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Study Says Hunting With Steel Shot Just as Effective as Lead

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The use of lead ammunition for hunting has long worried environmental groups. They've  even tried suing the Environmental Protection Agencyto push it to regulate lead ammo. But some hunters have been resistant to using steel bullets, saying they are less effective.  A new study takes a look at whether that's backed up by fact. 

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department looked at the effectiveness of lead versus steel shot in dove hunting in different parts of the state. 

The double-blind study suggested a switch from lead shot to steel shot wouldn’t limit hunters' dove season harvests. Corey Mason is a biologist with the department and – despite the study’s finding that nearly 73 percent of hunters couldn’t discern between the two ammunitions – he says he’s heard from hunters that steel shot doesn’t do the job as well as lead.

“You know some of those perceptions, at least under the conditions in which this study was undertook, those perceptions were simply not the case,” Mason says. “These loads were all comparable in quality and ability to take dove.”

Mason calls the findings an important data point for Texas hunters. It will probably also be welcomed by environmental groups. Some estimates say use of lead ammunition puts about 3,000 tons of lead into the environment every year. That lead pollutes the environment and finds its way into the diets of wild animals, causing death in some cases.

The study collected data from over 5,000 shots over the course of two years. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department head Carter Smith says the study has implications for Texas hunters, but shouldn’t dictate hunters’ habits.

“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,” Smith says. “This research offers an important data point in the larger discussion, but there are many other factors to consider.”

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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