Lead Ban Chronicles – Texas Researchers Find No Difference In Effectiveness of Lead Shot vs. Steel On Doves

December 3, 2014

Lead Ban ChroncilesBack in 2008, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) started collecting data on the use of lead ammunition and its impacts on doves (mourning dove, whitewing, and Eurasian collared doves).  I wrote about it in 2009, back on my old blog site.  Initially, the research was intended to discover the toxic effects of lead ammunition on the dove populations, but it quickly turned to focus on the effectiveness of lead alternatives (e.g. steel shot) on doves.  Many hunters have complained that steel isn’t as effective, and that it increases the number of wounded birds.

This study took aim at those claims, for obvious reasons.  If steel is proven to be ineffective and to increase wounding risk, then promoting steel would conflict with conservation goals.  On the other hand, if steel were to be proven just as effective as lead, it would disarm a fairly loud argument against the switch.

It took five years, but the results appear to be rolling in.

Dec. 2, 2014

TPWD Releases Dove Lethality Study Findings

AUSTIN – Texas leads the nation in dove hunting with roughly a quarter million hunters bagging 5 million mourning doves each fall. Their success afield should not change with the type of shot used, according to the results of a just-released study examining the lethality of lead versus non-toxic shot for mourning dove.

The field collection phase of the study was conducted in Brown, Coleman and McCulloch counties during the 2008 and 2009 Texas dove hunting seasons. After recording more than 5,000 shots fired by Texas hunters during the two-year project, and then necropsying 1,100 mourning dove, researchers determined no statistical significant difference in harvest efficiencies between the three loads tested, regardless of distance.

Non-toxic shot has been required for hunting waterfowl for more than two decades. Despite studies that have demonstrated the effectiveness of non-toxic shot for waterfowl and other game birds, the results of this study were not a foregone conclusion, at least not in the perceptions of dove hunters. Recent dove hunter surveys indicate that some hunters still believe non-toxic shot to be inferior to lead.

“Our findings address the efficiency of lead and non-toxic shot on mourning dove,” said Corey Mason, a TPWD wildlife biologist and one of the authors of the report. “There continues to be a spirited national discussion on the use of lead and other types of shot and these results help inform one aspect of the conversation.”

This study is the first on the lethality of lead versus non-toxic shot under typical hunting conditions for mourning dove to be published in a scientific journal. The Institute of Renewable Natural Resources at Texas A&M University, Thomas Roster, and Texas Parks and Wildlife authored report will be published in the March 2015 issue of The Wildlife Society Bulletin, a peer-reviewed, scientific publication containing papers related to wildlife management, conservation law enforcement, conservation education, economics, administration, philosophy, ethics, and contemporary resource problems. An advance release of the report is available online at

TPWD officials believe the research findings may be useful to Texas hunters as they make decisions on the type of loads they choose for dove hunting.

“We absolutely believe in hunter choice and we also want hunters to be as informed as possible on matters affecting their outdoor pursuits,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “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. This research offers an important data point in the larger discussion, but there are many other factors to consider.”

An internationally recognized shotgun ballistics expert, who has authored more than a dozen similar studies involving waterfowl and upland game birds, designed the study. The study examined three, 12-gauge, 2 ¾-inch loads designed and manufactured to mirror loads that are used most often by dove hunters. The different load types included: 1 ? ounce of No. 7 ½ lead shot, 1 ounce of No. 6 steel shot, and 1 ounce of No. 7 steel shot.

The cost of the study was approximately $500,000 and was funded with dedicated Migratory Game Bird and Texas White-winged Dove stamp revenue.

Any thoughts here?


4 Responses to “Lead Ban Chronicles – Texas Researchers Find No Difference In Effectiveness of Lead Shot vs. Steel On Doves”

  1. Lead Ban Chronicles – Texas Researchers Find No Difference In Effectiveness of Lead Shot vs. Steel On Doves | on December 3rd, 2014 06:45

    […] Lead Ban Chronicles – Texas Researchers Find No Difference In Effectiveness of Lead Shot vs. Steel… […]

  2. Chip W on December 3rd, 2014 09:35


    Sorry to post this as a comment instead of e-mailing it; I just wasn’t able to find any contact info on your site. At any rate, this is a very interesting story on the lead-up to the CA lead ban that you’ve covered so much – seems well worth covering on your side –


  3. Phillip on December 3rd, 2014 12:10

    No problem, Chip, thanks for sharing.

    I got this in my news feeds earlier, and I’ve been contemplating whether to make a post out of it. I don’t doubt that this is accurate, or that it actually happened, but I’d love to see it reported in a source other than the Washington Times (overwhelming conservative agenda and bias in their reporting). Politically, it’s potentially important information (withholding information that could influence legislation), but it flies in the face of the positive results attained by voluntary lead reduction efforts in Arizona and Utah.

    To me, it’s sort of like dismissing a criminal case on a technicality. Legislation may have been passed on incomplete information, but even if that information were available, would it change the reality of what happened? What is the message supposed to be here? How does this information make anything better? I think this is where the NRA’s 800 pound gorilla approach falls short.

  4. Lead Ban Chronicles – Texas Parks And Wildlife Lead Shot Vs Steel Shot For Doves : Hog Blog on December 17th, 2014 07:56

    […] couple of weeks back, I posted up the results of the TPW research into the effectiveness of lead shot vs. steel shot for dove hunting.  Some of you have probably […]