The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has jumped on the no-lead-bullets bandwagon.

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

In a recent press release, MDIF&W urged in the strongest terms for Maine hunters to buy and use copper bullets and say goodbye to lead bullets forever. The state of California, which doesn’t appear to do much of anything right these days, has been the national leader in lead-bullet bans. A survey after the fact in that state indicated that, seven years after the ban, the condor’s population decline was traced to industrial pollution, not hunters and lead bullets.

The Maine Department’s entreaty to hunters and recreational shooters to rethink their purchase of lead ammo falls short because of its lack of scientific data and somewhat sweeping generalizations. “There are serious health and environmental risks with lead-based ammunition,” asserts MDIF&W. So far, the only study that I can find of big-game consumption by humans of lead-killed game was a North Dakota analysis of families that regularly consume wild game. The sample revealed that the North Dakotans had far lower levels of lead in their systems than the average American population.

The Department further declared that there is “a movement among hunters to use lead alternatives.” Really? Who are they? Californians who must do so by law?

Granted, the national ban of the use of lead shot by duck hunters made sense. There was compelling scientific data to support it. The robust resurrection of Bald Eagle populations nationwide may be attributable in part to this lead-shot ban. But there is not an automatic extrapolation to support lead bans in big-game hunting — different critters, different habitat.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is dead-set against the no-lead bullets push and, in fact, believes that underneath it all is a piecemeal assault on guns and hunting. It writes: “The use of traditional (lead) ammunition is currently under attack by many anti-hunting groups whose ultimate goal is to ban hunting. Traditional ammunition does not and has not negatively impacted wildlife populations in North America and is far more effective and affordable for American hunters.”

The NRA further believes that “A decrease in the purchase of traditional ammunition would adversely affect conservation funding. Hunters and target shooters are the largest supporters of wildlife conservation through excise taxes levied on ammunition, firearms and hunting equipment.”

Like so many other movements today that are more emotionally-based than scientific, the move to abandon lead ammunition has all the earmarks of a rush to judgment. The jury is still out.

Where does the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) come down on this issue? SAM’s executive director, David Trahan, says, “We oppose any position but a personal choice. We oppose any attempt to make lead illegal for hunting. We are not neutral and I have clearly stated that position with the Mills administration.”

Copper bullets will kill game, presumably just as effectively, and shoot holes in targets. They do cost more and you can buy them now at most ammo dealers, we are told. As a hunter and a range shooter, it’s your call.

Personally, I am yet to be convinced.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at 

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