California hunters have an unexpected hurdle to jump for the 2015 season: non-lead ammunition. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) announced in large block letters on page nine of the 2015 Big Game Digest that non-lead ammunition will be required for all hunting on DFW property and for all bighorn sheep hunters beginning this year.
This may come as a shock to those who thought they had until 2019 to phase out lead bullets from their arsenal.
When Governor Jerry Brown signed the lead ammo ban in 2013, it was anticipated that regulations could be in effect as early as 2015 though language in the ban said that officials had until 2019 to phase in the approved measure. While supporters of the ban are happy, early adoption of this ban could negatively impact hunting within the state and cause a major decline in hunter recruitment for future generations.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) recently released a report that summarized the results of an independent survey regarding California hunters and the lead ammo ban. The report found that higher ammunition prices will drive 36 percent of California hunters to stop hunting or reduce their overall participation, according to the report. Furthermore, 13 percent of California hunters said they would stop hunting due to higher ammunition prices, 10 percent were unsure if they would continue to hunt, and 23 percent said they would likely hunt less due to the lead bullet ban.
Not only is non-lead ammunition difficult to find, it’s also pricey. According to the report, non-lead centerfire rounds are anticipated to jump 284 percent, rimfire rounds by 294 percent, and shotshells by 387 percent. Additionally, only 5.3 percent of all centerfire rounds, 0.5 percent of all rimfire rounds and 24 percent of all shotshells are produced within the country. Manufacturers of non-lead ammunition have had to increase production by 432 percent just to meet current demands.
Along with the obvious impacts of the ban illustrated through lower hunter participation and recruitment, the report also documents the economic impact of fewer hunters in the state, which could affect 1,868 jobs and lead to a loss of just under $20 million in state and federal tax revenues.
DFW officials will be taking public comments until April 9, which is the scheduled adoption date of the lead bullet ban. If the regulations are finalized, they will go into effect in July.