Is a ban on lead shot for dove hunting on the horizon?
And if they do how does steel shot and other nontoxic shot compare in the performance department?
Ammunition makers have since made some serious performance tweaks to nontoxic loads and expanded the list of alternative shot types to more than a dozen, some selling at per box prices comparable to lead. Even so, the perception still exists among many hunters that nontoxic shot doesn’t perform as well as lead.
TPWD researchers say gathering data to help put those ideas to rest was a primary focus of a two-year study conducted in 2008-09 comparing the lethality of lead shot and nontoxic shot for hunting doves.
TPWD reports say the study — conducted in Brown, Coleman and McCulloch counties — resulted in more than 5,000 shots fired by 53 hunters and the harvest of 1,100 mourning dove using three different loads at varied distances. Officials say the results showed no significant difference in harvest efficiencies between the loads tested. You can read the study in full at http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/game_management/dove_summary/.
The study wasn’t cheap to carry out. It cost $500,000, paid for using revenue from sales of Migratory Game Bird and Texas White-winged Dove stamps.
TPWD took some heat over that. Some in opposition contend the money would have been better spent conducting a large scale lead ingestion study on doves and other birds trapped on Texas dove fields that have been heavily hunted for years as opposed to funding research to determine what everybody already knew – that you can readily kill doves with a scattergun packed the nontoxic loads.
TPWD insists the results of the study answered some questions that needed answering.
“Our findings address the efficiency of lead and non-toxic shot on mourning dove,” said Corey Mason, a TPWD wildlife biologist and one of the authors of the report. “There continues to be a spirited national discussion on the use of lead and other types of shot and these results help inform one aspect of the conversation.”
According to TPWD reports, officials believe the research findings may be useful to Texas hunters as they make decisions on the type of loads they choose for dove hunting.
“We absolutely believe in hunter choice and we also want hunters to be as informed as possible on matters affecting their outdoor pursuits,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “Dove are a shared international resource, and the question about whether or not lead shot should be banned for dove hunting is not something Texas is prepared to make independent of other jurisdictions and based solely on the findings of this study. This research offers an important data point in the larger discussion, but there are many other factors to consider.”
It’ll be interesting to see what changes time will bring. If there is iron clad research to indicate lead shot exposure is negatively impacting dove populations, a move to mandate a switch to an alternative shot certainly wouldn’t get any opposition from this corner.
You can read the rest of this story by Matt Williams in the August 2017 edition of Texas Fish & Game.