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Saving Our Avian Resources, SOAR is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1999 dedicated to saving our avian resources through raptor rehabilitation, education, and research. SOAR maintains all necessary US Fish & Wildlife Service and Iowa DNR permits to provide the rehabilitation and education.

Hunting Lead-Free & Saving Wildlife

At this time in Iowa, waterfowl hunters must use US Fish & Wildlife Service approved non-toxic/non-lead shot. Many state and county areas also require non-toxic/non-lead shot for all hunting. In many situations, however, pheasant, turkey, rabbit, and deer hunters are still allowed to use lead ammunition. SOAR encourages all hunters and firearms shooters to "go lead free" for wildlife and human health.

In November 2010, SOAR was awarded a Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education Program (REAP-CEP) grant to develop educational materials for the Iowa Hunter Education Program outlining the toxic effects of lead and the current research on lead's impact on the environment. A committee of hunter education instructors, DNR law enforcement and wildlife bureau staff, wildlife and conservation groups, SOAR volunteers, and concerned citizens reviewed text and provided feedback.

See the "Hunting Lead-Free" brochure. Download a screen-quality PDF.

If you would like to download a press-quality PDF (2,680 kb with printer's marks) for printing and sharing with your group, please contact SOAR. This handout is 4.25x11 inches double-sided.

This version of the "Hunting Lead-Free" handout has the same info but is 8.5x11 inches one-sided and *should* print on home printers, but would be able to printed at your local copy and print shop.

Below is the text of the brochure with research and informational citations included in boxes.

What the links are:

  • Some links are to agency websites or documents about lead, how lead affects animals and people, or the impacts of lead
  • Some links are scientific papers written by wildlife biologists, veterinarians, pathologists, epidemiologists, wildlife rehabilitators, medical doctors, and others.

Before these papers can be accepted for publication in scientific journals or other publications, each was put through a rigorous review process where the editors of the journal send the paper to other scholars in the same field for their opinion on the relevance to the field, appropriateness for that journal, and the quality and completeness of the science.

These papers are not always easy to read because the language used is that of the particular scientific field. Each paper has an abstract or summary near the top. Read this. If you read on, and come across a scientific term you're not sure about, visit this website that provides definitions to scientific terms from several sources.


Hunting Lead Free & Saving Wildlife

People who hunt:

Wildlife needs hunters’ help.

Over 130 different species of wildlife have been impacted by eating lead. 

Wildlife Impacted by Lead:


Upland birds and waterfowl, like pheasants and ducks, mistake lead shot for seeds or grit and eat it.

eagle scavenging on deer carcassScavengers, like eagles and hawks, can be exposed to lead when eating from a game animal carcass or gut pile.








Ingesting lead is harmful to wild animals.

slug shot deer x-ray

X-ray of a deer carcass that was shot with lead deer slugs, reveals that the main body of the slug traveled completely through the deer, but lead shrapnel fragments were left in the carcass at the points where the slugs passed through and shattered bone. This shrapnel looks quite similar to the irregular shrapnel pieces found in eagle digestive systems. In this x-ray of a deer's mid-section, you can see the lead fragments where the slug went through the ribs below the spine and grazed the top of the spine.

x-ray of eagle

On this eagle x-ray, the head would be to the top and the legs and tail to the bottom of the x-ray. The white spots in about the center of the photo are pieces of lead shrapnel. This is about where the stomach would be. Eagles have very strong, efficient digestive systems. The lead is usually dissolved in the stomach and sickness occurs very shortly after ingestion. Often, a lead poisoned eagle will become injured because of impaired nervous system, vision problems, or breathing problems caused by the lead.


Research and info about the impacts of lead on wildlife:


Ingesting lead is harmful to people.

CT scan of packaged venisonSome packages of venison from deer shot with lead rifle bullets contained more than 100 ppm lead. Items with 100 ppm lead or above are considered hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency. Some venison from deer shot with lead slugs contained 0.7 ppm lead. This venison would not meet the standards for export to Europe or China. Image © Cornatzer and Fogarty






Articles about the impacts of lead on people:


There are several types of bullets, slugs, and shot being made from non-lead/non-toxic products.

Waterfowl hunters have already switched to using non-toxic shot.  This has saved millions of ducks from lead poisoning.  This is cost-effective conservation.

The switch:

  • Simply removing lead from waterfowl hunting has helped to make duck populations more robust and this conservation measure insured manufacturers a market for non-toxic shot, allowing them to invest in development, re-tooling, and marketing. There are now a wide assortment of non-toxic shot types to choose from and waterfowl hunters are still enjoying their time in the field. Does the ban on lead shot save waterfowl? (303 KB PDF)
  • Wisconsin DNR encourages hunters to "Give Nontoxics a Shot" - Download this brochure (about 3 mb PDF) and share with your friends and family that hunt. Rest assured, Wisconsin is not the only state where you can find non-toxic shot. Look for steel and other non-lead shot alternatives at your favorite sporting goods retailer. Also, look for copper slugs, sabots, and bullets for deer season.

Concerned about lead poisoning? 
Here’s what you can do!

Spread the word, talk to your friends about lead.

Do some research.

For more information about lead, visit:

Test it out! 

Links to help you test it out!


If you can’t find non-lead ammunition at your local store, ask them to stock some. Increased demand brings down prices. Watch for sales during the off-season.

Using copper bullets and slugs and non toxic shot saves wildlife and helps humans. You can help the environment and make great hunting memories for you and your family.

Links to Non-toxic Ammo & Info:

A hunter education class:

It is illegal to poison wildlife, as noted in these state and federal laws:

We offer this information, so those that enjoy hunting can make an informed decision about their choice of ammunition.


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