Getting the lead out

5 2 Miker Lead

The use of lead ammunition for hunting has become an environmental issue due to its toxic effects on wildlife and children. Game organs, which are discarded when field-dressing an animal, often contain fragments of lead bullets. These organs, which are left behind are known to cause death in birds such as eagles and hawks who often consume the discarded offal. Humans are not immune to these contaminants so it’s wise to be aware of the potential danger. With the spring turkey season less than a week away there are some precautions hunters can take to minimize the risk of lead contamination in any birds they harvest.

Just about every seasoned turkey hunter strives for a head and neck shot but turkeys are big birds and a newcomer may be attempted to shoot at the entire turkey. Center or chest shots tend to wound rather than kill the turkey and are likely to contaminate the breast with lead pellets. The situation becomes worse if a pellet or even several hit a bone and fragment into pieces too small to detect when cleaning the bird.

Shooting at too long a range can cause patterns to open up and this can cause pellets to enter the breast and contaminate the meat. To avoid this I carry a rangefinder and mentally mark trees or rocks within the effective range of my current turkey loads.

Once I get the bird home, I check the meat for any wound channels and carefully remove any meat that surrounds the wound channel.

Many hunters use copper-plated lead shot as their preferred turkey load but, researchers have found there was no significant difference in contamination levels between copper-plated lead shot and plain lead. So, what’s the best choice for a turkey load to eliminate the risk of lead contamination? The answer is simple although more expensive.

Remington, Winchester, Federal, and Hevi-Shot all offer turkey loads with no-lead pellets. They’re made with non-toxic tungsten as their main component. Tungsten is heavier than lead and has lived up to its potential as a turkey killer. The downside is that tungsten is more expensive than lead and, despite their effectiveness, many hunters still use copper coated or all lead ammunition for turkey hunting.

The new kid on the block is TSS loads offered by Federal, Apex, Hevi-Shot, Remington, Fiocchi, and others. TSS shot is composed of 95 percent tungsten, 5 percent nickel, and a little bit of iron. These pellets are almost 60 percent denser than lead which means their penetration power is increased and that means the pellets can be smaller. Smaller pellets mean more of them can be packed into a shell which translates into denser patterns. That’s the good news. The downside is that TSS loads can shock a hunter due to their price. I saw them last spring for $90.00 for a box of five although they can be found for around $70.00. At first glance, that is a lot but considering my carbon arrow, broadhead, and lighted nock adds up to more than $40.00 when shot at a deer, paying $15.00 for a shotshell doesn’t seem so bad considering their effectiveness.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, New York – Mike Raykovicz, Turkey

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