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Allowing Youth Hunters Was Right Move For County

Chautauqua County legislators made the right call last week in approving a local law the allows 12- and 13-year-olds to hunt big game with a crossbow, rifle, shotgun or muzzle-loaded firearm when accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or hunting mentor.

Earlier this year the state Legislature created a pilot youth deer program, but counties had to opt into the program.

Three county legislators — Kevin Muldowney, Bill Ward and Bob Whitney — disagreed with the inclusion of rifles in the legislation, though only Whitney ended up voting against the legislation. Shots from a rifle carry further than shots from a shotgun, and young hunters who see a deer while hunting with a rifle may want to take a shot they really shouldn’t.

Muldowney, Ward and Whitney are right to have concerns. Many longtime hunters have issues with the inclusion of rifles, including Post-Journal Outdoor Columnist Craig Robbins, as he discussed in his column on Saturday. We’d have preferred original drafts of the legislation that would have allowed counties to limit the type of weapon youth would use, but that was not the program up for approval by county legislators. And in our view, the youth hunting legislation as a whole makes sense in Chautauqua County, particularly given the county’s proximity to Pennsylvania, which already has mentored youth hunting programs.

In the end whether or not a youth is safe with either a rifle, shotgun or a bow depends on the quality of the instruction they receive from their teachers and hunter safety courses. Chautauqua County is home to some outstanding hunter safety instructors who will teach youth how to hunt safely.

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