Woodson Ranch Leads Without Lead

Beginning in 2017, Woodson Ranch switched from allowing the use of “conventional” lead ammunition to requiring the use of non-lead alternatives like 100% copper (not just copper-clad) bullets.  The reasons for this were multifold:

  • Hunting rifles have changed over the decades, and higher velocity rifles cause bullets to shatter inside the targeted animal into more pieces, farther from the entry site, than ever before. Numerous studies show lead fragments travel well over 10” from the entry wound.
  • Fragmented lead in the gut-piles of hunter-shot carcasses contain these lead particles which are then consumed by scavenging raptors and carnivores. Several studies indicate that lead levels in Golden and Bald eagles are consistently higher than background lead levels would indicate as “normal.” Blood lead levels in corvids of Yellowstone region of Montana spike during hunting season. The same is true of blood lead levels in bears. Lead from bullets has been identified as a likely source of this lead.
  • Fragmented lead ends up in the meat humans consume as well. In one study, 30 deer were shot during the regular hunting season by licensed hunters using 7mm Remington Magnum Caliber bullets of 150 grains. The range of the shots was between 25 to 172m. The carcasses were eviscerated and radiographed revealing metal fragments in all carcasses, with a mean number of fragments of 136, averaging 24cm from the entry site and as much as 45cm away. The deer processed commercially and 80% of the ground meat packages contained fragmented lead.
  • The Center for Disease Control recently concluded that there is no safe level of lead consumption.
  • Lead travels through a consumer in ways very similar to calcium, tending to accumulate in bone where it is stored for years, and then released when bone loss occurs naturally later in life. It also is released in the milk of lactating women. Lead in children has been linked directly to lower IQ scores.

For these reasons, and for the reasons sited in numerous other studies, the Woodson Ranch is encouraging all hunters to consider using non-lead ammunition alternatives. The price of a pure copper bullet may, in some calibers, be a little more expensive in dollars, but the price of lead consumption is measured in more than just dollars: human and wildlife safety are priceless.

Additionally, fishermen on the ranch shall be prohibited from using flies weighted with lead.  While most flies are tied with tungsten or other non-lead substitutes these days anyway, it seems appropriate to include this prohibition in our policy on lead.

Woodson Ranch’s mission includes the protection of wildlife habitat as well as the responsible management of private lands; this move away from lead is consistent with this aspect of our mission and with the objective of educating the public on reasonable alternatives to current practices in need of improvement.

For more information or to provide feedback, feel free to email Woodson Ranch’s Outreach Coordinator, Dave Delisi, at dave@rubyhabitat.org

Additional Resources:

  • Here is a useful link which also details the effects of lead and reasons to make the switch.
  • And here is a book which contains summaries of numerous studies supporting the move away from lead when hunting big game:  Watson, Richart T., et al; Ingestion of Lead from Spent Ammunition: Implications for wildlife and Humans, (Boise State University, 2008).
  • Here is a short video presentation about fragmentation of lead vs. other types of ammunition as analyzed by the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources.
  • And here is a fascinating video that analyzes the ballistics of lead vs. non-lead.
  • This article summarizes the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services take on the impact of lead on scavenging birds in the U.S.  Their conclusion is:  “After examining multiple lines of evidence, scientists concluded that lead ammunition is the most frequent cause of lead exposure and poisoning in scavenging birds in the United States. “
  • This article presents a balanced perspective on the pros and cons of switching from lead to copper.