The Otsego County Board of Representatives approved a resolution allowing youths as young as 12 to hunt big game with adult supervision after much discussion and a public hearing.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation proposed and the state Legislature approved a two-year pilot program to allow 12- and 13-year-old children to hunt deer using rifles, shotguns or muzzleloading firearms next to an adult licensed hunter, provided that it was approved by the local county governments.
According to a map on the DEC website, Otsego was one of 14 counties left to vote on the program. Other counties that haven’t voted on the resolution are Oneida, Montgomery, Onondaga, Schenectady, Albany, Ulster, Dutchess, Rockland, Putnam, Erie, Monroe, Seneca and Tompkins.
“Every other county has voted to allow this,” Rick Brockway, R-Laurens and Otego, said. “I hope Otsego County isn’t the only one to oppose this resolution. Every other state in the country allows 12- and 13-year-olds to hunt. This law makes it so they have to be with an adult licensed hunter and take a hunter safety course. I would rather have my grandson out hunting with me than sitting on his computer eight hours a day.”
Brockway is also an outdoors columnist for The Daily Star.
Representative Andrew Marietta, D-town of Otsego, said that growing up in Minnesota, he was allowed to hunt with his father at age 12. “The success of this law will depend on hunter safety. We need to trust our residents that if they take their child out hunting, they will do it safely,” he said. “This law will cultivate a younger generation of hunters. Hunting has seen a decrease in participation.”
“I love sporting, but putting guns into the hands of 12- and 13-year-olds doesn’t seem safe to me,” Representative Keith McCarty, R-Richfield and Springfield said during the public hearing. “They are too young to drag a deer out of the woods. I don’t want an accident to happen. There was a case long ago of a father shooting his son, then taking his own life. I don’t want that to happen here.”
Later in the meeting McCarty reiterated his “no” vote by adding, “I think the insurance industry is behind this. They don’t want to pay for car/deer accidents. I’m not looking to sacrifice a 12- or 13-year-old for the insurance industry. What next, we allow 12- or 13-year-olds to drive a car? It’s not safe.”
Representative Clark Oliver, D-city of Oneonta, noted that 12- and 13-year-olds can already hunt deer using bows and can use shotguns to hunt small game animals, and said he was conflicted as to whether to allow them to use rifles.
In the end, he abstained from the resolution.
The resolution passed by weighted votes of 5,505 yes, 375 no and 348 abstaining.
During the public hearing, two people representing sportsmen clubs spoke in favor of the resolution and two people spoke against the resolution. County Clerk Carol McGovern said the county received three letters in favor of the resolution and one letter against it.
Also during the meeting, the board listened as Assemblyman John Salka, speaking via videoconference, outlined the 2021 state legislative session. He talked about the budget, including aid to help renters and homeowners; the increase to education aid and road-repair aid; the legalization of recreational marijuana and the low-cost broadband internet bill.
“We have heard from Otsego Electric Cooperative about the (internet) bill,” Salka said. “They said they couldn’t afford to charge that little. There is a waiver they can apply for to opt out of the program.”
Jen Gregory, executive director of Southern Tier 8 Economic Development Agency, also talked about broadband. Her agency helps its member counties with economic development issues and Gregory said it was putting together a broadband internet survey to see how fast the internet is in various places.
“Last December, Congress told the FCC to redo the broadband internet maps to see where it was underserved,” Gregory said. “We are working on a local review to make sure the area gets better connections.”
In addition to the broadband survey, Gregory said the agency is working with Friends of Recovery — Delaware Otsego to combat opioid addiction and alcoholism in the area, with the Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship for the Foodshed program and with Hartwick College for its grain innovation center.
The county board also passed several resolutions during the meeting, including a recognition of recently retired radio host “Big Chuck” D’Imperio.
Other resolutions included:
• Approving the distribution of $50,000 from the Bed Tax to several community organizations.
• Awarding a bid award of $625,000 to Tioga Construction to replace a bridge on county Route 11B. Funding for the bridge is through the state Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program.
• Accepting a $20,315 grant from the New York State Office for the Aging to the Otsego County Office for the Aging to help homeowners build handicap ramps on their property.
• Accepting a $1,531,034 grant from the state Health Department to establish COVID-19 screening and testing within all the school districts in Otsego County. The schools will contract through Health Research, Inc. in Menands from June 1, 2021, through July 31, 2022, for the testing.
Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7221.