| Share or Bookmark:
Ask a wildlife manager
By Ron Day, law enforcement branch chief, Arizona Game and Fish Department
The start of December means that every avid Arizona duck hunter has already spent a weekend or two up north trying to make that old duck call work while watching their favorite duck decoy float (or sink, if it’s a really good one). So it’s not too early to answer the annual question about possessing lead shot while duck hunting.
For years, anyone hunting waterfowl in Arizona has been required to hunt with non-toxic shot. This prevents the accumulation of lead shot on the bottom of waters frequented by wintering waterfowl. Lead accumulation becomes an issue as ducks ingest lead shot while feeding off the bottom and die from toxins produced as shot is digested. Non-toxic shot initially meant steel shot. But in recent years this category has grown to include bismuth, tungsten and a variety of other replacements.
The question of possessing lead shot while duck hunting is often asked by desert duck hunters who wish to take advantage of Arizona’s multiple hunt structure by hunting quail while duck hunting. This is legal if done correctly—and what a great way to spend a day in the field. Here are the guidelines:
A hunter may not possess lead shot while in the field hunting waterfowl. “In the field” does not mean in your truck, but away from your truck actively hunting waterfowl. So if you have parked and are walking up to a tank to jump ducks, you may not possess lead shot on your person. You may have lead shot in your vehicle, but not in your hunting vest, game bag or pockets. This obviously also applies to sitting in a duck blind over a spread of decoys. If you are doing this, you are duck hunting and may not possess lead shot on your person or in your blind.
If you are driving between tanks and see a covey of quail, you can lawfully hunt these birds with lead shot. You are not duck hunting at this point, even if you started the morning going out after ducks. Now, you are actually hunting quail. Of course, you can’t shoot them from the truck window—that would be illegal. But, you knew that!
The hard question is: What do you do when you are sneaking up to your favorite duck tank and discover a covey of quail? Hopefully at this point you do not have lead shot with you. If you do, you are in violation and may be issued a citation. In this circumstance, jump the tank in anticipation of a swarm of mallards getting up at your feet. Then walk back to your truck, swap your non-toxic shot for lead, and return to pursue the covey of quail.
I hope this will answer the lead shot question, at least for another year. Be safe and enjoy your day in the field.