California Hunters Hit The Field, Lead-Free

photo from Field & Stream.

Tuesday is California's dove season opener, with mountain quail coming into season on September 12. By October and November valley quail, chukar, pheasant and other game birds will also be falling from the skies over the Golden State.

This year will be a bit different for hunters, as it's the first year with new restrictions regarding lead ammunition in place. Hunting on state Department of Fish and Wildlife land now requires the use of non-lead ammo.

All state wildlife areas will have signage indicating the new law, according to a DFW release.

The new rule was approved by the state Fish and Game Commission in April. it's the first of a four-year introduction of a statewide ban that should be uniformly enforced across the state by 2019.

For now, lead ammunition remains legal on private property, federal forest land, and areas owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management, which include most of the state's hunting areas.

The new rules will not apply to shooting ranges.

The problem shooters face is that older shotguns and rifle barrels can't handle the harder-than-lead copper or steel alternatives. Also, availability and price of tungsten and solid copper ammo can be prohibitive.

However, the results of one study point out that any concerns about the performance of steel shot, at least in the dove field, are needless. The five-year study by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recorded the hits and misses of 53 hunters who fired 5,094 shots with sizes 6 and 7 steel shot and size 7 1/2 lead shot, killing a total of 1,146 doves, 1,100 of which were necropsied. The study couldn't find any statistical difference between lead and steel ammunition in terms of doves hit, missed, crippled, and killed at all ranges. Hunters in the study actually hit about 5 percent more doves with steel, and could not tell the difference between lead and steel when hunting.

For more on what the in-depth study found, check out this story from Field & Stream.