To the Editor:
I have been hunting deer on Martha’s Vineyard for over 25 years, and I have come to the conclusion that we are distributing far too much of a very toxic substance in the process.
Consider this: For the 2018 deer season, a total of 485 deer were registered as having been taken with a shotgun on the Island. Driving or “gang hunting” is the most effective way to get the deer into shooting range; consider that at least 300 of the 485 deer were taken by such means. The number of shot shells expended for each running animal can range from only one to more than 10. For the purposes of this conversation, I’m going to use three shot shells per animal, each containing one ounce of buckshot or a one-ounce slug. The 185 remaining animals are calculated at only one shot shell per animal, taken by an accurate hunter. Thus, a conservative estimate for the amount of lead projected into Vineyard forests, soil, and water is 1,085 ounces for the 2018 season! The actual number could be significantly higher, and does not add in the amount of lead used to harvest the 112 animals taken by primitive firearms. In this case, most black powder ammunition averages 200 to 300 grains, or a little more than ½ an ounce per shot.
Last year, the opening day of shotgun season, a group of 20 hunters from off-Island hunting registered 14 deer at the weigh-in station. I could not get an exact number, but 40 to 50 shots expended for the harvest of those 14 deer would be a good estimate. They were a well-organized group of responsible hunters, and I believe they did harvest those animals by safe and ethical means.
Alternative, nontoxic shotgun ammunition is available in all configurations nationwide. It is three times more expensive, but I think many Vineyard hunters will agree it is worth the additional $20 to $40 per hunter per year to keep this large amount of toxic lead out of our ecosystem. Lead has already been banned for many different species in many states, why not deer?