Two years after lobbying successfully to have the age requirement for hunting lowered, local sportsmen are trying the appeal again.
Outdoor enthusiasts from Jefferson, Oswego and Onondaga traveled Tuesday to Albany, where they pressed Assembly Republicans to lower the minimum age for big game hunts, with bow or with firearm, from 14 years of age to 12.
About three dozen made their pitch to newly elected Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, who supports that measure as well as another sought by the group: to allow 10-year-olds to shoot firearms on a range with adult supervision.
Two years ago, a push by then-Sen. Darrel Aubertine helped spur passage of a "junior hunter" bill, which allowed 14 year olds to shoot firearms on hunts. (The previous age requirement was 16.)
"Passage of this bill was an uphill battle with downstate legislators like Senator Liz Krueger who initially opposed the bill because she was 'concerned for the welfare of the children hunting wild and dangerous animals,'" wrote Stephen Wowelko, president of the Onondaga County Federation of Sportsmen's Club, in a guest column for the Syracuse Post-Standard. "It took several years and many visits to our legislators’ offices to convince them to support this bill."
(If I were to handicap this, I'd expect the Democrat-led Assembly - which often introduces a bevvy of gun-control bills annually - to be the bigger impediment to seeing further age reductions.)
Blankenbush's visitors came for the Assembly Republicans' Sportsmen and Outdoor Legislative Awareness Day, which was attended by more than 5,000 sportsmen from across New York.
In a news release, the assemblyman noted that outdoor recreation contributes more than $6 billion to the state economy annually. In Blankenbush's district, snowmobilers visiting the Tug Hill Region and anglers around Lake Ontario and the Salmon River have a significant economic impact.
"Unfortuantely, though, hunting is one of the most regulated sports in the state and the fees on fishing, ATVs and snowmobiling continue to add up," he said in a statement. "Government needs to be more mindful of the negative economic impact when creating more regulations and fees."