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Ted Nugent rifle ammunition (courtesy

Press release from Arizona Game and Fish Department:

Non-lead ammunition supply issues across the nation are prompting the Arizona Game and Fish Department to remind hunters in the California condor’s core range that they can still help reduce the amount of lead available to the birds by removing gut piles from the field. Hunters in Arizona’s condor range that remove their gut piles (lead ammunition only) are eligible to be entered into a raffle that offers prizes including a trip on the Grand Canyon Railroad with a 2-night stay at the canyon, Cabela’s gift cards, Navajo tribal lands deer tag, Navajo rugs, Grand Canyon National Park passes, and others . . .

“Game and Fish understands how frustrating it is for hunters to not find non-lead ammunition as part of the department’s free non-lead ammo program, but the supply issues are beyond the department’s control,” said Allen Zufelt, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s condor program coordinator. “Game and Fish is equally frustrated with the non-lead ammo supply shortages. However, hunters can still make a difference and participate in the lead reduction effort by removing their gut piles from the field.”

In the last six years, 85 to 90 percent of hunters in Arizona’s condor range have voluntarily either used non-lead ammunition during their hunts or, if they used lead ammunition, they removed the gut piles from the field.

Lead poisoning has been identified as the leading cause of diagnosed death in endangered condors and the main obstacle to a self-sustaining population in Arizona and southern Utah. Studies suggest that lead shot and bullet fragments found in animal carcasses and gut piles are the most likely source of lead exposure. Many hunters do not realize that the carcass or gut pile they leave in the field usually contains lead bullet fragments. Gut piles from animals harvested with non-lead ammunition provide an important food source for the condors and should be left in the field.

Information on non-lead ammunition and how hunters can help is sent by mail to those drawn for hunts in condor range. For more information on condors and lead and a list of available non-lead ammunition, visit

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  1. I elk hunt in the AZ condor range. I got tired of trying to find a non-lead round that would group well in my 30-06. It got expensive trying different rounds so I have resorted to shooting lead and removing gut piles or making headshots. Headshots have been my preference because it doesn’t mess up any meat and then I don’t have to remove the gut pile.

    • Just out of curiosity (not a hunter, not a hunter-hater), what do you use, heavy-duty garbage bags?

      How much does a typical pile of elk guts weigh?

      • Yes I use heavy duty garbage bags. I don’t know what the pile weighs but it is a lot and it doesn’t want to stay together. Instead of picking it up it is easier to roll it into the bag from the ground or when you roll it out of the body cavity. I would guess 75 to 125 lbs depending on the elk.

  2. Is there any real science behind this?

    This seems like a lot of low-probability events piled on top of each other (condor (instead of another scavenger) finds carrion with lead ammo inside; condor eats carrion, and the lead is bioavailable in significant quantities versus just passing through; condor then dies, and its carcass is recovered quickly/intact enough that a meaningful necropsy can be performed, which identifies lead poisoning as the cause of death) that happens to reach a conclusion that’s attractive to the researchers that my bullshit detector is pegged.

    Especially, if this (from the article) is true: “In the last six years, 85 to 90 percent of hunters in Arizona’s condor range have voluntarily either used non-lead ammunition during their hunts or, if they used lead ammunition, they removed the gut piles from the field” . . . that means that just 10 to 15 percent of the hunters in Arizona’s condor range are killing enough game, and leaving it (or the bullets in gut piles) in the wild, where it’s eaten by condors that it can be the leading cause of death for all condors?

    And – assuming all of that is true – is there any reason to believe that compliance with “no lead” rules will be good enough to save the condors? Obviously, 85 to 90 percent compliance isn’t good enough, so we’re going to have to get to 99 or 100 percent . . . which seems about as likely as winning the war on drugs.

    I’m not a hunter, but my impression is that we probably don’t even have 85 to 90 percent compliance with hunting season/bag limits rules, and if people are hunting when/where they shouldn’t be, they’re probably not going to be real worried about whether or not they bought special hard-to-find expensive ammo to poach with.

    • I seem to remember people calling BS on the science behind this in California not too long ago. Which is it: good or bad? True or bunk?

    • I too would like some better answers on how dangerous lead from bullets is. My understanding is that chemically modified lead, as used in paint etc, is dangerous, but solid lead isn’t, and that seems to me to make sense considering how many war veterans were carrying lead souveneirs around for the rest of their lives without problems.

      But google searches don’t include political bias, and there’s way too much to wade through.

      Maybe TTAG writers and/or readers know more and could point to some definitive unbiased studies.

    • I call bunk on the claim that lead hunting bullets leave any significant amount of lead behind in a gut pile. First off all, good marksman shoot their large game quarry (elk in this case) in the heart/lung area. Lungs are spongy and are not going to “grab” any significant amount of lead. More importantly, lead hunting bullets don’t leave hardly any lead residue in game. If the bullets left a lot of residue, the meat would not be safe to eat and no one would want wild game. And now for the frosting on the cake: good lead hunting bullets are designed to retain almost all of their weight! They expand and may lose a few grains of lead and/or copper jacket. But they don’t explode like a grenade. When hunting very large game such as elk, hunters want heavy bullets for penetration. Thus, by definition, hunters of very large game want their bullets to retain as much weight as possible for penetration.

      A ban on all lead bullets is unnecessary. Perhaps a ban on certain types of lead bullets makes sense. But high quality lead bullets that retain their weight and terminal ballistic effectiveness are available today at affordable prices. Hunters simply need to find out which bullets fall in that category.

      • And after posting my comment above I just realized that a lead bullet which retains all of its weight and stops in the lungs of an elk would be left behind for scavengers to eat. This is an argument for bullet/caliber choices that virtually guarantee pass through shots. The venerable 100+ year old .45-70 government in 350+ grain bullets comes to mind. I imagine there are other choices as well.

  3. Good to see so many hunters exercising personal responsibility. I’m no hunter, but most every one I know is good people.

  4. First, Robert shouldn’t you be debating that former gang member??
    Second, am I the only one that didn’t know Uncle Ted had his own line of ammo??

  5. How about they raffle off some of that non-lead ammo instead? That’d be a lot more useful to hunters AND it might actually help remove lead ammo from the food chain.

    But hey, why do something that would solve the problem when you can just distract people from the whole thing?

    No back-door attempt to hinder gun ownership happening here…nothing like that…enjoy your fantasies of winning that free trip to Vegas…obey my dog!

  6. So has anyone ever actually bought some of the Ted Nugent ammo? I almost did during gunpocalypse when Cabelas was really low but decided against it.

  7. Isn’t it funny how when politicians fix a “problem” that really isn’t a problem, they end up causing problems? Not so much funny “ha, ha” as “that’s got a funny smell, don’t eat it”….

  8. The whole lead ammo thing is BS. How long have humans been hunting with lead bullets in this country?
    If lead is so deadly why has it just become a “problem” in the last 5-10 years?
    Junk science funded by antis trying to make hunting more expensive and less accessible.

    • Carrying around lead and eating it are two different things. Instead of hunting with the lead how about we eat our bullets instead and let’s see how we do. Of course we get some small about of lead from eating the meat from hunting but humans are smart enough to spit out a bullet if one ends up in our mouth. I doubt condors do the same.

      I don’t think lead bullets should be banned but I don’t have a problem trying to limit the amount that is eaten by condors or other animals.

  9. I don’t know where they get this, but I hunt the southern part of the condor range. I’ve been hunting in northern Arizona since I was a kid, that’s ALMOST 40 YEARS (oh god, I’m my dad….) , have not seen one condor eat a gut pile. Seen millions of crows eat the gut pile, seen a few coyotes do it. But never 1 condor. After I harvest my deer, I usually sit on the gut pile till its gone with my bear and mountain kitty tag waiting for contributors to my meat freezer. Crows eat it so fast it gone in minutes.

  10. I am highly suspect of any game survey that comes out of Kalifornia. I’ve been deer hunting for 40+ years with a 30-06, 180 grain pointed soft point ammo. I have yet to shoot a deer where the bullet did not pass completely through the animal so how could there be lead fragments in the gut pile for scavengers to eat when the bullet passed cleanly through?

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