The 12 and 13-year-olds must remain at ground level. The law does not allow the hunting of bear by 12 and 13-year-olds.

By Paul Wager