A bear hunting video recently surfaced on the Internet that has now gone viral, catching the attention of the world. Mainly because the hunter in the video, Josh Bomar, 26, killed the black bear with a seven-foot-long spear in Alberta, Canada. A sudden uproar of animal rights activists and campaigners has caused a huge backlash for Bomar, who is a former NCAA javelin thrower from Ohio (he and his wife, Sarah, reportedly had their Under Armour sponsorship dropped).
The video shows Bomar hiding behind a tree as a black bear eats from a 55-gallon barrel full of bait, a practice that is legal and commonly used by bear hunters in Canada. As the bear eats the bait, Bowmar steps out from the trees and throws his weapon from what looks to be around 20 feet. The spear seems to impact directly into the bears vital organs. As the bear runs, the spear is still stuck in it. Bowmar is filmed celebrating his success. Multiple cameras capture this video, even a spear-mounted video camera shows the spear’s impact, along with it falling out of the bear after a few steps. The bear is later recovered, having died from blood loss due to the gaping wound the large spearhead had torn in the animal’s flesh.
Needless to say, this video has sparked a massive debate and more than a little controversy. Even the government of Alberta has taken a stance to ban the use of spears in hunting – a law will be put in place this fall outlawing spear-hunting. The province also plans to open an investigation to find out if Bowmar had broken any other laws during his pursuit. It’s safe to assume that nearly every news report on this story claims it to be extremely barbaric and cruel. Even many hunters are taking a similar stance on Bowmar’s actions, due to it giving hunters’ a bad name. In essence, the guy is giving anti-hunters plenty of ammo to use against the pursuit of wild game.
I’ve been a hunter for most of my life, and it’s something that I cherish for many reasons. I started hunting long before getting involved in action sports, and without a doubt have a much more extensive knowledge in it. With that comes a perspective that differs from the average person who buys meat from the store. I consider myself an ethical hunter. I care about the animals that I hunt on a level that many non-hunters can only try to understand. It might not be so plain and simple, but I have an extremely strong connection with game animals simply because the pursuit of them teaches me so much.
When I had heard about this video, along with the uproar of anger and animal rights activism, I wasn’t in awe or disgusted. From the get-go, my views on this have been objective, and not so much the knee-jerk reaction that many are feeling. There are several reasons why I wasn’t shocked. The guy didn’t do anything illegal by any stretch of the imagination. There had only been one province in Canada to ban spear hunting prior to this video, and that was Ontario. Also, I’ve seen similar videos of the same bear-spearing tactic. They aren’t too hard to find — simply a Google search away. Hunting television mad-man Tim Wells has actually been hunting with spears for years, along with the rest of humanity that has been doing it since the dawn of time. It’s a legal practice, so who am I to tell a hunter how to fill their tag and procure delicious organic meat. Why is this particular video so mind-blowing? The excessive celebration, perhaps? This was another aspect that I didn’t find particularly strange either, as I too get overwhelmed with joy when I accomplish a goal like taking an animal that I will eat for the next year or so. So then there’s the bait thing. The black bear was speared as it had its face dug deep into Bowmar’s barrel of bait. Seems pretty unsportsmanlike, but that too is another completely legal practice in Canada, not to mention widely used across North America.
It seems that the public’s biggest gripe with the footage is the hunter’s choice to fill his tag using a 7-foot spear. I get it, we aren’t in the stone-age. There really aren’t many reasons to use a spear in modern hunting, even if you’re a record-breaking NCAA javelin thrower. Personally, I think this guy’s motive was purely bragging rights – maybe a little something to feed his ego as a hunter. The extreme challenge of doing this made me think that people would somehow be appeased with a hunter pursuing such a difficult hunt, as opposed to using a rifle. Stay with me, but I want to compare it to bow hunting (often looked at in a positive public light). I love bow hunting. The challenge is incredible. I’m able to get much closer to the animals. When I tell people that I bow hunt, I often get a more positive response, “at least you give the animal a fair chance” or “better odds”. It’s widely seen as a more humane method of pursuit due to the extreme difficulty.
But here’s some blunt honesty: bow hunting is not as quick or painless as hunting with a firearm. Bows do not kill animals through intense impact and internal damage — what is essentially a small explosion. Bows kill through blood-loss and hemorrhaging. It’s gruesome and violent, but that is the bare-bones truth about killing with relatively slow-moving sticks with sharp blades screwed in the ends. It’s something that myself and many other hunters do because of the challenge, the expanded opportunities, and yes, we do very much enjoy creating an even playing field and giving the wildlife an advantage. But it’s not necessarily more humane. An accurate and powerful throw of a sharp spear, like the throw made in the video, is likely to create a similar death. Again, I can understand the gripe of viewers. It’s far more difficult to accurately and powerfully hurl a spear at a bear than it is to precisely make a lethal shot on the bear with a bow. But this part made me question how many times before he’s tried to film something like this and ended up wounding an animal. Just the thought of that makes me sick to my stomach. That is one of my two biggest gripes with this guy’s method of hunting. What if someone else tries to do this and ends up leaving an animal with a non-fatal, but debilitating, injury?
The other thing that bugged the hell out of me is that this goof is giving the hunting community a really bad name. Maybe if he didn’t try to promote himself with some lame Youtube video, then the entire world wouldn’t be coming down on him. Legal or not, it’s no secret that the general population would be appalled by this kind of thing. It’s stuff like this that gives us hunters a reputation that many of us want no part of. We need to portray ourselves as responsible and ethical people. Especially in the times we’re living in now. It’s the only way to break the backwoods, hillbilly-hunter stereotype, which this dude definitely played into in a horrendous way.