12- and 13-year-olds will be able to hunt with a gun or crossbow this deer season, although some county officials have expressed concern about their ability to use rifles.
At the Chautauqua County Legislature meeting, lawmakers voted 18 to 1 to pass a local law that would allow 12 and 13 year olds to hunt deer with a crossbow, rifle, shotgun or a muzzleloader when accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or mentor. .
Currently, 14-year-olds can hunt deer with a crossbow, rifle, shotgun or muzzle loader under adult supervision. 12 and 13 year olds can hunt small game with a rifle and can hunt deer with a bow and arrow.
Earlier this year, the state legislature created a pilot program for young deer that would give 12 and 13 year olds the same opportunities as 14 and 15 year olds, but counties must agree to join the program.
Ahead of the vote, a few county lawmakers expressed disappointment that the state had included rifles in legislation.
“I wish the state legislature hadn’t included rifles, but I appreciate the mentorship program,” said lawmaker Kevin Muldowney, R-Dunkirk.
Lawmaker Bill Ward, R-Mayville, agreed, saying he was “appalled” that rifles are included in the legislation. Still, he gave his support. “I think this highlights and improves safety”, he said.
While Muldowney and Ward both expressed disappointment but still supported the legislation, lawmaker Bob Whitney D-Jamestown has said he will not support it. “I like everything in the bill except the word ‘rifle’ and because of that I will be voting no. The word rifle should not be used for a child of this age. They can shoot guns, that’s fine, but the word ‘rifle’ shoots everything for me ”, he said.
The main difference between a rifle and a shotgun is that the bore of the rifle has grooves, while the bore of the shotgun is smooth. For this reason, a bullet fired from a rifle can travel much farther than from a shotgun. According to the State Department of Environmental Conservation website, rifle hunting in Chautauqua County is not permitted north of Highway 20.
Other county lawmakers have said the legislation will help spark interest in hunting and improve safety.
“It’s a very family opportunity, to provide something for families to do” said lawmaker Dan Pavlock, R-Sinclairville. “Gun safety is still practiced. Children are required to have appropriate firearms training and to complete hunter safety courses. They are accompanied by an adult.
Lawmaker John Davis, R-Frewsburg, agreed. “As an educator, I see first-hand the importance of training and teaching our young people appropriate policies, techniques and practices. I think it is extremely important, especially for hunting… to start teaching people from an early age how to handle firearms correctly and how to hunt correctly ”, he said.
When the vote took place, only Whitney voted against.
The legislation is directed towards the departmental executive PJ Wendel. According to lawyer Stephen Abdella, a public hearing must be held before Wendel can sign it. He has already indicated his support in this regard. Once signed and filed with the state, it will come into effect.
Abdella added that because the legislation originated from the state legislature, it cannot be changed, so rifles cannot be distinguished.