Hunting for wild fowl and game is a part of normal life in Alaska. It’s the way many of us fill our freezers, and it’s been part of the traditional subsistence lifestyle for centuries. Many of us feel the natural, wild fowl and game we hunt is healthier for our families than store-bought poultry, beef or pork.
In many cases the fowl and game we hunt is healthier, but our choice of ammo can negate that. Using non-toxic shot, in other words using steel shot instead of lead, has been a regulation in waterfowl hunting for many years. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has an informational page about using non-toxic shot. The Institute for Wildlife Studies has informational pages about alternatives to lead and the California non-lead awareness program.
The reason lead shot has been banned from waterfowl hunting is because it gets into the food chain, including humans, and lead can cause major health problems if it gets into our blood streams. In November 2008, a study released by the North Dakota and Minnesota health departments detailed the affects of lead fragments in venison. The study was done after food pantries in North Dakota in March 2008 were told to no longer accept donated ground venison because of lead fragments.
Many older bullets were solid lead, or lead covered by a thin covering of copper. But there are many newer alternative types of ammo that don’t use lead, including bullets that are solid copper, copper with a tungsten alloy core and a polymer tip, and copper alloy with a polycarbonite tip. So if you’re one of those folks who have gone hunting for our local Sitka black-tailed deer in recent weeks, do you know what’s in your ammo?