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How to hunt with nontoxic ammunition

Redding Record Searchlight logo Redding Record Searchlight 6/9/2022 California Department of Fish and Wildlife
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Q: Many sporting goods stores ran out of copper and steel ammo at the beginning of the pandemic. How can hunters continue to use the correct ammo?

A: It’s true that finding nontoxic hunting ammunition as required by law in California has been a real challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several factors contributed to the ammo shortage during the past couple years including global supply chain issues, a lack of raw materials such as steel, bismuth, nickel and copper, and a huge demand among consumers who were buying — and often hoarding — ammo of all types and kinds.

The good news in the spring of 2022 is that the availability of nontoxic hunting ammunition appears to be increasing at most sporting goods stores. Availability likely will depend on the type of ammunition you are looking for and the time of year. Nontoxic ammunition for standard, popular rifle calibers and shotgun gauges may be easier to find in the brand and configuration you want compared to more niche rifle calibers and subgauge shotguns.

A Sonoran desert tortoise photographed in 2011 at the Phoenix Herpetological Society. © Charlie Leight/The Republic A Sonoran desert tortoise photographed in 2011 at the Phoenix Herpetological Society.

Similarly, it will be hard to find nontoxic dove loads and deer rounds right before those seasons open. The best advice we can offer is not to wait until hunting season to shop for ammo. Dove and deer hunters, for example, need to start looking now for seasons that open in September and might have to adjust expectations about finding their favorite brand and cartridge.

Additionally, different types of metals are used today to make nontoxic ammunition beyond just copper and steel. You may be able to find nontoxic ammunition more easily if you widen your search to include options such as bismuth, tungsten and metal alloys. These alternative metals can be even more effective than steel or lead; the downside is that they often are more expensive as well.

If you locate your nontoxic ammunition of choice online or from an out-of-state sporting goods store, you can work with your local federal firearms license holder or licensed ammunition vendor to have the ammunition shipped and transferred to you in California. Licensed retailers in California typically charge a small handling fee for this service.

Q: I was at a public event where an organization was giving out a desert tortoise care sheet with instructions on how to care for one as a pet. Isn’t the desert tortoise a protected species?

A: Yes, the desert tortoise is listed as a threatened species under the federal and California Endangered Species Acts, and is currently under consideration for uplisting to endangered in California. It is illegal to remove desert tortoises from the wild, but some people had pet desert tortoises before the law was enacted. Possession of a desert tortoise requires a permit and a permit sticker from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is how wildlife officers would determine whether a desert tortoise is legally possessed.

Once in captivity as a pet, desert tortoises can never be released back into the wild because they frequently contract a respiratory disease that can decimate the already dwindling wild populations. For this reason, pet tortoises that were abandoned can sometimes be legally re-homed. More information can be found on the California Turtle and Tortoise Club website at tortoise.org.

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Q: I heard there are new regulations for California grunion. What do I need to know?

A: Effective June 1, 2022, the new regulations add the month of June to the seasonal no-take closure for grunion. The closure now extends from April 1 through June 30. Additionally, a bag and possession limit of 30 grunion per person was created. See CDFW’s news release for more information.

During the open season, a California fishing license is required for persons 16 years and older. Grunion may be taken by hand only. No nets or appliances of any kind may be used to take grunion, and no holes may be dug in the beach to entrap them. Visit CDFW’s grunion web page for species facts, a schedule of expected runs and regulation information.

Email CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov with questions for the CDFW.

This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: How to hunt with nontoxic ammunition

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