Ted Nugent would be proud.
Western New Yorkers of all ages will be able to hunt and kill wild squirrels with shotguns and semi-automatic rifles for sport next Saturday—and it’s all perfectly legal.
The squirrel shoot, titled the “Seventh Annual Hazzard County Squirrel Slam,” is a fund-raiser for the volunteer fire department of Holley, a village of less than 2,000 people just outside of Rochester.
The contest is open to both adults and children ages 14 and under in groups of two and features cash awards for the heaviest individual rodent and a total weight of a scurry of five.
The hunt has alarmed public officials.
“I’ve been very supportive of hunting legislation in Albany, even as a Democrat, but this is just insane in my opinion,” state Sen. Tony Avella said. “Now we have telling young people to go out and shoot as many defenseless animals as possible to win a contest. This is just wrong on so many levels.”
Participants must pay a $10 entry fee to be eligible for the prizes, which include a first place prize of $200 for largest combined weight of carcasses, $100 for second place, $50 for third place, and $50 for the heaviest individual squirrel in both the adult and youth divisions. Contestants are only permitted to kill red and gray squirrels during the day of the shoot and must not soak or pack their bodies to add extra weight.
Aspiring hunters can use a .50 caliber muzzleloader, an AR/22 semiautomatic, a Mossberg 835 shotgun, a Remington 870 12-gage shotgun, or a Henry .22 lever action rifle to subdue their prey, although some guns may be swapped out based on the state’s recent gun legislation banning assault weapons and reducing the size of magazines.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation prohibits hunting of endangered species, most songbirds, and birds of prey but allows riflemen to target an unlimited number of “unprotected” species, including porcupines, red squirrels, woodchucks, English sparrows, starlings, rock pigeons, and monk parakeets. The state also allows hunters to use airguns for squirrel shooting, but they must have a hunting license if they use a bow or firearm.
Avella said he would hold a press conference on Monday with Friends of Animals, an animal welfare group, calling for the immediate cancellation of the event. He is considering proposing legislation preventing hunting contests where the premise is to shoot the most animals.
“This sends the wrong message,” he said. “They just go out and shoot squirrels in the forest and neighborhood.”
Calls made to the Holley Fire Department and several organizers of the event were not returned.