But at the time, New York didn’t permit deer hunting with firearms or crossbows for anyone under the age of 14. So Stromecki, who lives in Elma, took Ben and their hunting gear to Pennsylvania instead.
New York has since adopted a law this year that allows 12- and 13-year-old children to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow in the presence of a licensed, experienced adult. But unlike other hunting laws passed by the state, it’s up to individual counties to opt into the law, making it an issue for every county in Western New York.
Children as young as 12 already are permitted to hunt with adult oversight and may use firearms to shoot small game, which includes game birds, squirrels, rabbits and coyotes. But they are limited to regular compound bow hunting for deer.
Until this year, New York was the only state to forbid children at this age from hunting big game with a firearm.
The adopted 2021 state budget changed that by including a provision to permit children 12 and 13 to use a rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader or crossbow with supervision if counties opt into the state’s three-year pilot program.
Genesee and Livingston counties are among four New York counties that have opted in. Niagara and Wyoming are expected to hold a public hearing on the law within the next few weeks.
The Erie County Legislature recently held a committee meeting on the issue, but the matter is likely to be more controversial, with both hunting and animal rights advocates weighing in. No public hearing has been scheduled yet, a necessary step for the county to vote on any opt-in provision.
Walter Baranowski, a Springville resident who regularly takes his daughter, 10, and son, 7, into the woods with him when he hunts, said he doesn’t believe there should be one youth firearm hunting standard for shooting birds and small game and another for shooting big game.
“If you want to preserve this way of life, you need to get the youth involved,” he said.