Donate Donate

Lead-Free Best Practices

Reduce your exposure to lead and reduce its distribution across the landscape

Best practices for shotguns and upland game hunting

• Switch to steel or other lead-free shot, which is readily available in all sizes.
• If you aren’t sure, try steel shot which is proven and priced similarly to lead.
• When you go hunting, remember your non-toxic shot because lead at hunting grounds cannot be regulated or reclaimed like at shooting ranges.
• If you have a really old shotgun that could be damaged by steel shot, use non-toxic shot when you can.
• Make sure your shotgun range allows steel shot so you can practice.

Best practices for rifles and big game hunting

• Control for bullet fragmentation as much as possible. Generally, rapid-expansion bullets such as lead fragment more than controlled expansion bullets such as copper, which cut down on wasted meat and reduce consumption of lead by humans and wildlife alike.
• Use careful shot selection. Bullets that strike the lethal area (heart/lungs) are less likely to fragment than bullets that strike more heavily boned areas. Copper bullets help because they penetrate better and the bullet holds together.
• Process your kill carefully. Trim liberally around wound channels, discarding meat that is bruised, discolored or contains hair, dirt or bone fragments. Although lead particles can be found up to 18 inches from the wound channel, most lead particles are located in the immediate vicinity of the channel and associated damaged tissues.
• Bury or pack out your lead-shot gut piles to avoid lead ingestion by non-target wildlife. The only definitive way to remove the risk of lead poisoning to humans and wildlife is to use lead-free ammunition. There are many non-lead options now available.

Best practices for fishing with lead tackle

• Use lead-free lures, sinkers, and weights as much as possible.
• Double check your fishing knots to reduce the likelihood that tackle will break off.
• Make sure to collect any damaged sinkers, weighted lures, etc. for proper disposal away from waterways. It is safest to fish without lead tackle. Please call on manufactures to offer lead-free alternatives.

“As someone who hunts on public lands, I see it as my responsibility to conserve wildlife and leave our public lands better than I found them. One important way I can do that is by hunting lead-free so that these landscapes and non-target wildlife are not poisoned from my activities.”

Aaron Kindle, Sr. Manager, Western Sporting Campaigns, National Wildlife Federation

Get Involved

mountain landscape

Climate Chronicles

Hear stories from across the nation exploring how climate change is impacting our sporting lives.

Hunter in woods

Sign the Petition

Join the growing list of Hunters and Anglers who have made the commitment to go lead-free in the field.