if nontoxic shot were not required for hunting.
The nontoxic shot regulation also helps waterfowl. In coming years, many of the dove fields at Columbia Bottom will be restored to wetlands similar to those that were common along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers before the construction of levees and conversion to agricultural fields. Because of the nontoxic shot regulation, there won’t be any lead shot to threaten waterfowl that visit the restored wetlands.
Nationally, most shot shells sold for hunting are expended on doves. That means a lot of lead rains down on dove fields each dove season.
Because doves migrate during the hunting season, the birds have an opportunity to ingest lead shot each time they stop to feed during their journey. Research suggests that the loss of doves from lead poisoning may equal or exceed the legal dove harvest.
Doves and waterfowl are not the only birds affected by lead shot. Recent studies revealed that 31 species of birds, including game birds like ring-necked pheasants and northern bobwhite quail, can fall victim to lead poisoning. Avian scavengers, including eagles and hawks, that consume dead or dying lead-poisoned birds also risk death or sickness from lead ingestion.
The first dove whizzed by in front of me. I raised my gun and shot twice, missing both times. It takes me a while to get into the groove on the opening of dove season.
Like many hunters, I tend to shoot behind a flying bird, especially if I am not alert and prepared. I think steel shot gives me a little extra edge because of its speed.
Four more birds flew by before I got my first one. It was a good thing I’d brought two boxes of steel shot shells, but even that was not going to be enough for a limit if I didn’t shoot a little better.
There were about 100 hunters out on the area the day we hunted. Dove hunting is popular in Missouri with about 35,000 to 40,000 hunters harvesting 700,000 to 750,000 doves annually. Conservation areas are important to dove hunters because they are convenient places to hunt, and they have good dove habitat.
The Department of Conservation promotes dove hunting by managing fields especially for doves on approximately 90 areas around the state. It even posts maps of field locations on its Web site.
The Department of Conservation recently expanded the requirement for nontoxic shot on 21 conservation areas to include