Mountaineer’s Bear Hunt Draws Fire

Before you read this, watch the above video and see what your gut reaction is.

This is a video of Mountaineer mascot Jonathan Kimble on a bear hunt somewhere inWest Virginia.  The muzzleloader he uses to kill the bear is the same one he totes on the sidelines at Mountaineer Field on Saturday.   Everything within this video is perfectly legal as far as I can tell, but I’m not a Natural Resources Police Officer.

I have no problem whatsoever with Kimble bear hunting.  In fact, I think it’s pretty cool and a good story that the tool he used to take the bear is the same one that is part of the Mountaineer garb he wears at WVU games.  Amazingly, I’ve had some people ask if it’s a real muzzleloader.  

However, I have mixed emotions about how the video is presented.  Certainly, we hunt bear inWest Virginiawith dogs.   The dogs run the bear until it’s treed. The decision is made as to whether to shoot the bear or hitch-up the dogs and move on to start another chase.   This is a hunting tradition in our state as old as the state itself.  Houndsmen are a dedicated bunch and are proud of the rich heritage they uphold.

However, filming it on your smart phone is something new.  It’s only been in the last five to ten years we’ve been able to instantly share such vivid imagery.  The inclusion of the Mountaineer fight song, and the whooping and hollering that followed are what made me cringe. 

I’ll admit I’ve had a few hunts end with a hearty “Yee-haw” once the game was down.   However, as Ted Nugent likes to say, “The beast is dead, long live the beast.”   There’s a certain level of respect we should afford to the animals we pursue.   In some ways, the video crossed a blurry line. 

I cringed because I could hear the reaction across the country as the video went viral.  I could hear animal rights activists coming unglued–but to their minds just being there was a crime.   Most troubling is how the general non-hunting public would perceive the action.   Polls largely show the American public at large doesn’t have a problem with hunting even when they don’t participate.  The majority generally accept hunting as a way to put food on the table and as a traditional pursuit, especially in a state likeWest Virginia.  However, their reaction turns sharply negative when hunting is presented as nothing more than killing an animal for the sheer joy of the kill.

I wondered how the University would react.  This was the statement released by University Relations Director John Bolt to WTAP-TV inParkersburg.

“Yes, the person in the video is Jonathan Kimble, the current Mountaineer, and the gun is the musket provided by the University.

There are some provisions regarding the gun, but none that prohibit its use outside of University-sponsored functions or for hunting purposes. It is also worth noting that powder is used when the musket is discharged at public functions.

While Jonathan’s actions broke no laws or regulations, the University has discussed this with him and he agrees that it would be appropriate to forego using the musket in this way in the future.”

I’ve often written here killing an animal is but a small part of the hunting experience.   If Trimble wanted to show himself hunting with the muzzleloader he uses to cheer on the Mountaineers he could have shown the dogs working through the hills, the difficulties getting to such a remote location to tree the animal, the quiet time at sunrise with the distant bay of the hounds in the distance, and a bit more reverence at the end.  Don’t get me wrong, there should be exuberance for the accomplishment–but it’s a different kind of exuberance than a Tavon Austin touchdown.


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