The Adirondacks is the largest park of any kind in the lower 48 states. It is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Olympic National Parks combined. Larger than the state of New Hampshire and six other states.
Its 6 million acres contain more than 2,800 ponds and lakes, 1,500 miles of rivers and 40 mountaintops above 4,000 feet. Indeed, a vast majority of the big game hunting opportunities that exist north of the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi River can be found within the Blue Line border.
Yet when it comes to the age at which our youth can hunt big game, New York is the most restrictive state in the nation.
Among the 23 states that restrict the age at which a person can first hunt, 16 require kids to be at least 12 years old. Of the remaining 8, 7 states require youth to be 14 before they can hunt big game.
New York remains the only state in the country that requires a person to be 16 to hunt big game with a firearm.
Why? Because our state is largely controlled by inner city legislators, whose concept of a 14 year old with a gun is a bit different than the average Adirondacker.
We have had a handful of small victories on the youth hunting front, however. First, youth ages 12-15 were given their own early season prior to the regular 2004 turkey season.
Now, for the first time, the DEC has created a special youth pheasant hunt prior to the start of the regular season on Oct. 1. The hunt will take place from Sept. 29-30, with young hunters able to carry a gun under adult supervision.
At the same time, the state will increase the chance of a successful experience by releasing 25,000 adult pheasants on state and private land accessible to the young hunters.
Fish and game leagues around the state are augmenting that with their own youth hunts allowing the state to release birds on their land and taking kids out to hunt them.
One such event will take place on Sept. 29 at the Willsboro Fish and Game Club.
Jim Hotaling, a member of the Willsboro Fish and Game who is helping organize the day, said that a practice session will be held this Saturday, Sept. 22, to acclimate kids to firearm safety and bird shooting.
Practice and hunt times will begin at 8 a.m. and registration is required. Just call Hotaling at 518-963-7430.
Youth will learn how to handle a 20 gauge shotgun and will have an opportunity to shoot skeet. John Alden, a certified hunter safety instructor, will be on hand.
Those who own a 20 gauge may bring it along. Shotguns will be provided by the club for those who do not have one.
The hunt open to boys and girls ages 12 to 15 accompanied by parent or legal guardian will be limited to the first 25 that register, but subsequent hunts may be scheduled, depending on turnout, Hotaling said.
Each hunter will be allowed 2 birds apiece. Joe Pray will bring his hunting dogs to help flush birds as youth hunt away from one another with adult supervision.
This is a tremendous opportunity for area kids, both those with hunting experience or without, to learn more about all the woods have to offer, and I applaud those involved in making it happen.
Now if only I could talk the state into releasing 25,000 whitetail near my camp in Newcomb just before the start of regular season.
Safety courses scheduled
A Gun Hunting Safety Course will be held at the Schroon Lake Fish & Game Club on Sept. 22 and 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Participants must attend both days to complete the course.
Advanced registration is required. Contact Don Sage at 518-585-7250 or Pat Perkins at 518-597-3288.
A Bow Hunting Safety Course will be held at the Moriah School on Friday, Oct. 5, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Oct. 6 from 8 a.m. until 12 noon. Again, course goers must attend both days to complete the course and advanced registration is required. Contact Dennis Mullen at 518-942-6565 or Dick Stevenson at 518-962-8957.