Steel vs. Lead Shot by Randy Rowley


A few years ago I went on a dove hunt at the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.  One of their rules was that you had to hunt with non-lead shot.  I bought three boxes of 12 gauge steel dove shot (7 shot) but we didn’t see or shoot at many dove that day.

A few days later I went to the Blast and Cast (dove hunt and bass fishing trip) at Joel Kirby’s ranch near Lometa.  Wanting to use up the steel shot that I had bought I took a couple boxes of steel, but decided to bring a box of lead to be safe.  It proved to be a good decision.  I bagged two dove for 24 shots with the steel shot (a 1:12 ratio).  I then headed to the truck to get the lead shot and proceeded to bag 13 more dove with 24 shots (a 1:1.85 ratio).  I did more than six times better with the lead shot with the same targets and similar presentations that day.

At another Blast and Cast I took both steel shot (this time 6 shot in 20 gauge) and lead shot with me, as I also planned to hunt teal in addition to dove.  The TPWD regulations require a hunter to not have lead shot in his bag while hunting waterfowl, so I kept my lead shot in my truck.  I killed 10 dove with 47 shots using steel shot, a 1:4.7 ratio, and the remaining five dove with 13 shots using lead shot, a 1:2.6 ratio.  The lead shot proved to be almost twice as effective as steel shot that day.

So if you can legally hunt with lead shot, I highly recommend it over steel.

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