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How and Why to Remove Bird Shot Efficiently and Effectively

Know how to remove bird shot? This might help.

There is not often a more satisfying moment for a bird hunter than making the shot, seeing the game fall to ground and retrieving the prize.

As most game bird hunters know, the work does not stop there. The real reward is when you sit down to the dinner table and nourish your body with the meat that you have brought home yourself. In order to get from the field to the dinner plate, you must remove the shot from the bird to avoid broken teeth and unhappy dinner guests.

Typically, most shot will project through and exit the bird, not causing an issue. There are times, however, that the bird will retain some, particularly in the breast. It is best to remove it when the carcass is still warm and malleable.

To do so, start by following the shot through the entrance point of the body to locate its landing place. You can also look for feathers that are broken and penetrating the body, as they will direct you to the shot. After the initial cleaning and once you have your bird at home, hold it to a bright light, it may illuminate any remaining shot that you did not catch.

Tools for Removing Shot

After doing an initial cleaning and defeathering, you may need to dig a bit deeper to remove any remaining bullets or pellets. There are a number of tools available to make this job easier on you:


It is useful to carry both a buck knife and fillet knife on you during your hunts. Removing pellets or bullets is similar to removing bones from a fish. To start, you will want to gut, clean and defeather with a buck knife.

As you get down to the finer details, it is useful to have a thin, sharp, fine-pointed knife for removing shot. A leatherman, utility knife or full-cleaning kit can also replace the two-knife option.

Tweezers or Forceps

If you are typically bringing home smaller fowl, a regular pair of household tweezers may adequately serve the purpose for ridding your game of shot. When working with larger animals, such as geese, you will want to invest in a pair of longer-handled forceps. They will do the work with minimal damage to the flesh of the bird, retrieving from areas that are unreachable with your fingers.

Hunter and his dog

Stud Finder

Typically used by carpenters to find nails and studs, this tool can also be used to find steel shots. Wrap your stud finder in a single layer of cellophane to avoid any bacteria reaching the small crevices.

Hold the stud finder to the body of the bird and remove the shot with your pair of tweezers of forceps when you find it.

Reasons for Removing Lead Bird Shot

Because it doesn’t taste good and will bust your teeth… do you need another reason?

In all seriousness, when using lead bullets, it is recommended to remove the shot as quickly as possible. Lead poisoning is real and detrimental to human health; it can occur when lead bullets are left within the bird’s carcass. They can be particularly harmful when the bird is cooked with the lead bullets intact, causing it to further absorb the harmful effects of lead.

To protect other wildlife, yourself, and others, just avoid the use of lead-based ammunition al together. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to still remove the shot from your game meat, but at least you’ll be a little safer knowing you’re not feeding yourself poison.



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How and Why to Remove Bird Shot Efficiently and Effectively