Mourning dove.

The days may be numbered for a state rule that bans the use of lead shot when hunting mourning doves.

Lawmakers established a dove hunting season in Iowa last year and the state’s Natural Resources Commission later voted to require “non-toxic” shot after critics complained lead shot was an environmental hazard.

But two subcommittees — one in the Iowa House, the other in the Iowa Senate — have now voted to over-ride that rule and let dove hunters use lead shot. Seventy-nine-year-old Lyle Goodrich says he can’t use the “non-toxic” shot in his light-weight gun.

“You cannot shoot steel through it,” Goodrich says. “It’ll ruin the barrels on it.” Hunters like Goodrich also complain that “non-toxic” steel shot is dramatically more expensive.

Cynthia Hanson who’s with a group called “Lead is Poison” says the doves who aren’t killed during the hunting season eat the lead shot left behind.

“It’s not going to be an overnight decimation of the doves,” she says. “But we will slowly decimate that dove population by poisoning them.”

Hunters say there are isolated incidents of doves eating lead shot and they discount studies suggesting it’s harmful for humans to eat game killed with lead shot. Terry Little is with the Iowa Outdoor Partnership.

“There have been a couple that show that people that eat game meat do have slightly elevated (lead) levels,” he says. “But then so do people over 65 and people that live in older homes.”

Legislative leaders predict both the House and Senate will eventually act to overturn the commission-approved ban on lead shot for hunting mourning doves in Iowa.