Scavenger Hunt (2012) DVD Review: It's for the Birds

Makes a strong case for the use of lead-free bullets.
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The new documentary Scavenger Hunt hopes to alert people to an unusual problem. It is the effect of hunters using lead bullets, specifically the unintended results of them on the endangered California Condor.

As the title indicates, condors are scavengers. When a hunter kills a deer in the wild, the normal procedure is to dress it there. Basically, they gut it. The “gut pile” is what is left behind and would seem to provide a great source of food for the birds. The trouble is, with the lead buckshot left behind in the gut pile, the condors are dying of lead poisoning. The main purpose of Scavenger Hunt is to make this situation known to the general public. As it turns out, the program offers a relatively pain-free solution to the dilemma as well.

The answer is to use lead-free bullets. They cost a little more, apparently about $20 more a box, yet it really is that simple. When we get into any issue involving guns though, the mighty NRA steps into the breach. Naturally enough, they oppose this common-sense solution.

Scavenger Hunt presents some pretty interesting facts about the California Condor. They are so close to extinction that the species was down to 22 individuals at one point. Just 22! Through the efforts of concerned groups, the numbers have risen somewhat. But their ongoing existence is a very fragile proposition, even without the poison they are inadvertently being exposed to with the remnants of these lead buckshot bullets.

To repeat, asking hunters to use lead-free bullets, at about $20 more per box is all that this comes down to. Not exactly a huge sacrifice, is it? Evidently it is. In August 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the EPA to ban the use of lead-based ammunition nationwide. The petition was rejected by the EPA less than a month later. In March 2012, the CBD tried again, and were rejected again.  Currently close to 90% of hunters in Northern Arizona participate in the AZ Fish and Game Department’s voluntary lead-reduction program though, which is a good sign.

What I found even more thought provoking about this issue was treated as sort of a side-subject, but it seems even more relevant to people than the fate of the condors. It is the effect of the lead-bullet contamination on humans. My dad was a hunter, and we ate wild deer, elk, and duck often while I was growing up. Lead paint has been banned for years, and there is a reason. Why should we turn a blind eye towards the potential harm to people from eating meat killed with lead bullets?

The cover of the Scavenger Hunt DVD has a banner from earthNOW!, which I think is a mistake. It might scare off the very folks who need to see it the most. People who hunt could take one look at it and think it is just “environmentalist propaganda” and dismiss the whole thing. A number of the participants in the documentary are hunters themselves though. Hunters are human beings, not irrational lunatics. In fact, in Scavenger Hunt we even see a man shooting ducks. We then see him and his family sitting down to eat them. This is not an anti-hunting movie by any stretch.

As one of the guys who are interviewed explains, he spent $2,000 on his rifle, plus another thousand for the scope. To quote him, “An extra $20 for a box of bullets is not asking a lot.”

The new Cinema Libre DVD release of Scavenger Hunt also contains some bonus features. These include deleted scenes, outtakes, and the original trailer. I think this is a very important issue, even more so when you think about the many people who may be actually hurting their loved ones accidentally by using these lead bullets to hunt with. I hope Scavenger Hunt succeeds in getting the word out, for the sake of the California Condor, and quite possibly people as well.

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