Minnesota Adult Hunter Safety Course


Bald Eagles and Deer Hunting - The Need for "Eagle-Friendly" Ammo

Deer hunting is an integral part of Minnesota’s outdoor heritage. About half a million people head out every fall to enjoy this annual sporting tradition. An issue has emerged in the last few years, however, that presents a new consideration for hunters as they plan their annual deer hunt. Every fall at least two to three dozen American Bald Eagles are found dead or dying in this region because they have scavenged meals from deer gutpiles or carcasses of wounded animals; many more are most likely affected, but not found.

They have swallowed tiny fragments of lead rifle bullets that have become embedded in the entrails or in muscle. It takes only a very small amount of lead to fatally poison an eagle. This is not only unfortunate for our national bird, but it creates negative publicity for deer hunters who are inadvertently causing the death of bald eagles. Certainly no conscientious deer hunter wants to be inadvertently killing bald eagles.

This problem is easily prevented. Use nontoxic or copper rifle bullets. Those bullets are at least as good or more effective than lead bullets and they do not poison bald eagles. These bullets cost more than lead bullets, but a typical deer hunter does not shoot enough shells in a season that cost becomes prohibitive. Also, with each passing year, the cost of the copper bullets continues to decrease. Next time you go shopping for deer hunting ammo, look for copper bullets. They are being manufactured by all major ammunition companies in all of the common calibers used for deer hunting. The copper ammo is "eagle-friendly" and will do a great job of helping you bring home your next big deer.

X-ray of a lead poisoned bald eagle with fragments from a rifle bullet in its stomach (see arrows)

Photo credit: The Raptor Center, University of Minnesota