No other state in the nation boasts as many doves — and hunters hot on their trail — as the Lone Star State, with its longstanding hunting culture passed down through the generations.
So it’s no surprise that a lingering national debate about the use of lead ammunition — whether it should be banned — continues to galvanize scientists, environmentalists, gun rights activists and hunters.
A study released by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in December further fueled the debate when it determined steel shot — a lead alternative — is just as effective in its lethality and in hunter satisfaction.
Agency spokesman Steve Lightfoot said reaction to the study has run the gamut.
“Social media comments have run the board, from ‘good to know’ to ‘we still don’t believe you,” Lightfoot told theCurrent. “This is still going to be an ongoing educational process.”
Lightfoot, however, said TPWD is not getting involved in the contentious debate.
“We are just putting information together that, hopefully, our hunters can make use of to make informed decisions moving forward.”
There is a long-held belief in the Texas hunting community that lead is more effective — and humane — in killing animals.
This is because when lead strikes a target, it fragments into many pieces and slows down inside the animal, breaking bones and piercing organs.
Put simply, hunters believe lead shot kills quicker, preventing animals from escaping and suffering from wounds for a longer period of time.
But the TPWD report, which came with a $500,000 price tag and was funded through Migratory Game Bird and Texas White-winged Dove stamp revenue, sheds definitive doubt on that long-held belief.
To come to this conclusion, TPWD experts recorded more than 5,000 shots fired during the 2008 and 2009 dove hunting seasons in Brown, Coleman and McCulloch counties. Researchers conducted necropsies on 1,100 mourning doves and determined “no statistical significant difference in harvest efficiencies between the three loads tested regardless of distance.” Two kinds of steel shot were compared with lead shot.