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Junior Big Game Hunting

Use the Mentored Youth Hunter and Trapper Permission Form (PDF) whenever a junior hunter (age 15 or younger) or first time big game hunter who is 16 or 17 years of age is accompanied by an experienced, licensed adult who is not their parent.

New Opportunity for 12- and 13-year-olds to Hunt Deer with a Firearm or Crossbow.

In 2021, the NYS Legislature adopted a temporary program through 2023 for young hunters in counties that choose to participate. Provisions of the new law (ECL 11-0935) include:

  • Counties must pass a local law to allow this hunting opportunity and notify DEC (the map to the right will be regularly updated);
  • allows 12- and 13-year-old licensed hunters to hunt deer with a rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloading firearm in areas where and during the hunting seasons in which such firearms may be used, including during the Youth Firearms Big Game Hunt over Columbus Day weekend;
  • allows 12- and 13-year-old licensed hunters to hunt deer with a crossbow during the times when other hunters may use crossbows;
  • requires supervision of a licensed adult hunter (aged 21 years or older) with at least 3 years of experience hunting deer who maintains physical control over the youth hunter at all times;
  • requires the youth hunter and adult mentor to wear fluorescent orange or pink clothing and to remain at ground level while hunting deer with a crossbow, rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloader;
  • does not authorize black bear hunting by 12- and 13-year-olds with a firearm or crossbow; and
  • Westchester and Suffolk counties are specifically excluded from participation; youth hunters in these counties must go elsewhere to participate.

Junior Bowhunting

12 - 15 Year Old Bowhunters Can Hunt Deer and Bear with a Bow

Here are the requirements for junior Bowhunters:

image of junior bowhunter
  • Youth must have completed a course in both Hunter Education and Bowhunter Education.
  • Youth must have a Bowhunting license.
  • 12-13 year old youth must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or a person who is 21 years or older. Adult mentor must have at least 3 years of experience hunting deer or bear with a bow and have a license to hunt big game in the same seasons.
  • 14-15 year old youth must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or a person who is 18 years or older. Adult mentor must have at least 1 year of experience hunting deer or bear with a bow and have a license to hunt big game in the same seasons.
  • Junior Bowhunters may hunt deer and bear with a bow during the bowhunting and regular seasons.
  • Junior bowhunters do not have to wear orange and/or hunt from the ground.

Firearms Hunting

14 and 15 Year Old Hunters Can Hunt Deer and Bear with a Firearm

Here are the requirements for junior hunters to hunt big game with a firearm:

  • Youth must have completed a course in Hunter Education.
  • Youth must have a hunting license.
  • Adult mentor must be a parent, legal guardian, or a person who is 21 years or older. Adult mentor must be licensed to hunt big game and have 3 years of big game hunting experience.
  • Both the junior hunter and mentor must remain on the ground while hunting; you may not use a tree stand or hunt from an elevated platform.
  • Both the junior hunter and the mentor must wear fluorescent hunter orange or pink visible from all directions: shirt, jacket, or vest with at least 250 square inches of solid or patterned orange or pink (the pattern must be at least 50% orange or pink) OR a hat with at least 50% fluorescent orange or pink.

Youth Firearms Big Game Hunt

An teenage girl with a bear she shot

Youth Firearms Big Game Hunt occurs on Columbus Day weekend (see map of deer hunting seasons).

  • Resident and non-resident Hunting license holders aged 12 to 15 may participate in the youth big game hunt. Junior hunters aged 12-13 may only participate in counties that allow 12-13 year olds to hunt deer with a firearm (see map above).
  • Junior hunters 14-15 years old may take 1 deer and 1 bear during the youth hunt. Junior hunters 12-13 years old may take 1 deer during the youth hunt.
  • Junior hunters may use a Deer Management Permit (antlerless-only), Deer Management Assistance Program tag (antlerless-only), or a regular season tag. During the youth big game hunt, junior hunters may use the regular season tag for a deer of either-sex.
  • The youth big game hunt occurs in both the Northern Zone and Southern Zone, except in bowhunting only areas and Suffolk County.
  • During the youth big game hunt, mentors may not carry a firearm or bow to pursue deer and bear.
  • Any deer or bear taken during the youth firearms hunt counts toward the annual bag limit. No extra tags are issued for this special youth season.
  • While adult bowhunters may hunt deer or bear with a bow over Columbus Day weekend, adults mentoring a Junior Hunter participating in the youth big game hunt are not permitted to bowhunt. We recommend that adult bowhunters put their bow away for the weekend and spend time afield mentoring a junior hunter during the youth big game hunt.

Additional Rules for Junior Hunters and Mentors

  • Adult mentor must maintain physical control over the junior hunter at all times while hunting. This means the mentor and junior hunter must be close enough to talk without the aid of a radio and must be able to see each other.
  • Youth and unlicensed adults may accompany a junior hunter and their mentor during the youth big game hunt, but they may not hunt or assist in the hunt (such as by driving deer).
  • In areas where mandatory antler restrictions are in place, hunters aged 12-16 are exempt from the 3-point requirement.
  • Junior hunters (ages 12-15) must purchase the muzzleloading privilege to hunt during the muzzleloader season or with a crossbow during the muzzleloader season or crossbow portion of the early bow season. The requirements listed at the top of this page apply for junior hunters and their mentors when hunting with muzzleloading firearms.
  • Nonresidents aged 12-15 can purchase a Nonresident Junior Hunting license. All requirements are the same for resident and nonresident junior hunters, though nonresident junior hunters must pay nonresident rates for turkey tags and muzzleloading privileges.
  • If the youth hunter turns 14 during the hunting season and they possess a hunting license, after they turn 14 they can return to any license issuing agent to obtain their bear carcass tag at no additional fee. They can also request the tag through our DEC Automated Licensing System (DECALS) or by calling 1-866-933-2257 Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.
  • Junior hunters who turn 12 on or before October 1, may apply for a Deer Management Permit (DMP). If they turn 12 after October 1, the DMP application period is closed. They will be able to apply for a DMP if any are offered during the extended application period beginning November 1.

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