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Alberta spear hunter defends American who posted bear-killing video

An Alberta hunting guide who claims he has killed five animals with a spear is defending the American whose bear-killing video prompted the Alberta government to say it will ban the controversial practice.

'Spear hunting is a beautiful sport and somebody did a great job at it, and now it's being taken away'

Alberta hunter Mike Blanchett, who says he has killed five animals using a spear, defends the American hunter whose YouTube video prompted the Alberta government to say it will ban spear hunting. (YouTube)

An Alberta hunting guide who claims he has killed five animals with a spear is defending the American whose bear-killing video prompted the provincial government to say it will ban the controversial practice.

"I take my hat off to the guy," Mike Blanchett of Cold Lake said Tuesday. "The guy's a great hunter and should get a pat on the back for that. As far as I know, it's myself and him have pulled an accomplishment off like that."

A video posted in June shows American Josh Bowmar, a personal trainer and former competitive javelin thrower, hitting a bear with a hand-thrown spear. It's believed the video was shot in May northeast of Edmonton.

The video was circulated in recent news stories, and the Alberta government said Monday it condemns the practice and will introduce a ban on spear hunting this fall.

The government has also directed Fish and Wildlife officers to investigate to see if charges are warranted under existing laws.

Blanchett, who runs a guiding and outfitting business called Blanchett Outdoor Adventures, has posted his own spear-hunting videos to YouTube, including one in which he spears a black bear.

He scoffed at the idea that Bowmar could face charges.

'Uncommon' but not illegal

"He was in a baiting area and killed an animal he had a tag for with a weapon he was allowed to use," Blanchett said. "So what are they going to charge him with? Overachieving?"

Miles Grove, superintendent of operations with the Fish and Wildlife enforcement branch, confirmed that spears are not currently illegal as hunting weapons.

He was in a baiting area and killed an animal he had a tag for with a weapon he was allowed to use. So what are they going to charge him with? Overachieving?- Mike Blanchett, hunter and guide

"The use of spears to hunt big game in Alberta is currently not prohibited, however, it's been my experience that it is very uncommon," Grove said.

Blanchett said misunderstanding and a lack of education may well result in spears being banned for the few "elite" hunters capable of using them.

"Spear hunting is a beautiful sport and somebody did a great job at it, and now it's being taken away," he said.

He said he hunted for 20 years before he first tried using a spear.

"The attraction is getting close — getting up close and personal with the animal," he said. "All the animals that I've taken with a spear, I've always been within 10 yards."

'A true hunter'

"It's easy for a guy to go buy a high-powered rifle and shoot an animal at 300 yards, or for a guy to grab a bow and shoot something at 40 yards. But with a spear, you really have to put your time and dedication into it. And anybody, honestly, if you can go grab a spear and take an animal with it, hats off to you. You are a true hunter.

U.S. hunter Josh Bowmar poses with a bear he killed with a spear. (YouTube)

"Probably my favourite kill with a spear was my first kill, with a black bear. ... I practiced for two years straight and never took an animal. Finally, after two years of several attempts and several tries, I finally got within four yards of a black bear and threw. Had a great kill shot — hit him double lungs, penetrated [the] heart. The bear only ran 30 yards after that. It was a clean, good kill."

Blanchett said he hopes to spend the next 10 years hunting the North American "Super Slam" — 29 big game species — all with a spear.

Can it be done humanely?

Mark Boyce, a professor of ecology at the University of Alberta, said one of the biggest issues to consider with spear hunting is whether or not it can be done humanely.

With a high-powered rifle, a skilled hunter can place a bullet with precision so that it kills an animal quickly, minimizing the risk of suffering, he said. 
American hunter Josh Bowmar celebrates after his spear hits its target. (YouTube) (YouTube)

"With a spear, it's harder to imagine that one could be as precise at placing the spear where it needed to be. I think most people are probably certainly not skilled enough to do it well. And being able to actually verify that you are able to throw a spear accurately would be a tough thing to deal with."

Boyce, a hunter himself, said he supports the government moving to ban spear hunting.

"I think that it sounds questionable. Any hunting ethics issues where it's going to give hunting a bad name, or make hunting look bad, strikes me as being the sort of thing we should ban."

With files from Briar Stewart andTerry Reith

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