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Dove hunters want proof of harm caused by lead before switching ammo

| Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014, 1:12 a.m.

Dove hunters in Pennsylvania and across the nation want more proof before they switch ammunition.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and National Flyway Council performed a national survey of dove hunters. Billed as being “a first-of-its-kind” look at who hunts doves and how and where they do it, the survey reached out to hunters in the 40 states that have a dove season.

It showed that dove hunters are:

• Pretty affluent (over half make more than $75,000 per year)

• Well educated (more than 70 percent had attended college)

• Avid (with most having been dove hunters for more than 20 years and ranking the sport among their most important recreational activities).

A few — about 6 percent — shoot more than 100 doves a year. The majority take less than 30.

Almost all of them — 85 percent — said they mostly or always use lead shot, according to the survey.

Few see a need to change that just yet.

The survey revealed that few see a need to change that just yet, though many hunters don't think they know enough about what impacts lead shot has on doves and other wildlife.

But nearly half suspect it doesn't do much harm, given doves' short life spans, and don't think lead bans would do any good because there are no restrictions on its use in other countries, such as Mexico.

“Overall, given what they know right now, two-thirds of dove hunters oppose a requirement for use of non-lead shot, with about half of them believing efforts to restrict lead ammunition is a tactic by animal rights groups to eliminate hunting and/or a tactic by gun control advocates to encroach on gun ownership rights,” the report reads.

“As usual,” the report added, “most hunters are willing to take significant actions for conservation if they are convinced of the need.”

Fifty-four percent said they would be willing to use non-lead alternatives if there was scientific evidence that lead shot was harming dove populations.

But that, evidently, isn't available.

“Doves can be poisoned by consuming spent lead shot, but despite anecdotal evidence, researchers do not yet know if there is a population-level effect,” reads a press release announcing the report.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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