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Non-Toxic Shot: Why I Don't Use Lead In The Uplands

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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.

Comments (42)

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from clinchknot wrote 1 year 3 days ago

And that is a good reason. I approached the state on that very issue saying I would load with steel for ducks, and they wouldn't buy it. Said if I had a duck in my possession, and lead in my possession they'd give me a ticket. That often happens to me as I jump ducks on the irrigation ditches, and also hunt pheasants, and huns in the nearby fields.

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from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 3 days ago

I used to carry non-toxic in my vest, just in case I wanted to take that Goose shot.....but I was told if I had shot at waterfowl with non-toxic, but still had lead in my vest, that would be illegal.
Not sure why, but they said it was part of the law. The only non-toxic I'm a fan of is Bismuth and Hevi-Shot. If I used them on every hunt, I'd be in the poor house.

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from Anhinga wrote 1 year 3 days ago

Unless, Phil, you are in a designated "non-toxic area", snipe can be legally taken with lead shot. Haverodwilltravl, it is illegal to have lead shot on your person, while waterfowl hunting. We often duck and goose hunt early with steel/non-toxic shotshells, then go in and deposit our waterfowl and non-toxic shot at the truck, to troop the wet rice fields for snipe, rails and pass shoot Sandhill Cranes, segregating our lead shot sizes accordingly. No shooting at ducks or geese though at that time. Personal experience came several years ago when I was checked by state & federal wardens while snipe hunting w/lead after shooting ducks/geese earlier in the day. Ducks and geese were in the cooler in the vehicle. Left all my steel shot in the truck too. Feds were fine with that, but wanted to check the snipe bag to make sure I had no dowitchers - no problem.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 2 days ago

It is certainly something worth thinking about. We certainly seem to have no shortage of raptors these days. I hear they're even going to open up bald eagles to harvesting by native groups. However, lead poisoning is not a nice way to go for any critter! I have seen it first hand and it is a slow, awful way for birds to die. Birds of prey and scavenger birds are the ones most vulnerable. The lead shot they ingest from cleaning up cripples is completely dissolved in their gizzard and then absorbed in their system whereas most mammal scavengers simply pass the pellets through their system rather quickly. They have to keep picking up lead on a regular basis to be affected whereas a single pellet can be terminal for a bird. The spent lead that's scattered in the fields really isn't a terrible big concern, relatively speaking.

I won't pay for expensive hevi-shot type ammo so I stick to shooting steel for geese here before I return to Montana to hunt uplands with lead. I have plenty of opportunities to shoot geese and ducks while pheasant hunting there but really how many geese do I need? I usually have shot at least thirty here before I leave for Montana (possession limit is 25 and I eat several during the season and give a few away). Shooting pheasants with steel is certainly not difficult (required on the federal refuges) but one must step up the velocity even for those light feathered birds. However, one must keep in mind that shooting high velocity shells in typical lightweight upland guns is not a fun combination.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Thanks, Anhinga. I didn't realize that only ducks, geese, swans, brants, and coots fall under the federal toxic shot restrictions. Interesting that cranes are exempt.

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from clinchknot wrote 1 year 2 days ago

BS..far more ducks and geese die from poor performance steel shot than any bird of prey ever thought of dying from lead poisoning. 3 million dead waterfowl has been attributed to poor performance steel shot in ONE YEAR in the USA and Canada. Take lead off the market, and you will see another big drop in upland bird hunting interest.

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from chuckles wrote 1 year 2 days ago

All of my hunting guns and I enjoy a lead free diet.

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from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 2 days ago

I'll take pheasant for dinner over goose every time. Hevishot is still a dollar a shell no matter how you look at it, I'd be in the poor house with haverodwilltravel if I used it too.

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from Michigan Gunner wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Your reasons for using nontox work for you. Me, if I'm hunting geese, I'll shoot steel. If I'm hunting grouse, I'll use lead. I'm hunting grouse, not geese. The little lead I shoot in the uplands isn't going to be the end of the environment. People worry way to much about this.

MG

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from 99explorer wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Good post, Phil. I find your comments very instructive.

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from HogBlog wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Thanks for laying that out there, Phil.

The topic of lead-free ammo can be a real hot-button, but mostly because of the emotional and political baggage that have been attached to the conversation. I think your personal rationale is an excellent approach.

It's true that in the big picture, the use of lead ammo doesn't make much of a difference to the populations of raptors and scavenger birds. At this time, there's no indication of a threat to mammals or other wildlife, and there's absolutely no evidence of toxicity in humans (from metallic lead... the dust and vapors from your primer may be a different question). But on an individual basis, I think it serves us well to at least be aware of our own impacts. And it's never a bad idea to voluntarily take measures to reduce them.

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from springerman3 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Ontario Honker: Amen to the not fun shooting steel out of a light field gun !
clinchknot: I took a CONSEP shooting class last summer, the two things they focus on is how to become a better shot and the misconceptions of shooting steel. Of the dozen folks in the class at least 6 or 7 claimed to be avid waterfowl hunters. Their inability to hit a crossing target at 20 - 30 yards was uncanny to say the least as well as not being able to judge distance accurately. Poor shots shooting at birds too far away make for lots ( millions ? ) of crippled waterfowl, regardless of type of shot ! I did not leave the class a firm believer of steel over lead but at least I got the facts and can make an intelligent choice. As well the reinforcement that most folks don't have a clue and possibly the desire on how to become better at shooting a shotgun.
I gave Phil crap in a dove field last fall about his poor preformance with steel but I was not much better with the lead I was throwing either. Must have been a hex in the field for shooting in general :(

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from springerman3 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Michigan Gunner: Phil claims he can make a goose taste as good as a grouse.. My money says no, what is your perspective ?

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from sarg wrote 1 year 2 days ago

When Phil, mentioned Windows, I thought of the time when as I was walking through a corn field on my way home , I had walked down to the creek to do a little Muskie Fishing. It was the first day of quail season ,I jumped a covey of birds sending them straight to my neighbor's picture window. It killed three birds as they attempted to fly through what they thought was an opening. The dead birds went in the "Fridge' and the next day I finished up making a good mess of quail. I love deer hunting, but nothing will ever replace my love of working a good bird dog.

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from sarg wrote 1 year 2 days ago

springerman3, I agree with you on this one......NO WAY will goose taste as good as grouse,or quail....

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 2 days ago

sarg: Try this recipe

Skin and bone the goose. Cut each half breast into four strips length ways. Bone thighs. Save drumsticks for dog food. Place boned meat in salted water overnight in fridge. Drain. Add to following marinade: 1 cup vegetable oil, 1/3 cup soya sauce, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup ground black pepper, 3 tablespoons Worcester sauce, 3 tablespoons parsley flakes, 1 teaspoon garlic powder (more or less depending on your taste). Soak the meat in that brew in a cold place for a day or two. Oh, and yeah use a glass or plastic bowl. The lemon juice can do a number on some metal bowls. Walk the meat out to the barbecue but don't expect to be able to walk back in the house with it. I usually eat at least half the batch right off the grill. If you don't love eating goose that way, something's wrong with your taste buds. See a doctor.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Oh, for crying out loud! That's supposed to read 1/4 TEASPOON of black pepper not a quarter cup. Just fried my tongue reading that!

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from nehunter92 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

I’m going buck the trend here and say that I use lead shot almost exclusively, mostly due simply to availability and cost issues. I’m breaking the bank every year just to get my tags and licenses, so I really have to careful how I spend my limited income. This means that the increased cost of lead free ammo becomes prohibitive. Most of my shotgun hunting is for Turkey anyhow. Lead free turkey ammo is scarce or practically non-existent in my neck of the woods. I do go after Grouse on occasion, but I doubt that has had any impact on the wildlife in my area since I have never once fired my gun on a Grouse hunt (not having a dog sure does suck). My primary concern in regards to Turkey hunting is what patterns the best out of my shotgun. I want to make my kills as humanely as possible.
This brings up another point about lead free ammo. It has been my experience that lead free rifle ammo does not do the same damage to the target that lead ammo does. I have heard this criticism dismissed at times, but my experiences lead me to believe that lead free ammo simply does not kill as effectively. For some, this can be a positive, damaging less meat and reducing waste. For me however, this was the source of a horrific experience. The one time I did use lead free ammo was on a gray squirrel hunt. Using copper solids, I shot a gray squirrel. I’m not going to go into all of the grisly details. Suffice to say, it took too many shots and too much time to kill that squirrel. The squirrel suffered needlessly, and if I had been using my normal ammo, it would not have. Never again.
That all being said, I understand that for many, using lead free ammo will benefit both them and the environment around them. I applaud those hunters. It shows that they care about non-game animals that share our habitat. In the right situations, lead free ammo is appropriate and a positive. Banning lead ammo however, would do more harm than good. It would push too many hunters out of the market, hunters whose dollars are the primary source for wildlife conservation. It is possible that the lost revenue from drop in participation would override any gains made from such a ban.

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from Tom-Tom wrote 1 year 2 days ago

OH -- Thanks for your receipe and I'll give it a try this fall. My best tactic was to clean two geese and take both to a local bar-b-que/smoker shack and then return the next day and pick up one goose, no charge as the chef preferred to roast his.

Phil, while on a quail hunt as a youth, a lone goose flew over me at treetop height. One shot of #8's at 15yds. dropped it grave yard dead. The setter ran to it, sniffed, and went back to looking for quail. I ended up carrying that goose in my coat for over three hours as we were a long ways from the truck or any road. The rest of our group thought it was hilarious. I thought that goose weighed 20lbs. by the time we got back to the truck. How did you fare with yours?

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from Amflyer wrote 1 year 2 days ago

First time I ever "cooked" goose:

Game feed. My early 20's. Lots of pheasants, one old snow in the freezer. Several containers of high-test suds in the beer fridge.

It was a very good year for pheasants in IA and Nebraska, and we were bent on cleaning out the freezers.

We breaded and fried pheasant tenderloin, nuggets, breasts, breast strips, tenderloin strips, tender-breast-loins, etc. until we were tired of doing so and our tongues were starting to get numb. With the trashcan full of empties, we came to the snowgoose thawing in the sink. It made perfect sense then to cook it slowly in the over until done. We figured two or three hours at 450 degrees Fahrenheit should be just about right.

Everyone knows that geese have a lot of fat, so no additional stock, broth or flavoring would be needed in the uncovered pan, right?

After the guests arrived and more empties were made and everyone was picking the lead shot out of their teeth, telling stories and such, we remembered the goose in the oven.

When the smoke cleared, we eventually used it to resole my friend's hunting boots. Good times.

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from springerman3 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Ontario Honker,
I look forward to trying this recipe should Phil give a goose. But I really do like fresh ground black pepper !! What adult refreshment compliments this best ?
nehunter92, I use lead all the time as well, reload tatget loads which double as grouse, quail & dove loads. Franchi s/s get those, the steel I shot at the class I used an 1187 ( still felt more recoil that normal ):(
Sarg: Thanks for the support :)

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Nehunter: You can't simply switch from lead to steel without compensating. First, you have to kick up the shot a size or two. For example, formerly with lead I would shoot northern mallards with #4 shot magnum loads. If you tried the same loads in steel you would be doing worse than throwing your money in the trash can. Shooting northern mallards with steel requires #2 shot and 1500 fps speed which means the payload will be quite a bit less than the lead magnum loads I used in the old days. Which just means I have to be a better shot with steel.

So, if you wanted to try shooting turkeys with steel I would suggest that you bump up to at least #6 shot and again crank up the velocity as much as possible. Steel will give you a tighter pattern but not the same range as lead unless you compensate by adding more velocity. To compensate for the loss in payload to attain the necessary speed I might suggest bumping up the length of the shell (to 3.5" maybe if you're usually using 3" mags). Be aware that all this adjustment is not going to be accomplished without a price and I'm not talking about at the ammo store either (price of steel shells is fairly competitive these days). Your shoulder will pay the price for sure. However, if that's an issue (and I can't see how it should be since turkeys are pretty much a one shot deal), then upgrade to a more comfortable shooting gun (a heavier gas-operated automatic).

One advantage typical turkey hunting with steel has over waterfowl or even uplands is that the target is specifically a bald head brain shot. It won't take much power for even steel shot to penetrate and kill that target. Range and pattern density seem to be the primary concern for turkeys and I think those issues could be easily overcome by adjusting the velocity, shell length, and choke. Probably more easily overcome shooting turkeys than geese and I seemed to be able to make the adjustment for latter fairly easily.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Springerman: I usually only drink light beer (Canadian stuff gives me a headache even though I love it) and never keep any around the house (too damned expensive up here). Goose meat, even when it tastes fantastic like this stuff does right off the grill, is quite rich so be aware that it might not seem to agree with you that well. My gut always grumbles like hell after I eat it the stuff but no other ill effects. No Hershey squirts or smelly gas. But you might not be welcome in a movie theater unless it's a noisy action packed flick. I might suggest the latest GI Joe movie except that it sucked horribly. Lots of noise though.

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from aferraro wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Do you buy your own ammo?

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from micko77 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

My 2 cents: I hunted squirrel, quail, cottontails and pheasant with lead 6's and 4's back in the 1980's, and had the requisite stamps for waterfowl. I would check the ponds and creeks for geese, mallards and wood ducks first, then hit the brush and timber. When steel shot became the rule, I simply stopped taking waterfowl; it wasn't worth the hassle and money to me. As an aside or two, large portions of California are now lead-free by law for their condors, and soon the entire state will be, even for non-hunting shooting as I understand it. I wonder how many condors get minced in the precious wind-powered generators? I know the one down the road from me in IL is littered with carcasses and feathers of all types.

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from micko77 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

My 2 cents: I hunted squirrel, quail, cottontails and pheasant with lead 6's and 4's back in the 1980's, and had the requisite stamps for waterfowl. I would check the ponds and creeks for geese, mallards and wood ducks first, then hit the brush and timber. When steel shot became the rule, I simply stopped taking waterfowl; it wasn't worth the hassle and money to me. As an aside or two, large portions of California are now lead-free by law for their condors, and soon the entire state will be, even for non-hunting shooting as I understand it. I wonder how many condors get minced in the precious wind-powered generators? I know the one down the road from me in IL is littered with carcasses and feathers of all types.

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from TED FORD wrote 1 year 1 day ago

Helluva nice photograph,Phil.
Well stated.Kent Matrix is the best load since lead that I have ever used on ducks.
28 Gauges are too magic,oh yes they are!

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from nehunter92 wrote 1 year 1 day ago

Ontario Honker: First and admission, and then a response. My admission is this; upon further research it appears that the “lead free ammo” I mentioned in the squirrel incident was not actually lead free at all, but run of the mill copper plated solids (note to self, don’t use copper plated solids). Sorry for the bum info guys.
In regards to the glorious pursuit of Turkey hunting, I am already using number six shot, which is the smallest shot (highest number) legally allowed in NH. I am also already using 3.5 inch shells. The reason is the pattern. My Mossberg 535 patterns the best with 3.5 in shells loaded with no. 6 shot. One strange observation I have made is that lower velocities actually give me a better pattern. Too fast, and the group tends to hit high. As the 535 weighs next to nothing, my shoulder and I (and may nose on occasion) are fully aware of the ungodly horror that is 3.5 mag recoil. You are right to say that this is not much of an issue on the hunt, but it definitely takes a toll during my yearly patterning/cleaning ritual. I agree that “knockdown power” is not essential to turkey hunting so much as getting a good pattern. This is why I stick to those 3.5s even though they hurt on occasion, my gun likes them. I did try using 3”s, but the patterning was inconsistent.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about waterfowl hunting. I have never hunted a single duck or goose in my entire life. I don’t question the wisdom of lead free shot regulations in those environments. It makes sense to me that non-toxic shot is not allowed in the wetlands, but even if it didn’t I would not have much of a right to question is as I don’t have ground to stand on in that regard.

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from Michigan Gunner wrote 1 year 1 day ago

Ruffed Grouse is probably the very best meal you can have with game birds. Pheasants are almost as good.

MG

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from Sten wrote 1 year 1 day ago

I hunt a mixed bag of ptarmigan, snipe and teals. Snipe and teals require non-tox but ptarmigan do not. I used to use lead shot primarily since ptarmigan was my main target and swap shells if I suspected my birddog was pointing one of the other two species. However, one day I ran out of lead shells and started to shoot ptarmigan with #6 steel. The birds did not die as quickly as with lead but it was more than capable of taking them down. This season I am considering going only with non-tox, either #6 or #4 for all of these species. However, those long shots on ptarmigan might be no more.

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from springerman3 wrote 1 year 1 day ago

MG You are absolutely correct !!
nehunter92 try a 2 3/4 oz loads say in # 4 or # 5 shot you may be surprised at the performance. I have harvested several turkeys with a 1 oz # 6 out of a 20 gauge. Keep your shots under 30 yards and you will have good success

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from springerman3 wrote 1 year 1 day ago

OH I have been trying several amber beers of late, I am confident they will compliment the taste of goose.
Thanks !

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from RandyMI wrote 1 year 1 day ago

As a young, new hunter in the early 60's one of my favorite things was the mixed bags of small game so widely available back then. Us young guys used to debate whether to hunt with our .22's and focus mostly on squirrels & cottontails OR carry a shotgun & include the ruffed grouse, occasional quail or pheasant. There were also puddle ducks on the scattered potholes & ponds in our territory. I usually took the 12 ga. J. C. Higgins pump and once I learned to get on those grouse seldom took the rifles anymore. Our biggest challenge was getting enough shells! Peters High Velocity were my favorites.

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from wwwmm123 wrote 1 year 1 day ago
from Anhinga wrote 1 year 1 day ago

Sten: Snipe are not classified as waterfowl and can be taken with lead shot.

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from Birdnutt wrote 1 year 22 hours ago

Consumption of lead is not a good thing for man or bird. So I do all my upland hunting with steel or other non-toxic shot. Steel 7's work fine on doves and pointed game farm birds, including pheasants, out to 30 yards or so, with a skeet choke. You get over 400 pellets! Maybe the dog gets a challenging retrieve sometimes, but that is her fun! Move up to IC choke and up in shot size for wild birds.

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from Sten wrote 51 weeks 6 days ago

Anhinga,
Snipe may be allowed with non-tox where you live, but not where I live.
Sten

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from Bioguy01 wrote 51 weeks 6 days ago

I'm calling BS on anybody who pulls the "it's too expensive to switch" card. As sportsmen, ammo is literally one of the least expensive things we buy to hunt. The same person who complains about the price of ammo will buy $200 worth of "scent protecting" clothing and sprays that don't work, but they won't buy a $40 box of ammo that kills the crap out of anything it hits and does so with deadly accuracy at insanely long ranges. Or they'll gladly spend an equal amount on 2 pizzas and a case of beer. Go figure. Are the raptors and other scavenging birds that are being affected by lead ammo worth 2 pizza's and a case of beer? I guess it's a matter of opinion, but I think they are.

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from wisc14 wrote 51 weeks 5 days ago

i agree bioguy

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from JackM wrote 51 weeks 4 days ago

I never bought into the reasons the enviromental/anti hunting whackjobs cited, just so they could force non-toxic shot on waterfowl hunters.

I think we let them sneak one by us; very much like now, they're pretending global warming is real and so dangerous, our quality of life must go down, and our taxes must go up.

The global warming thing being on a much larger scale, of course.

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from micko77 wrote 51 weeks 2 days ago

Incrementalism at work; making what someone wants discontinued by "nudging", bit by bit. First, the State permits; then the Fed stamps; the magazine capacity limitations on migratory birds; the non-lead shot on migratory birds; the social and expectations of using the "correct" ammunition (with questionable regard to cost or effectiveness); and what next? At the same time, other "politically correct" things put to use that have a great impact on the very thing that was the supposed issue in the first place. As I was not an avid waterfowler, I simply chose not to participate after my particular straw on the back. Your results may vary.

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from JackM wrote 51 weeks 2 days ago

There was a bunch of whack-jobs in Massachusetts who once said, deer wounded by a lead slug and not recovered by the hunter, would be eaten by Bald Eagles, who would then ingest the lead slug and die. And since Bald Eagles are a protected species, hunting with lead projectiles should be outlawed.

There's nothing they won't try.

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from Michigan Gunner wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Your reasons for using nontox work for you. Me, if I'm hunting geese, I'll shoot steel. If I'm hunting grouse, I'll use lead. I'm hunting grouse, not geese. The little lead I shoot in the uplands isn't going to be the end of the environment. People worry way to much about this.

MG

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 2 days ago

sarg: Try this recipe

Skin and bone the goose. Cut each half breast into four strips length ways. Bone thighs. Save drumsticks for dog food. Place boned meat in salted water overnight in fridge. Drain. Add to following marinade: 1 cup vegetable oil, 1/3 cup soya sauce, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup ground black pepper, 3 tablespoons Worcester sauce, 3 tablespoons parsley flakes, 1 teaspoon garlic powder (more or less depending on your taste). Soak the meat in that brew in a cold place for a day or two. Oh, and yeah use a glass or plastic bowl. The lemon juice can do a number on some metal bowls. Walk the meat out to the barbecue but don't expect to be able to walk back in the house with it. I usually eat at least half the batch right off the grill. If you don't love eating goose that way, something's wrong with your taste buds. See a doctor.

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from JackM wrote 51 weeks 4 days ago

I never bought into the reasons the enviromental/anti hunting whackjobs cited, just so they could force non-toxic shot on waterfowl hunters.

I think we let them sneak one by us; very much like now, they're pretending global warming is real and so dangerous, our quality of life must go down, and our taxes must go up.

The global warming thing being on a much larger scale, of course.

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from clinchknot wrote 1 year 3 days ago

And that is a good reason. I approached the state on that very issue saying I would load with steel for ducks, and they wouldn't buy it. Said if I had a duck in my possession, and lead in my possession they'd give me a ticket. That often happens to me as I jump ducks on the irrigation ditches, and also hunt pheasants, and huns in the nearby fields.

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from haverodwilltravel wrote 1 year 3 days ago

I used to carry non-toxic in my vest, just in case I wanted to take that Goose shot.....but I was told if I had shot at waterfowl with non-toxic, but still had lead in my vest, that would be illegal.
Not sure why, but they said it was part of the law. The only non-toxic I'm a fan of is Bismuth and Hevi-Shot. If I used them on every hunt, I'd be in the poor house.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 2 days ago

It is certainly something worth thinking about. We certainly seem to have no shortage of raptors these days. I hear they're even going to open up bald eagles to harvesting by native groups. However, lead poisoning is not a nice way to go for any critter! I have seen it first hand and it is a slow, awful way for birds to die. Birds of prey and scavenger birds are the ones most vulnerable. The lead shot they ingest from cleaning up cripples is completely dissolved in their gizzard and then absorbed in their system whereas most mammal scavengers simply pass the pellets through their system rather quickly. They have to keep picking up lead on a regular basis to be affected whereas a single pellet can be terminal for a bird. The spent lead that's scattered in the fields really isn't a terrible big concern, relatively speaking.

I won't pay for expensive hevi-shot type ammo so I stick to shooting steel for geese here before I return to Montana to hunt uplands with lead. I have plenty of opportunities to shoot geese and ducks while pheasant hunting there but really how many geese do I need? I usually have shot at least thirty here before I leave for Montana (possession limit is 25 and I eat several during the season and give a few away). Shooting pheasants with steel is certainly not difficult (required on the federal refuges) but one must step up the velocity even for those light feathered birds. However, one must keep in mind that shooting high velocity shells in typical lightweight upland guns is not a fun combination.

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from springerman3 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Michigan Gunner: Phil claims he can make a goose taste as good as a grouse.. My money says no, what is your perspective ?

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from sarg wrote 1 year 2 days ago

springerman3, I agree with you on this one......NO WAY will goose taste as good as grouse,or quail....

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from Tom-Tom wrote 1 year 2 days ago

OH -- Thanks for your receipe and I'll give it a try this fall. My best tactic was to clean two geese and take both to a local bar-b-que/smoker shack and then return the next day and pick up one goose, no charge as the chef preferred to roast his.

Phil, while on a quail hunt as a youth, a lone goose flew over me at treetop height. One shot of #8's at 15yds. dropped it grave yard dead. The setter ran to it, sniffed, and went back to looking for quail. I ended up carrying that goose in my coat for over three hours as we were a long ways from the truck or any road. The rest of our group thought it was hilarious. I thought that goose weighed 20lbs. by the time we got back to the truck. How did you fare with yours?

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from Amflyer wrote 1 year 2 days ago

First time I ever "cooked" goose:

Game feed. My early 20's. Lots of pheasants, one old snow in the freezer. Several containers of high-test suds in the beer fridge.

It was a very good year for pheasants in IA and Nebraska, and we were bent on cleaning out the freezers.

We breaded and fried pheasant tenderloin, nuggets, breasts, breast strips, tenderloin strips, tender-breast-loins, etc. until we were tired of doing so and our tongues were starting to get numb. With the trashcan full of empties, we came to the snowgoose thawing in the sink. It made perfect sense then to cook it slowly in the over until done. We figured two or three hours at 450 degrees Fahrenheit should be just about right.

Everyone knows that geese have a lot of fat, so no additional stock, broth or flavoring would be needed in the uncovered pan, right?

After the guests arrived and more empties were made and everyone was picking the lead shot out of their teeth, telling stories and such, we remembered the goose in the oven.

When the smoke cleared, we eventually used it to resole my friend's hunting boots. Good times.

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from micko77 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

My 2 cents: I hunted squirrel, quail, cottontails and pheasant with lead 6's and 4's back in the 1980's, and had the requisite stamps for waterfowl. I would check the ponds and creeks for geese, mallards and wood ducks first, then hit the brush and timber. When steel shot became the rule, I simply stopped taking waterfowl; it wasn't worth the hassle and money to me. As an aside or two, large portions of California are now lead-free by law for their condors, and soon the entire state will be, even for non-hunting shooting as I understand it. I wonder how many condors get minced in the precious wind-powered generators? I know the one down the road from me in IL is littered with carcasses and feathers of all types.

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from Anhinga wrote 1 year 3 days ago

Unless, Phil, you are in a designated "non-toxic area", snipe can be legally taken with lead shot. Haverodwilltravl, it is illegal to have lead shot on your person, while waterfowl hunting. We often duck and goose hunt early with steel/non-toxic shotshells, then go in and deposit our waterfowl and non-toxic shot at the truck, to troop the wet rice fields for snipe, rails and pass shoot Sandhill Cranes, segregating our lead shot sizes accordingly. No shooting at ducks or geese though at that time. Personal experience came several years ago when I was checked by state & federal wardens while snipe hunting w/lead after shooting ducks/geese earlier in the day. Ducks and geese were in the cooler in the vehicle. Left all my steel shot in the truck too. Feds were fine with that, but wanted to check the snipe bag to make sure I had no dowitchers - no problem.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Thanks, Anhinga. I didn't realize that only ducks, geese, swans, brants, and coots fall under the federal toxic shot restrictions. Interesting that cranes are exempt.

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from clinchknot wrote 1 year 2 days ago

BS..far more ducks and geese die from poor performance steel shot than any bird of prey ever thought of dying from lead poisoning. 3 million dead waterfowl has been attributed to poor performance steel shot in ONE YEAR in the USA and Canada. Take lead off the market, and you will see another big drop in upland bird hunting interest.

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from chuckles wrote 1 year 2 days ago

All of my hunting guns and I enjoy a lead free diet.

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from Tim Platt wrote 1 year 2 days ago

I'll take pheasant for dinner over goose every time. Hevishot is still a dollar a shell no matter how you look at it, I'd be in the poor house with haverodwilltravel if I used it too.

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from 99explorer wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Good post, Phil. I find your comments very instructive.

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from HogBlog wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Thanks for laying that out there, Phil.

The topic of lead-free ammo can be a real hot-button, but mostly because of the emotional and political baggage that have been attached to the conversation. I think your personal rationale is an excellent approach.

It's true that in the big picture, the use of lead ammo doesn't make much of a difference to the populations of raptors and scavenger birds. At this time, there's no indication of a threat to mammals or other wildlife, and there's absolutely no evidence of toxicity in humans (from metallic lead... the dust and vapors from your primer may be a different question). But on an individual basis, I think it serves us well to at least be aware of our own impacts. And it's never a bad idea to voluntarily take measures to reduce them.

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from springerman3 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Ontario Honker: Amen to the not fun shooting steel out of a light field gun !
clinchknot: I took a CONSEP shooting class last summer, the two things they focus on is how to become a better shot and the misconceptions of shooting steel. Of the dozen folks in the class at least 6 or 7 claimed to be avid waterfowl hunters. Their inability to hit a crossing target at 20 - 30 yards was uncanny to say the least as well as not being able to judge distance accurately. Poor shots shooting at birds too far away make for lots ( millions ? ) of crippled waterfowl, regardless of type of shot ! I did not leave the class a firm believer of steel over lead but at least I got the facts and can make an intelligent choice. As well the reinforcement that most folks don't have a clue and possibly the desire on how to become better at shooting a shotgun.
I gave Phil crap in a dove field last fall about his poor preformance with steel but I was not much better with the lead I was throwing either. Must have been a hex in the field for shooting in general :(

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from sarg wrote 1 year 2 days ago

When Phil, mentioned Windows, I thought of the time when as I was walking through a corn field on my way home , I had walked down to the creek to do a little Muskie Fishing. It was the first day of quail season ,I jumped a covey of birds sending them straight to my neighbor's picture window. It killed three birds as they attempted to fly through what they thought was an opening. The dead birds went in the "Fridge' and the next day I finished up making a good mess of quail. I love deer hunting, but nothing will ever replace my love of working a good bird dog.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Oh, for crying out loud! That's supposed to read 1/4 TEASPOON of black pepper not a quarter cup. Just fried my tongue reading that!

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from nehunter92 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

I’m going buck the trend here and say that I use lead shot almost exclusively, mostly due simply to availability and cost issues. I’m breaking the bank every year just to get my tags and licenses, so I really have to careful how I spend my limited income. This means that the increased cost of lead free ammo becomes prohibitive. Most of my shotgun hunting is for Turkey anyhow. Lead free turkey ammo is scarce or practically non-existent in my neck of the woods. I do go after Grouse on occasion, but I doubt that has had any impact on the wildlife in my area since I have never once fired my gun on a Grouse hunt (not having a dog sure does suck). My primary concern in regards to Turkey hunting is what patterns the best out of my shotgun. I want to make my kills as humanely as possible.
This brings up another point about lead free ammo. It has been my experience that lead free rifle ammo does not do the same damage to the target that lead ammo does. I have heard this criticism dismissed at times, but my experiences lead me to believe that lead free ammo simply does not kill as effectively. For some, this can be a positive, damaging less meat and reducing waste. For me however, this was the source of a horrific experience. The one time I did use lead free ammo was on a gray squirrel hunt. Using copper solids, I shot a gray squirrel. I’m not going to go into all of the grisly details. Suffice to say, it took too many shots and too much time to kill that squirrel. The squirrel suffered needlessly, and if I had been using my normal ammo, it would not have. Never again.
That all being said, I understand that for many, using lead free ammo will benefit both them and the environment around them. I applaud those hunters. It shows that they care about non-game animals that share our habitat. In the right situations, lead free ammo is appropriate and a positive. Banning lead ammo however, would do more harm than good. It would push too many hunters out of the market, hunters whose dollars are the primary source for wildlife conservation. It is possible that the lost revenue from drop in participation would override any gains made from such a ban.

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from springerman3 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Ontario Honker,
I look forward to trying this recipe should Phil give a goose. But I really do like fresh ground black pepper !! What adult refreshment compliments this best ?
nehunter92, I use lead all the time as well, reload tatget loads which double as grouse, quail & dove loads. Franchi s/s get those, the steel I shot at the class I used an 1187 ( still felt more recoil that normal ):(
Sarg: Thanks for the support :)

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Nehunter: You can't simply switch from lead to steel without compensating. First, you have to kick up the shot a size or two. For example, formerly with lead I would shoot northern mallards with #4 shot magnum loads. If you tried the same loads in steel you would be doing worse than throwing your money in the trash can. Shooting northern mallards with steel requires #2 shot and 1500 fps speed which means the payload will be quite a bit less than the lead magnum loads I used in the old days. Which just means I have to be a better shot with steel.

So, if you wanted to try shooting turkeys with steel I would suggest that you bump up to at least #6 shot and again crank up the velocity as much as possible. Steel will give you a tighter pattern but not the same range as lead unless you compensate by adding more velocity. To compensate for the loss in payload to attain the necessary speed I might suggest bumping up the length of the shell (to 3.5" maybe if you're usually using 3" mags). Be aware that all this adjustment is not going to be accomplished without a price and I'm not talking about at the ammo store either (price of steel shells is fairly competitive these days). Your shoulder will pay the price for sure. However, if that's an issue (and I can't see how it should be since turkeys are pretty much a one shot deal), then upgrade to a more comfortable shooting gun (a heavier gas-operated automatic).

One advantage typical turkey hunting with steel has over waterfowl or even uplands is that the target is specifically a bald head brain shot. It won't take much power for even steel shot to penetrate and kill that target. Range and pattern density seem to be the primary concern for turkeys and I think those issues could be easily overcome by adjusting the velocity, shell length, and choke. Probably more easily overcome shooting turkeys than geese and I seemed to be able to make the adjustment for latter fairly easily.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Springerman: I usually only drink light beer (Canadian stuff gives me a headache even though I love it) and never keep any around the house (too damned expensive up here). Goose meat, even when it tastes fantastic like this stuff does right off the grill, is quite rich so be aware that it might not seem to agree with you that well. My gut always grumbles like hell after I eat it the stuff but no other ill effects. No Hershey squirts or smelly gas. But you might not be welcome in a movie theater unless it's a noisy action packed flick. I might suggest the latest GI Joe movie except that it sucked horribly. Lots of noise though.

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from micko77 wrote 1 year 2 days ago

My 2 cents: I hunted squirrel, quail, cottontails and pheasant with lead 6's and 4's back in the 1980's, and had the requisite stamps for waterfowl. I would check the ponds and creeks for geese, mallards and wood ducks first, then hit the brush and timber. When steel shot became the rule, I simply stopped taking waterfowl; it wasn't worth the hassle and money to me. As an aside or two, large portions of California are now lead-free by law for their condors, and soon the entire state will be, even for non-hunting shooting as I understand it. I wonder how many condors get minced in the precious wind-powered generators? I know the one down the road from me in IL is littered with carcasses and feathers of all types.

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from TED FORD wrote 1 year 1 day ago

Helluva nice photograph,Phil.
Well stated.Kent Matrix is the best load since lead that I have ever used on ducks.
28 Gauges are too magic,oh yes they are!

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from nehunter92 wrote 1 year 1 day ago

Ontario Honker: First and admission, and then a response. My admission is this; upon further research it appears that the “lead free ammo” I mentioned in the squirrel incident was not actually lead free at all, but run of the mill copper plated solids (note to self, don’t use copper plated solids). Sorry for the bum info guys.
In regards to the glorious pursuit of Turkey hunting, I am already using number six shot, which is the smallest shot (highest number) legally allowed in NH. I am also already using 3.5 inch shells. The reason is the pattern. My Mossberg 535 patterns the best with 3.5 in shells loaded with no. 6 shot. One strange observation I have made is that lower velocities actually give me a better pattern. Too fast, and the group tends to hit high. As the 535 weighs next to nothing, my shoulder and I (and may nose on occasion) are fully aware of the ungodly horror that is 3.5 mag recoil. You are right to say that this is not much of an issue on the hunt, but it definitely takes a toll during my yearly patterning/cleaning ritual. I agree that “knockdown power” is not essential to turkey hunting so much as getting a good pattern. This is why I stick to those 3.5s even though they hurt on occasion, my gun likes them. I did try using 3”s, but the patterning was inconsistent.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about waterfowl hunting. I have never hunted a single duck or goose in my entire life. I don’t question the wisdom of lead free shot regulations in those environments. It makes sense to me that non-toxic shot is not allowed in the wetlands, but even if it didn’t I would not have much of a right to question is as I don’t have ground to stand on in that regard.

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from Michigan Gunner wrote 1 year 1 day ago

Ruffed Grouse is probably the very best meal you can have with game birds. Pheasants are almost as good.

MG

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from Sten wrote 1 year 1 day ago

I hunt a mixed bag of ptarmigan, snipe and teals. Snipe and teals require non-tox but ptarmigan do not. I used to use lead shot primarily since ptarmigan was my main target and swap shells if I suspected my birddog was pointing one of the other two species. However, one day I ran out of lead shells and started to shoot ptarmigan with #6 steel. The birds did not die as quickly as with lead but it was more than capable of taking them down. This season I am considering going only with non-tox, either #6 or #4 for all of these species. However, those long shots on ptarmigan might be no more.

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from springerman3 wrote 1 year 1 day ago

MG You are absolutely correct !!
nehunter92 try a 2 3/4 oz loads say in # 4 or # 5 shot you may be surprised at the performance. I have harvested several turkeys with a 1 oz # 6 out of a 20 gauge. Keep your shots under 30 yards and you will have good success

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from springerman3 wrote 1 year 1 day ago

OH I have been trying several amber beers of late, I am confident they will compliment the taste of goose.
Thanks !

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from RandyMI wrote 1 year 1 day ago

As a young, new hunter in the early 60's one of my favorite things was the mixed bags of small game so widely available back then. Us young guys used to debate whether to hunt with our .22's and focus mostly on squirrels & cottontails OR carry a shotgun & include the ruffed grouse, occasional quail or pheasant. There were also puddle ducks on the scattered potholes & ponds in our territory. I usually took the 12 ga. J. C. Higgins pump and once I learned to get on those grouse seldom took the rifles anymore. Our biggest challenge was getting enough shells! Peters High Velocity were my favorites.

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from wwwmm123 wrote 1 year 1 day ago
from Anhinga wrote 1 year 1 day ago

Sten: Snipe are not classified as waterfowl and can be taken with lead shot.

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from Birdnutt wrote 1 year 22 hours ago

Consumption of lead is not a good thing for man or bird. So I do all my upland hunting with steel or other non-toxic shot. Steel 7's work fine on doves and pointed game farm birds, including pheasants, out to 30 yards or so, with a skeet choke. You get over 400 pellets! Maybe the dog gets a challenging retrieve sometimes, but that is her fun! Move up to IC choke and up in shot size for wild birds.

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from Sten wrote 51 weeks 6 days ago

Anhinga,
Snipe may be allowed with non-tox where you live, but not where I live.
Sten

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from Bioguy01 wrote 51 weeks 6 days ago

I'm calling BS on anybody who pulls the "it's too expensive to switch" card. As sportsmen, ammo is literally one of the least expensive things we buy to hunt. The same person who complains about the price of ammo will buy $200 worth of "scent protecting" clothing and sprays that don't work, but they won't buy a $40 box of ammo that kills the crap out of anything it hits and does so with deadly accuracy at insanely long ranges. Or they'll gladly spend an equal amount on 2 pizzas and a case of beer. Go figure. Are the raptors and other scavenging birds that are being affected by lead ammo worth 2 pizza's and a case of beer? I guess it's a matter of opinion, but I think they are.

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from wisc14 wrote 51 weeks 5 days ago

i agree bioguy

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from micko77 wrote 51 weeks 2 days ago

Incrementalism at work; making what someone wants discontinued by "nudging", bit by bit. First, the State permits; then the Fed stamps; the magazine capacity limitations on migratory birds; the non-lead shot on migratory birds; the social and expectations of using the "correct" ammunition (with questionable regard to cost or effectiveness); and what next? At the same time, other "politically correct" things put to use that have a great impact on the very thing that was the supposed issue in the first place. As I was not an avid waterfowler, I simply chose not to participate after my particular straw on the back. Your results may vary.

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from JackM wrote 51 weeks 2 days ago

There was a bunch of whack-jobs in Massachusetts who once said, deer wounded by a lead slug and not recovered by the hunter, would be eaten by Bald Eagles, who would then ingest the lead slug and die. And since Bald Eagles are a protected species, hunting with lead projectiles should be outlawed.

There's nothing they won't try.

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from aferraro wrote 1 year 2 days ago

Do you buy your own ammo?

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