In regards to legal, non-lead hunting ammunition, how do we find a possible candidate from the lists provided on the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) website? Would I have to scour each one to see if there is an approved non-lead shotgun ammo? The short answer is YES. You have to do some searching on your own. Why? The common misconception in that all non-lead ammunition is approved for hunting. That is FALSE. The ammo manufacturers need to submit their non-lead ammo data to the DFW and get it approved PRIOR to California hunters legally using it. That is a fact.
Take a look at the boxes of .270 caliber ammo below. One is leaded, the other unleaded, and both shoot great out of my .270. The only problem is I can only use the Vital-Shok for hunting big game in California. The top box (leaded) is around $23.00 a box, while the Trophy Copper (unleaded) is $40.00 a box. Ouch! Imagine what my 300 WM ammo costs!
Many, including myself, have switched our rifle ammo over to non-lead to be legal. It's a bitter, pricey pill to swallow, but we have to abide by the law. This year, I want the opportunity to hunt hogs with my shotgun, but non-lead shotgun ammo is an issue. Bullets were fairly easy to find, but what about shotgun ammo? I needed to find approved, non-lead saboted shotgun slugs. It turns out, I needed to go through each hard list (in PDF) on the DFW website in order to find the approved ones.
I contacted Craig Stowers with the DFW and asked him about my non-lead ammo search for shotguns.
Regarding shot-gun ammunition, all the materials previously certified by the Fish and Wildlife Service as being “non-lead” ammunition suitable for use while waterfowl hunting were grandfathered in to our regulation so if they are approved for use by them the manufacturer’s don’t have to go through our certification process.
The other question is not so easily answered...we’ve had very few contacts regarding muzzle-loaders or slugs to use in shotguns. I think one of the places that may be doing something along those lines is Tom-Bob but the supply of that kind of ammunition is probably going to be limited based on the contacts we’ve had to date. Wish I had better news on that front to provide you but it’s just not there.
We are going to need all the help we can get as we can’t force the ammunition manufacturer’s to go through our certification process.
So there you have it. As a hunter, you will need to do the research to find an approved non-lead ammunition you can use. My suggestion is to download the PDF files, print them out and have them accessible. That's what I have done. I also found a few non-lead sabot shotgun slugs that are on the approved list. It's a bitter pill to swallow for many of us, but it's the reality we live with right now.