Hunters are reminded that beginning July 1, 2019, nonlead ammunition will be required when taking wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife strongly recommends that hunters acquire and practice with nonlead ammunition well before heading afield, particularly in advance of upcoming big game seasons, to make sure rifles are sighted in and to understand how their firearms perform with nonlead ammunition.
The nonlead ammo requirement includes hunting on public land, private property and licensed game bird clubs, and applies to rifles, shotguns, pistols and muzzleloaders in any gauge or caliber for the take of any legal species. The nonlead ammo requirement extends to the legal take of nongame birds and mammals and includes firearms used for depredation to take species causing property damage.
The requirement does not apply to hunting with pellet rifles. Since pellet rifles are not classified as firearms, the use of lead pellets is allowed. Lead ammunition is allowed for target shooting where that activity is permitted.
California will become the first state in the nation to require nonlead ammunition for all firearms-related hunting. California’s phase-in of nonlead ammunition for hunting originated with state legislation signed into law in 2013. In 2015, the California Fish and Game Commission adopted regulations to phase in the requirement over time with full implementation July 1, 2019.
In recent years, with advances in technology and more states and the federal government restricting the use of lead hunting ammunition, manufacturers have responded with an increasing variety of nonlead ammunition offerings. Nonlead ammunition has been required for waterfowl hunting nationwide since 1991, and many California hunters already have made a voluntary change to nontoxic hunting ammunition due to health and environmental concerns.
The first California hunting seasons impacted by the lead ammunition ban include the general rabbit season, which opens statewide July 1, and the A Zone general deer season, which opens Aug. 10 along much of the California coast.
CDFW advises hunters to shop carefully when purchasing nonlead hunting ammunition, particularly from out-of-state-based sporting goods stores and other mass retailers that may stock their California outlets with lead hunting ammunition in advance of upcoming seasons.
All ammunition in a hunter’s possession may be inspected by wildlife officers. Hunters are encouraged to assist in confirming compliance by retaining and carrying in the field ammunition boxes or other packaging.
For more information, visit CDFW’s Nonlead Ammunition in California webpage at www.wildlife.ca.gov/hunting/nonlead-ammunition. For in-depth research and ballistics analysis of nonlead hunting ammunition, visit www.huntingwithnonlead.org/index.html.