Deer hunting season for sportsmen using guns began Saturday, Aug. 8, and continues through Sept. 21 in San Luis Obispo County. This year’s hunting season dovetails with an announcement from the Ventana Wildlife Society that a $25,000 federal wildlife grant has been made available to expand the society’s free giveaways of nonlead ammunition.
The free ammunition program is open through a raffle to sportsmen (18 years or older) who hunt deer in the California Condor range, which includes San Luis Obispo, Fresno, Kern, Monterey, Ventura, Santa Barbara and 12 other counties. The VWS website that links hunters to the raffle: www.ven tanaws.org/ammunition.
Since 2012 the Ventana Wildlife Society has given away more than 2,300 boxes of nonlead ammunition free through its raffle.
Why is nonlead ammo important as regards the California Condor Recovery Program?
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Numerous empirical science studies have verified that lead is lethal when ingested by condors (and other birds, including the bald eagle). And since condors eat carrion, hunters that kill deer with lead ammunition in condor zones — and don’t bury the deer’s gut pile — are unintentionally leaving the door open for a condor to be poisoned and possibly die.
About 70 condors are currently flying free in the Big Sur and Pinnacles areas, and in the near future, seven more juvenile Condors will be released in San Luis Obispo County (in the mountains east of San Simeon).
The numbers of Condors flying free is an enormous improvement for these birds with 91⁄2-foot wingspans (the largest land birds in North America), because the last 27 condors in the wild were captured in 1987 and have become part of an aggressive captive breeding program.
VWS Executive Director Kelly Sorenson explained that hunting and ranching are “proud traditions, and so is wildlife conservation. Hunting and ranching benefit scavengers like eagles and condors by providing food sources including unrecovered game, gut piles and varmint carcasses.”
The hope is that hunters and ranchers — who haven’t already — will switch to nonlead ammunition in order to prevent condors from ingesting lead. As to the accuracy of copper bullets, according to American Rifleman (associated with the National Rifle Association), “The reason lead-free bullets have become so popular is because of their performance.”
For hunters using .30-06, .270, .308 or the .300 Winchester magazine, the American Rifleman explains that lead-free factory ammunition is available in gun shops. Or, through the Ventana Wildlife Society’s raffle program.