Lead Ban Chronicles – New Lead-Free Gear Preview
February 8, 2016
A few weeks back, at SHOT, one of the new products I was particularly hot to see was the Iron Rig decoy weights.
I know, “decoy weights?”
Well, the thing about these weights is that they’re lead free. Not only are they lead free, they’re being advertised as lead free, which means it’s not just an afterthought.
I’ve spent a lot of time writing and talking about the lead issue, but my focus (like many other writers) has been on ammunition. The thing is, fishing tackle has been an ongoing topic in efforts to remove lead from the environment. Push aside the politically driven arguments for a moment, and consider that an emphasis on fishing tackle makes total sense, since lead is arguably more ubiquitous in fishing than it is in hunting (and there are far more fishermen than hunters).
Before you break your neck trying to follow my train of thought, I bring up fishing because waterfowl hunters have, for ages, used fishing weights to anchor our decoys. And these weights are almost always made of lead. Hence, any regulation that affects the use of lead in fishing tackle will impact waterfowl hunters as well.
How likely is a ban on lead fishing weights in this country? It’s hard to say, but if I must prognosticate, I’d say a national, general ban is still a long ways off. However, on an incremental level, I think we’re already seeing it start. Some states, including California and Washington, are already making moves to prohibit the use of lead (of any kind) in sensitive waterways. The Federal agencies overseeing wetlands and wildlife are also looking at restrictions on lead in the waterways they manage. It’s not unreasonable to expect some lead tackle prohibition in National Parks, National Monuments, and possibly National Forests in the relatively near future.
On my only full day at SHOT, I had a chance to have a nice chat with Jena Muasher and Scott Griffith, the marketing team for Big Game International. One of the first things I asked was what drove the decision to produce a lead-free decoy weight. The general response was that the company saw the “writing on the wall”, and wanted to get ahead of legislation that would restrict the use of lead weights. More specifically, they pointed to California regulations that appear to be on track to eliminate the use of lead tackle by 2019 (a contentious issue, of course, but not an issue on which I’m particularly well-informed).
So, why cast iron, decoy weights?
The simple answer is that it was an easy choice. As Scott explained to me, the goal was to make changes that did not reduce performance. Cast iron is heavy and relatively easy to cast in the sizes and shapes that are used for decoy anchors (it’s more of a challenge for smaller fishing tackle, which is another issue). It’s also inexpensive, relative to lead, which actually enables a lower cost to the hunter.
Unfortunately, the weights available for display at the show are simply prototypes, so I wasn’t able to carry a handful home to test out before our season ended this year. However, Scott and Jena told me the plan is to start getting these to market by summer, and promised to get some out to me to try out. I’m particularly interested in seeing how these things hold up in the salty environment where I do much of my hunting (NC coastal salt marshes and brackish rivers). You can bet I’ll be letting you know how it all pans out.