Newfoundland and Labrador Hunter Education Program


Diving Duck

The Problem with Lead Shot

When hunting with a shotgun, it is important to consider how the ammunition you use will affect the environment. Though lead shot is preferred by many shotgun hunters, lead is a toxic substance that contaminates the ecosystem.  Especially when hunting waterfowl, the lead leeches into the water table, and is sometimes eaten by waterfowl - this causes lead poisoning in many of the species that are found in that habitat.

It is now illegal in Canada to use lead shot when hunting waterfowl. Steel shot is now considered the ammunition of choice. Hunters are encouraged to use non-toxic shot when hunting any animal, including upland game birds.

Non-Toxic Shot Alternatives

Steel is the most common and readily available non-toxic shot choice for the majority of waterfowl hunters. When using steel however, hunters must adapt their shooting technique because steel is lighter and harder than lead shot. With this difference, steel shot has:

  • Less down range energy
  • Shorter shot string
  • Does not deform like lead shot does on impact
  • Has a tighter shot pattern

To compensate these differences, hunters can do the following:

  • Use at least 2 shot sizes larger than lead
  • Use a more open choke (modified or improved cylinder)
  • Limit range to less than 40 meters
  • Pattern your shotgun to learn more about pellet density
  • Practice shooting with steel before going out to hunt

Other alternatives to steel shot for waterfowl hunting include Bismuth, Tin, Tungsten-Iron and Tungsten-Polymer. Like steel shot, these non-toxic alternatives have their own characteristics and therefore it is highly recommended that hunters practice before heading to the field.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, hunters are legally able to harvest murres with lead shot.