(This post originally appeared at Joyner Outdoor Media and is reprinted here with permission.)
By Mike Joyner
In recent news we learned that the outdoor clothing company Under Armour dropped their sponsorship of accomplished bow hunter Sarah Bowmar. That in and of itself is not particularly newsworthy as sponsorships, company reps, and hunting shows can and do change for any number of reasons. There are, however, significant reasons and circumstances that all of my readers should be concerned about this.
I’ll recommend that you can take actions as well as make your collective voices heard. Casual reading of so called news reports make it difficult to dissect the story, as much of the reporting is emotional or conducted by reporters who are unfamiliar with the specifics of bear hunting, or the relevant history of hunting implements. I will list a few things in bullet form to make it a bit clearer as to the circumstance and relevant facts of the matter.
- Sarah Bowmar accompanied her husband Josh Bowmar on a legal bear hunt in Alberta Canada. Both Josh and Sarah are accomplished hunters, athletes. Josh holds All American Honors in javelin throwing as well as other track and field events.
- Using a spear in the Canadian province is legal, and given Josh’s background, ethical as well. As with all hunting implements, training, proficiency, and accuracy are key factors.
- Josh harvested a seven-foot black bear using a spear which was filmed by Sarah. Josh’s well-placed spear resulted in a very quick and ethical kill. It was estimated the bear traveled 60 yards after being hit. I’ll stick my neck out and state that bow hunters and gun hunters would be more than happy with such a short recovery of a large game animal.
- The video footage was published online, resulting in a huge negative response from the anti-hunting community, complete with all the ignorance and emotional nonsense we as sportsmen have come to expect from their ranks.
- An online petitionwas created and with a little more than 4.3K signatures, Under Armour was moved to drop their relationship with Sarah. Josh was not sponsored by the company, but was a supporter and fan of their products as he has publicly stated.
As is typical in these controversies, there were all the death threats, horrible dialog, and displays of ignorance that have become so common with small-minded keyboard warriors on Facebook and Twitter. Such threats, aggressive language, and bravado, rarely surfaces in face-to-face meetings. It’s my intention to spend little time with that, as it is futile dealing with that kind of mindset and the fairy tale liberal views of the world.
What I am concerned with is the lack of “I got your back” unity we need to have to prevail in the court of public opinion. In reading some of the commentary in the hunting communities, it’s clear we as a group can be accused of elitism, and eating our own. It’s the same-ol’ same-ol’ tired stuff, with archers embracing compound bows, inline vs. flintlock muzzleloaders, shotgun vs. rifle. It happens with every new or so-old-it-is-new-again implement and we’re seeing it we now with spears.
I’ll be up front here; spear hunting isn’t my thing. Images of me in a loin cloth stalking through the woods is scary, and shouldn’t be viewed by small children or adults with weak stomachs. Josh was fully clothed in modern camo and not the latest in Tarzan apparel.
Seriously though, I like my rifles, shotguns, pistols, bows, and crossbows and am reasonably proficient in their use. I don’t participate in every form of hunting or chasing all available quarry. I hunt to improve my table fare, as downtime away from work, and as a connection to the natural world.
As a group we suffer from a few forms of elitism based on quarry pursued, implements used, style of hunting, and a multitude of “ethical practices.” We’ll tear each other up over of 25 grams of broad head weight, or a few thousandths of an inch in bullet diameter. It’s a very large black eye for us collectively and easily exploited by those who have the end of all hunting as their stated goal.
Even more so, and to be more pointed, we are subjected to death by a thousand paper cuts, and sadly some of our ranks play right into it. Divide and conquer is applied daily in the world of public opinion and yet we sit around scratching our heads as to how we keep losing ground despite our contributions, new hunter recruitment and efforts at improving hunter participation.
To be frank, we all need to get off our high horses and support all legal forms of hunting. While I’m not a big fan of some hunting methods, I don’t need to be bashing my fellow sportsmen in public. I can vote my opinions with my dollars and my participation (or lack thereof). As I mentioned, I’m not into spear hunting or interested in trying it, but I have no problem with it during legal seasons, when the hunter is well practiced in their chosen implement, knows the limitations, and makes the same shoot/no shoot decisions we make with a gun or a bow at further distances. We all know bow hunters and gun hunters who could benefit from the same approach.
As for Under Armour, do we, a group that spends something north of $23 billion on equipment and clothing annually, put up with being out-voiced by a mere forty three hundred signatures? Seriously? Would Under Armour get the message if we said screw off, and left all their products on the racks at Bass Pro, Cabela’s, and Dick’s? Would having their their $40 shirts languish on clearance racks their attention?
We are a target market for their products. Does anyone think the anti-hunters are buying their gear in the same volume that hunters do? Have we totally forgotten what a powerful demographic we are as the purchasers of outdoor clothing, equipment, licenses, travel food, etc? Do we let a bunch of misinformed, misled anti’s outflank us as an influence on companies that supposedly supply and outfit our hunting trips?
A company such as Under Armour that measures sales in hundreds of millions must certainly understand just how large our demographic is. They had a good idea of the market share they anticipated gaining by jumping into the camo gear business. I challenge them to explain how they let such a small petition influence a decision that may result in a big drop in their fourth quarter 2016 sales. There can be — should be — a price to pay, a consequence for aligning themselves with anti-hunters rather than those of us who actually purchase and use their products.
I strongly suggest you make your voices heard directly to Under Armour, or any other company that picks the wrong team, and still wants our dollars and our support. Make your opinion known with your purse and your wallet. Some CEO’s ignore phone calls, emails, and will not take the time to read your heartfelt letters. The bottom line is all that commands their attention.
Remember, the anti-hunting and anti-fishing groups understand corporate decision making and the art of protesting while we’re busy tromping in the woods or wetting a line. By the numbers, we are much stronger, we give back, and we help sustain our resources. Make your dollars count.
Under Armour’s knee-jerk reaction matters as it gives power to anti-hunting groups that don’t respect legal activities, the legal pursuit of time honored pastimes, and do essentially nothing for the protection or improvement of wildlife and the natural resources that we as outdoorsmen so passionately cherish.