By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Let's face it, we can justify almost anything in our own minds.

I had that message driven home Wednesday as, ironically, I was attending a session focusing on the deniers of global warming.

It was there that Randy Rodgers and Helen Hands, both wildlife biologists, offered kudos for a recent column I'd authored urging the banning of lead in ammunition and fishing tackle.

But what struck home was when Randy asked if that meant I was throwing steel shot -- only -- at the raft of doves that now await a date with my grill.

I'm sure I had that deer-in-the-headlight look on my face.

I had rationalized that with an ample supply of shotgun shells already on hand, it was OK to go ahead and toss lead willy-nilly across the countryside.

To be sure, I'm dedicated to the idea of avoiding -- at all cost -- the idea of buying any additional lead-filled shells, in favor of some other non-toxic shot instead.

Besides, I shoot a 16-gauge shotgun, some would (and have) argue is a stone-age gun that certainly isn't the easiest thing in the world to find shells for.

So it was even easier for me to justify my decision to use up what I already have.

But Randy's question brought it all home in an avalanche of thought, making me question if even that's a smart thing.

After all, the whole idea of being against lead-based shells is the fact that lead is a toxic element not only when blasted into the hearts of game birds but also when scooped up by foraging waterfowl in search of food. That and lead is simply one of the more toxic metals out there.

So how can my decision be right? How can I justify the idea of continuing to throw lead out into the environment where waterfowl can find it.

By night's end, I recognized how wrong I was.

But yes, I can't simply toss out what I have on hand.

I can, however, recognize some of the dangers and adjust my patterns, if you will.

So, because I disapprove of the idea of throwing lead out where it might be scooped up, I'm going to change.

I'll no longer use lead to hunt over or near any body of water. Yes, when I next head out for a round of aimless dove shooting, I'll have non-toxic shells in my bucket. The lead shells will remain at home.

But, rather than waste what I have, I'll use the lead shells for the wide-open spaces, the forays out onto the dry plains in search of pheasants and quail.

And I hate doing that.

I applaud Randy and Helen for asking the question. It's something I should have considered before urging others to do as I say, not as I do.

I can only get away with that with my kids, and even then they don't listen to me.

As a footnote, Helen said something about a reloading recipe for 16-gauge steel loads. I'm game to try that one if I can get my hands on it.