If you follow news related to hunting and fishing, then you’ve probably heard about the latest controversy involving Under Armour. If not, everything below will help fill you in. I’m going to share with you several links to articles about the incident so you can see both sides of the story. I also will provide screen grabs of statements from various entities like Under Armour, notable hunting personalities, and public social media posts. Throughout, I will share thoughts from multiple perspectives, including my own, regarding this incident. Ultimately, I discuss why I, as a hunter, will never purchase Under Armour gear again.
Let’s get started on what happened.
One of the women Under Armour sponsors, Sarah Bowmar, filmed her husband, Josh Bowmar, on a completely legal spear hunt for black bears in Canada. It happened in May, and the video was posted to their Bowmar Bowhunting page in June. However, the anti hunting media/public apparently just picked it up in the last week. Now all hell is breaking loose in their uninformed, radically hateful minds. Under the intense public backlash, Under Armour dropped Sarah Bowmar as one of their sponsored women athletes.
The original bear hunting video has since been removed from the Bowmar page, but you can view it HERE.
The news story that initially set off the fire storm was published by The Mirror. The Mirror, known for making outlandish story titles to drum up clicks, made no attempt to appear unbiased in this case either. The author, Christopher Bucktin, titled it, “Hunters in sick new low as black bear is stabbed with 7ft spear then left to die”. As you can imagine by the title, the writer portrayed Josh as a mentally deranged person who only finds pleasure in causing immense pain and suffering to animals. It shows the mentality of what we hunters are truly up against.
When asked about the story, Josh Bowmar explained he wasn’t consulted about any of the contents until after the publication. He was given no fair chance to explain his side of the story. Luckily, Wide Open Spaces gave him that chance and you can see his response HERE.
Regardless, it was too late for Josh, and more unfortunately for his wife, Sarah Bowmar, whose Under Armour sponsorship was terminated. Under Armour, showing where its true loyalties are, caved to uninformed, radical anti-hunters.
Following this paragraph are some examples of the type of people whose opinions Under Armour valued over hunters. Be forewarned, there is some graphic language and twisted thoughts stated. All of these screenshots were pulled from the public comments section of Sarah Bowmar’s Facebook Page. Click each one to enlarge.
There were hundreds of comments like the ones you just saw. In fact, there was one thread with so many hateful comments, including death threats, that the Bowmars deleted it. They deleted it before I could screen grab any of those comments, but I can’t say that I blame them.
What’s funny is that many of these commenters are the same ones who get on social media and tell hunters to quit using guns and bows. Instead, they say to even the playing field. Use a spear or knife so the animal has a chance to fight back. Then as soon as someone does, they can’t stand that either. They are the ultimate hypocrites. Yet, Under Armour chose to side with their emotional and reactionary point of view.
Under Armour’s official statement is as follows:
“The method used to harvest this animal was reckless and we do not condone it. Under Armour is dedicated to the hunting community and supports hunting that is conducted in compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws and hunting practices that ensure a responsible and safe harvest of the animal.”
Reckless? Josh Bowmar can be heard talking in the video, and in multiple other interviews, about how much practice and preparation was put into this spear hunt. He waited patiently for the most ideal position of the bear before throwing his spear. He and his wife practiced sound woodsmanship by following typical tracking protocol – returning the next morning to find the bear. If you watched the video, you learned the bear only ran 60 yards. They filmed the devastating effects of the spear as they followed the blood trail. Anyone who understands hunting at all knows that a kill shot that expansive combined with that short of a track job indicates it was highly likely the animal died within moments.
So tell me, what exactly did he do that was so reckless? What was so irresponsible about the harvest?
Maybe we need to create a time machine so we can go back and have a little talk with our ancestors. They need to know how reckless and irresponsible they were using spears. While we’re at it, maybe we should also tell them how unethical it is to use a group of hunters to scare bison into a corner or over a cliff before mercilessly raining down on them with spears.
Under Armour elaborates in its public statement that the company is “dedicated to the hunting community” and “supports hunting that is conducted in compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws…” The spear hunt is a perfectly legal means of taking a bear where this hunt occurred. Everything about the hunt was on the up and up. But the company then comes out and condemns the hunt? Doesn’t that seem a little bit contradictory to the statement? It does to me.
As if to add insult to injury, the Under Armour Hunt Facebook Page has been responding to comments coming from radical anti-hunters. However, they won’t respond to any comments from hunters who are calling them out for ditching one of our own.
Here’s a screen grab to illustrate:
The gal below summed up Under Armour’s social media cowardice the best:
As you can probably imagine, this incident isn’t just affecting the Bowmars. It’s affecting other notable hunting organizations and individuals who are also sponsored by Under Armour. The general public is demanding to know which side these sponsored individuals are on. Do they truly stand with all legal hunters, or are they only in it for the money? I think it’s a fair question. We have a right to know where these personalities stand, considering they basically make their living off of the viewership they get from us, the general hunting public.
Cameron Hanes, a relatively popular hunter with over 200k followers on Facebook, is sponsored by Under Armour and had an interesting take on the situation. Click on the following screen grabs to see Hanes’ official statement. In case you don’t want to read his whole post, I pulled a few quotes out of it to illustrate where he stands.
Hanes is apparently very good friends with one of the founders of Under Armour. So you can already guess he probably has some major bias in favor of the company. Although, as a true hunter who supports all legal hunting in principle, wouldn’t he come out against Under Armour’s decision? Well, if you thought yes, then you thought wrong.
“I really like Sarah and Josh Bowmar and have no problem personally with the spear hunt,” he admitted.
“It’s just a crazy time these days with social media and its world wide reach. What might seem perfectly fine to us as hunters isn’t perfectly fine with people on social media.”
It turns out he will not be parting ways with Under Armour.
“As far as Under Armour and hunting, they are a Fortune 500 company and have been one of hunting’s biggest proponents for many years. I don’t know of any other companies that are as successful that would even mess with the hunting minefield. UA has done a lot for the industry making hunting seem “cool” to the younger generation,” Hanes said.
Wow, thanks Cameron Hanes. That’s a real great, feel good story. Thanks for telling us about how much good they’ve done for hunting… until they completely negated it all by throwing one of their own – our own – under the bus. I hate to break it to you Cameron, but if a company wants to be in the hunting industry and make money off of us, then it better not have reservations with supporting all legal forms of hunting.
Drury Outdoors, a brand with over 600k Facebook followers, is also sponsored by Under Armour. But the Drury family had a little different take than Cameron Hanes. See their official statement in the screen grab below.
While the Drury’s might not be parting ways with Under Armour immediately, you can see they at least have some conviction to stand with all legal hunters! That should be the same response all hunters have to this incident. Spear hunting is as “100% Wild, 100% Fair Chase” as it gets.
The Divide Within
However, this event is drawing criticism not only from anti-hunters, but also from within our own hunting community. Some watched the video and viewed Josh Bowmar’s actions after the spear throw as “excessive celebration”. I’ve seen others describe him as a “total bro” who cares nothing about the animal and only wants to be famous on TV.
“The Bowmars deserve what they got,” I’ve heard some say.
I had some dialogue with a fellow hunter and notable leader within the hunting community of Missouri recently. His opinion is one I respect immensely so I wanted to get his thoughts on the matter. He shared sentiments of disgust with both Josh and Sarah Bowmar. I was extremely surprised after he told me he was “more proud to own Under Armour gear” after they canned Sarah Bowmar from their list of sponsored athletes. His opinion is that the outdoor TV/video industry is becoming a detriment to the heritage of hunting. His perspective was clearly characterizing the Bowmars as some of the worst posers in the industry. He thought they were attention seekers who showed no respect for the animals.
In a general sense, he does have an interesting and valid point. I’ve watched lots of TV shows where it was clear the hosts of the show killed something just for the sake of being able to make a show. Those are the bad apples in the industry. But I have a few questions for everyone who thinks TV and video are destroying our hunting heritage.
Aren’t we living in 2016, the age of technology? Aren’t we the most connected we’ve ever been as a human race? Isn’t it vitally important to communicate what we do as hunters in the most accurate way possible? Isn’t video the best way to do that?
Words cannot truly capture the moment like video can. If words are all there is to describe a hunt, imagination is all the reader can rely on. But video can help you see the true reality – the scenery, the terrain, the weather, the hunters, the animals, the hunt, the emotion – the reasons why we do what we do.
Regarding Josh Bowmar’s spear hunt, people are saying he was over the top. He was acting for the camera. He should have showed more remorse.
“It was an acting job.”
“There wasn’t enough educational content in the video.”
“Hunters get the excitement, but non-hunters don’t. He should have been more aware.”
Personally, I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I’ve seen way worse examples of over exaggerated fist pumping and gratuitous thanking of God after shooting a buck with a rifle at 100 yards eating over a corn feeder.
But how about I paint a picture for you and we try to empathize with him to put ourselves in his shoes? Maybe we can come closer to understanding what he was going through in those intense moments.
After practicing for months, the hunt is finally here. Hours upon hours in the car pass by until finally reaching the destination. The hunting set up is meticulously chosen and prepared to allow for a bear encounter within 10 yards. There is no blind, no tree stand, no back up guns, no one to save you if something goes wrong. Just one person behind a camera and one person with a spear, both on the ground. After having the hunt planned for a year and days of waiting during the hunt, a giant bear finally shows. The moment of truth is almost here. He turns, presenting a shot opportunity, but something’s not quite right. The bear senses something is off, turns, and runs away. Overcome with emotions, you feel your heart sinking as the trip you planned and prepared for so intensely appears to be over. Everything seems heavier and harder. Your muscles tense up. Your movements aren’t as fluid. But patiently, you keep waiting. Hours pass. By some miracle, you spot movement in the brush. Could it be? The bear appears again, but clearly agitated. He could charge at any moment. He approaches, turning his shoulder broadside and presenting the perfect shot. Your instincts take over and any thoughts dissipate from your mind. Your body acts without your conscious command. Pure adrenaline and hunting instinct control you as your arm launches the spear forward. It hits its mark.
Tell me something. If that were you in Josh Bowmar’s situation, would you not be a little excited too? Possibly unable to have an emotional filter?
Josh’s reaction is exactly what I would expect moments after accomplishing the feat of taking a killing machine down with a spear. What makes his response anymore inappropriate than all the TV hunters who jump around a tree stand fist pumping after shooting a big buck with a bow or rifle? What about those TV hunters who stage praying and thanking God over and over for providing them with a kill? Is that not over the top?
I eventually began to wonder what expectations/guidelines, if any, Under Armour set for Sarah Bowmar and her videos. Did they not discuss with her ahead of time anything that might be off limits to post? Did Under Armour not know they would be filming a spear hunt? If they did, why did they let them post the video?
I’ve seen and heard unconfirmed claims that Under Armour actually shared this video earlier in the summer from its Facebook page. It apparently included a congratulatory message for Josh, but I haven’t been able to find hard proof. If that’s the case, it only serves as more evidence for how big of a sellout Under Armour really is.
In my opinion, what it really boils down to is that anti-hunters don’t care what your reaction is before, during, or after a hunt. They simply just hate you for being a hunter and they won’t stop until your rights are all gone.
Under Armour may have some done good things for hunting in the past, but that doesn’t change the company’s impact now in this situation. It serves a diverse demographic of people, most of which vastly outnumber the hunters who purchase Under Armour gear. A large publicly-owned company that sells products to a vast majority of non-hunters is always going to cave into its largest consumer base. So from a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense that the company would distance itself from someone whose overall negative impact on the company could far outweigh the positive impact he/she had in generating revenue. I’ve seen many people say it’s a business and it’s Under Armour’s right to make that decision. I absolutely agree with that. That’s not what worries me.
In a world where hunters are constantly under fire and having to defend themselves, should we really trust a corporation in our industry whose key stakeholders also consist of a vast majority of non-hunters and anti-hunters? Let’s go a step further. Should we really stand with a corporation in our industry, which while under intense public scrutiny from those same non-hunters and anti-hunters, turned its back on the hunting community and threw us under the bus?
For every self-respecting outdoorsman, the answer should be a firm no. We cannot trust a company that bows to the almighty dollar rather than stand tall with our values.
Whatever good Under Armour may have done for hunting in the past is now unraveled. Under Armour gave the anti-hunters an inch and now they are taking a mile. Legislation to outlaw spear hunting is already moving along where Josh Bowmar’s hunt took place. That legislation is just the beginning and won’t be an isolated occurrence. An event like this is what slowly starts creating momentum to erode our rights as hunters across the board. There is no doubt about that. What’s next to go? Bowhunting? Muzzleloading? Rifle Hunting?
From this incident, we can take away several valuable lessons.
We as hunters need to always be aware of what we post online and how other people might perceive it. In doing so, we can help to eliminate any unnecessary backlash in the future.
We need to unite together against Under Armour, anti-hunters, and any entity whose actions and words directly work against us and our goals to preserve the hunting heritage.
We need to stand with companies which are owned and operated by true hunters. The companies who are willing to stand with us in a time of need are the ones who deserve our support.
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