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Embrace lead-free ammunition, not because the world around you says so, but because it could actually turn out to be a lifesaver for you and your family.

Ask Scott Peckham, a hunter and game ecologist for the Umatilla Indian Reservation. As Peckham bit into a sizeable chunk of lead while enjoying his plate of venison spaghetti, he learned that lead-free projectiles could actually do him a world of good. Lead is incredibly toxic. Flint reminded us of that. So while eating antibiotic and hormone free game sounds appealing, you really need to ensure that you don’t end up ingesting lead. Peckham’s lead-rich spaghetti episode forced him to stock up on lead-free ammunition before his next hunting adventure.

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This is incredible news, says Lynn Tompkins, the executive director of Blue Mountain Wildlife. Lynn’s work makes her witness the carnage of lead on a daily basis as she tries to care for injured, orphaned or sick animals and birds that are brought to her center. She found that the lead levels in these animals were sometimes as high as 209 mg per deciliter. One bald eagle even went up to 411 mg per deciliter! Eagles, owls and hawks all get exposed to lead when they ingest shotgun pellets or bullet fragments from dead animals that were shot, but not recovered by the hunters.

Many states are now working towards banning lead-based ammunition. California plans to become entirely dependent on lead-free ammunition by the year 2019. Oregon also has some laws in place when it comes to shooting waterfowl, but other types of game hunting are yet to be regulated.

Tompkins expressed her concern for the health of these hunters and their families. She referenced a study conducted in the University of North Dakota in the year 2008, where researchers found lead fragments in more than 59% of the packages of ground venison donated by hunters. This concern also led Tompkins to offer the locals a service: the option to get their packages of game meat x-rayed for free to ensure that they are lead-free.

Others are quick to advocate the benefits of lead-free ammunition as well. “The carcasses are left on the landscape, and we end up with a lot of lead. With copper or plastic frangible bullets, that wouldn’t be a problem.” says Leland Brown, Lead Control Coordinator, Oregon Zoo. Brown says that he spoke to more than 4000 people about the dangers posed by lead ammunition, and often got the response, “Wow, I never thought about this.” An avid hunter himself, Brown believes that the community will soon rise to the occasion and begin to champion lead-free projectiles.

Hunters have always had a history as conservationists who believe in taking care of the wildlife. They love nature and wish to live around what has been passed down for generations. They simply do not want to wake up and not see another bald eagle in the woods again. The reasons for not switching to lead-free ammunition could be many. Some already have vast stockpiles of lead ammunition and wish to exhaust it before switching. Others balk at availability and performance issues, although that problem is constantly receding as newer technologies are made available.

Humans are nothing if not creatures of habit. We are slow to change. But we can also be rest assured that as the hunter community sees the benefits of lead-free ammunition, more and more people will speak up against using lead bullets.

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