April 15, 2013
Non-Toxic Shot: Why I Don't Use Lead In The Uplands
By Phil Bourjaily
In the comments to the 28 gauge Mystique post, HogBlog asked me why it is I shoot non-toxic shot almost exclusively in the uplands. The goose in this picture is a big part of the reason. I was pheasant hunting on a place I often hunt geese and suspected one might fly over too low for its own good. One did. Because I had my waterfowl stamp, and my gun was plugged and loaded with HeviShot and goose season was open, I was able to legally add the goose to the rooster I shot that day, and there is nothing I like better for dinner than goose.
Our waterfowl seasons are open throughout our pheasant season and I don’t want to pass up a chance because I have lead shot in my gun. So, the main reason I shoot non-toxic shot is greed. There is the matter of regulations. One large river bottom public area I hunt is non-toxic only, and there are a lot of pheasants there so I don’t have any choice. One of the best public land pheasant hunts I ever had was on a National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa where lead was banned as well. Shooting either Kent Tungsten-Matrix from my carefully hoarded supply or steel 2s and 3s I don’t feel handicapped by the restriction either.
I did my dove hunting with steel this year because there is evidence of raptors being poisoned after eating birds carrying lead pellets. In fact, user Springerman3 called me from the field one day to say a hawk had stolen a dove he just shot the instant it hit the ground. Lead may not be a danger to raptor populations overall but for me that’s not the point. The birds I kill I want to kill on purpose, not by poisoning them after the shot. However I try not to get preachy on the topic and am grateful to Holly Heyser, who also hunts with non-toxic shot voluntarily, for putting the issue in proper perspective:
As Heyser, a blogger for ShotgunLife.com, points out, the harm we do to birds by walking through fields strewing small amounts of lead around the landscape pales compared to other manmade causes. She doesn’t mention “letting your cat roam free outside” along with cars and windows as a cause of avian mortality, but I will. The fact is all of us, strict vegans included, live at the expense of other creatures whether we kill them deliberately or not.
Even so, shooting non-toxic shot makes me feel better about my impact on the outdoors and it lets me bring home the occasional duck, goose or snipe, so that’s the choice I make.