Bourjaily: Should Non-Toxic Shot Be Mandatory for Doves?

Texas Parks and Wildlife is conducting its own study of non-toxic shot for dove hunting. It seems pretty obvious to me that given the number of people hunting doves times the number of shells fired times the number of small pellets per shell, that dove hunters are depositing a lot of shot on the ground. Moreover, most dove hunting takes place on managed fields, so the same relatively small area gets dosed with pellets every year. Is it a problem? That's one of the questions the Texas survey hopes to answer.

In the study, trained observers will watch hunters, count shots and cripples, range birds, perform autopsies and ultimately study doves for signs of lead poisoning. Besides learning more about lead poisoning in doves, we're going to learn lots of interesting ballistic stuff: what chokes and loads work best, what are the crippling and retrieval rates among dove hunters and so on and on.

Already several public areas in other states -- mostly managed fields on National Wildlife Refuges or wetland areas -- are mandated non-toxic for doves. I have never hunted a spot where non-toxic shot is required, but out of curiosity I have shot steel 7s at doves just to see what would happen. And in my unscientific survey, what happens is the dove falls out of the sky and you add it to the pile at your feet. Later, you bite the hard steel pellet at the dinner table and curse.

I am neither afraid of having to shoot non-toxic shot at doves (the shells work and all my guns are steel-friendly) nor am I 100% convinced no-tox is necessary, so I will be keeping an open mind and following this Texas survey with considerable interest.