In 2022, young hunters from New York successfully killed more than 1,800 deer.

The New York State Department of Conservation has released results from the second year of a pilot program that allows 12- and 13-year-old hunters, under the guidance of instructors, to hunt deer with firearms or crossbows.

More than 9,400 12- and 13-year-old hunters eligible to hunt deer under the pilot program submitted more than 1,800 deer catch reports for the 2022 fall hunting season, according to DEC.

In 2022, young hunters from New York successfully killed more than 1,800 deer.

The DEC survey found that 82 percent of young hunters were moderately or very satisfied with their big game hunting experience. Young hunters are also the safest group: in the first two years of the pilot program, there were no incidents, violations or license revocations involving 12- and 13-year-old hunters.

The Youth Hunt pilot program began in 2021 and allows 12- and 13-year-olds to hunt deer with an experienced adult guide in all but two of New York’s counties that took part. DEC recommends that the program be made permanent, bringing New York into line with other states.

DEC said the pilot program added to the state’s conservation fund and set reindeer management goals. It also helped to better understand the long-standing hunting tradition, which many hunters fear is disappearing as fewer families hunt together than in the past.

“I think in today’s world, kids and even parents forget how important it is to go back to your roots,” says Nikki Davy of Thruxton. “Every child should be in the fresh air, regardless of their position.”

Davi founded the Little Tags Foundation in 2020 in memory of her brother Nate Bush, an avid hunter who died in a car accident. The nonprofit has issued 67 lifetime hunting licenses to local young hunters to date, and Davy hopes to expand to other states.

In 2022, young hunters from New York successfully killed more than 1,800 deer.

Braden Metcalf, 12, of DeRuyter, is shown here in 2020 with his first deer, an eight-pointer he shot in the first year of a three-year DEC pilot program allowing 12-13-year-old mentored young hunters to hunt deer. with a firearm or crossbow.

Braden Metcalfe, a 15-year-old from DeRuyter, hunted with his family in the first year of the Youth Hunt Pilot Program, catching both a doe and an eight-point deer on opening day.

“Just hanging out with my parents and family is fun,” said Metcalfe, who has been hunting with his family since he was five years old. By next fall, he’ll be officially out of the youth category, which means “a lot more outings,” he joked.

“I wish I was five again,” Metcalfe said. “I’m still driving [deer]. I have to drive a car until I am 50 years old. But I like walking in the woods.”

In 2022, young hunters from New York successfully killed more than 1,800 deer.

Zahara Petrella, 15, scored this eight-pointer, her first goal, in 2021.

Zahara Petrella, 17, is another young veteran hunter who looks forward to the opening day of the hunting season with the excitement usually associated with birthdays and Christmas.

“It’s really just a big fun family day, whether we get anything or not,” Petrella said. “Hunting has been in my family on both sides for a very long time.”

On opening day, the large Petrella family gathers before sunrise to have breakfast together, and then they spend the rest of the day hunting on their Homer property, which they have developed over the years with a system of shutters and trees. If one of them shoots a deer, then everyone lends a hand, pulling it out of the forest, hanging it, and later processing the carcass.

Last season, Petrella’s brother participated in the youth hunt and was the only one in the family who got a deer. But Zahara does not mind that her younger brother showed her.

“There’s the community that comes with your family in everything and the enjoyment of that,” Petrella said, “and the respect that comes from that.”

Steve Featherstone lighting outdoors for The Post-Standard. And Contact him at [email protected] or on twitter @featheroutdoors. You can also follow all of our outdoor content at or follow us on Facebook at

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