Back in 2008 when I was writing for Outdoor Life, I broke a story to our readers about potential lead contamination in deer meat. North Dakota, Minnesota and a few other states had allegedly found lead fragments from hunters’ bullets in ground venison donated to homeless shelters.
The story caused controversy back then, with most people saying this was just a ruse by environmentalists to stop hunters from shooting lead bullets. Most people said that we have been eating deer shot with lead bullets for decades and it ain’t harmed or killed anybody yet.
I can’t argue with that.
The lead issue kind of flamed out for a decade. I hadn’t heard much about it, until now.
Kool 101.7 reports: Details recently released by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture show that lead levels in donated venison have increased over the past decade, with “more than 7% of deer meat containing toxic lead fragments from bullets.”
The number stems from systematic testing that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture does on a regular basis. The agency X-rays all deer meat donations that come into food shelves across the state.
Back in 2008 when the issue arose, the Minnesota DNR conducted the first-of-its-kind lead fragmentation study to simulate how different types of bullets commonly used for deer hunting might fragment. Staff used firearms and ammunition commonly used by Minnesota deer hunters. The results were not exhaustive but they did show that all bullets fragment, some more than others, and make it clear that lead fragments travel much farther than expected.
The DNR points out that to date, no illnesses have been linked to consumption of lead particles in hunter-harvested venison. But the DNR recognizes that the potential impacts of lead fragments ingested when eating hunter-harvested game are not well understood. Only now are state and federal health, wildlife and food safety agencies beginning to collect, study and analyze data to determine exactly what those impacts may be.
To me, seems like the Minnesota DNR is trying to convince deer hunters to switch to all-copper bullets without coming out and saying so. I have killed deer with both lead and copper, and both work equally well. Plus, state health, wildlife and food safety agencies have had 13 years now to study and analyze the lead issue, where are their findings and recommendations? Their silence tells me that while lead-in-your-deer meat makes good headlines, it’s not really all that big of a deal.
In our next post, tips for hunters who might be concerned with bullet lead contaminating the venison they feed their families.