Ohio BHA's Policy & Advocacy Committee hopes you follow our journey as we learn about the impacts of lead in hunting and angling, confront our own misconceptions about the subject, and consider voluntary and incremental adoptions of non-lead alternatives as we seek to become better stewards of our public lands and waters and encourage additional research and continued education and communication.
Conservation-minded hunters recognize they are stewards and are increasingly aware that everything is connected to everything else. That is to say, our actions as hunters have ripple effects through the environment. Many, dare I say most, of those effects are positive, but some potential unintended effects should be considered. As hunters, this means we should think “beyond the shot.” (Props to Artemis for the catchy phrase). Part of thinking beyond the shot means considering the effects our lead ammunition may have once it leaves our gun barrel. The purpose of pulling your trigger is simple and direct – to quickly take the intended animal. Anything beyond that singular intent of hitting one’s target is an additional consequence beyond what was intended by the trigger squeeze.
Science helps us understand if there are unintended consequences, and if so, the extent of those effects. This includes #8 shot on a September dove opener, lead fragments left in a quick-quartered mule deer carcass in the sagebrush steppe, and all scenarios in between. The effects, and in turn risks, to the environment are not equal in every situation and our response needn’t be identical either. And how we define environment should be broad and not constrictive, including soil, water, and all living organisms (us included!). While science rarely agrees on every detail across every single study, a few common themes seem to hold true. First and foremost is a fact on which science unanimously agrees - lead is toxic even in minute concentrations. Here are a few general themes. Humans and wildlife can suffer varying degrees of lead exposure from incidental consumption of lead ammunition fragments embedded in shot animals. In areas of heavy deposition (i.e. unmanaged shooting areas), lead can result in environmental contamination leading to a cascade of unintended negative impacts. Some species face legitimate dangers from the use of lead ammunition. Lethal impacts are obvious cause for concern but sub-lethal effects on lead contamination should not be ignored either.
Sportsmen and women have a proud history of pro-actively advancing wildlife conservation policies and elevating the importance of stewardship for the natural world. The creation of wildlife management laws at the turn of the 20th century and development of fair chase principles are fantastic examples. Hunters have an important role to play in policy conversations about the use of non-lead alternatives and we continue to advocate for the use of the best available science as threats to fish and wildlife are evaluated and management decisions implemented by state and federal wildlife agencies.
I will conclude with a link to Episode 62 of Hal Herrings Cast & Blast Podcast and a review paper that conveys a lot of information regarding lead effects in the environment. In Episode 62 of Cast & Blast, Hal interviews guests Chris Parish and Leland Brown from the North American Non-Lead Partnership and uncovers a wealth of information that will deepen your understanding on the topic.
For more information, we encourage you to connect with the North American Non-Lead Partnership and your state wildlife management agencies. You can also visit Google Scholar or other academic search engines to read peer-reviewed studies and explore the issue for yourself.