Department of Environmental Conservation

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Opportunities for Junior Hunters & Trappers

A successful youth hunter with her father and hunting dog.

DEC has expanded opportunities for junior hunters (licensees ages 12-15) and trappers (under 12 years old). These opportunities allow youth hunters and trappers to spend time afield with experienced adult hunters and trappers. As a result, they gain the necessary knowledge and skills to become safe and responsible members of the hunting and trapping community.

These opportunities include:

  • Designated special youth hunts for deer
  • Designated special youth hunts for three of our most popular game birds (wild turkey, pheasants, and waterfowl)
  • The Mentored Youth Hunter and Trapper Program

The goal of the deer, turkey, pheasant, and waterfowl youth hunts and the Mentored Youth Hunter and Trapper Program is to sustain hunting and trapping participation and its associated recreational and wildlife conservation benefits. However, the ultimate goal is the passing down of tradition, knowledge, and experiences from one generation to the next, and spending quality time with friends and family outdoors.

Youth Firearms Deer Hunt

DEC offers a special Youth Firearms Deer Hunt over the 3-day Columbus Day weekend each October. Junior hunters (ages 14-15) will be eligible to take 1 deer with a firearm during this season.

Youth Wild Turkey Hunt

DEC established a special youth hunt for turkeys in spring 2004. More than 5,000 junior hunters have taken to the woods each year with their adult companions to take advantage of this special opportunity.

Youth Pheasant Hunt

Pheasant hunting was one of the first hunting experiences for many of today's adult hunters. This two-day hunt will help maintain this traditional introduction to hunting. Youth pheasant hunts take place on the last full weekend prior to the start of the regular fall pheasant hunting season in each area of upstate New York.

Youth Waterfowl Hunt

DEC established youth waterfowl hunting days in 1996. This is a special two-day hunt prior to the regular season in each waterfowl hunting zone. It provides young waterfowl hunters with the opportunity to spend time afield with an experienced adult hunter pursuing ducks, geese, and brant.

Junior Hunter Mentoring Program

The "junior hunter mentoring program" allows youths ages 14 and 15 to hunt big game with a firearm while accompanied and supervised by an experienced adult hunter. Recent legislation also lowered the minimum age from 14 to 12 for youth bowhunting for big game with a mentor.

Trapper Mentoring Program

Interested in trapping, but don't know how you can get started? If you are under 12 years old you may accompany and assist a licensed trapper who has at least 3 years of trapping experience, thanks to the trapper mentoring program.

Have a hunting story or some pictures you would like to share? Visit the Hunting & Trapping Photo Gallery.