It’s now illegal to hunt bears in Alberta with a spear

Black bear in front of a tree [Credit: Pixabay/Werner22Brigitte]

In Alberta, new hunting regulations will ban the use of spears and spear-like weapons in hunting big-game animals. “These changes will discourage reckless actions and ensure big game animals are not subjected to unnecessary suffering,” reads a statement from the province.

Of course, provinces don’t tend to make changes like these without being prompted by a specific incident. In this case, the ban was proposed after a video of an American javelin athlete spearing a bear made the rounds last year. Josh Bowmar, an Ohioan hunter, posted the video after a hunting trip in northern Alberta. The video showed Bowmar, a former competitive javelin thrower, throwing a spear and hitting a bear in the side. “I drilled him perfect,” Bowmar is heard to say in the video.  

The video sparked an outcry around the world and a larger discussion about whether hunting using old-fashioned tools can be considered safe or humane.

Man in woods preparing to throw spear at a nearby black bear
Josh Bowmar, moments before spearing and killing a black bear in northern Alberta. [Credit: Bowmar Bowhunting]

“It’s the only time I’ve ever heard of this, and I’ve been in hunter education for 40 years. It’s the only time this has ever reared its ugly head,” Dave Paplawski of the Alberta Hunter Education Instructors’ Association told

Global News at the time. Paplawski also said that spear hunting requires the hunter to get so near to the bear that there’s no way the practice could be considered safe.

Bowmar responded at the time that spear hunting is as old as hunting itself, and that claims that it is inhumane “couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

“The bear I speared only ran 60 yards and died immediately, that’s as humane and ethical as one could get in a hunting situation on big game animals,” he said.

However, Paplawski said that he believes newer hunting methods are safer, quicker, and more ethical than spear hunting.“We’ve evolved out of that [. . .],” he said.

Alberta’s environment minister, Shannon Phillips, agrees. “[Spear hunting is] not humane because most hunters know that the chances of getting close enough to hit that moving target with big game, and sufficient accuracy and force to kill immediately is next to zero,” she told CTV News.

The new rules, enacted under the Alberta Wildlife Act, will be in effect for the 2018 hunting season. Big-game animals (including bear, deer, and moose) can only be hunted using only rifles, shotguns and conventional archery gear, and hunters must use a minimum .24-calibre buckshot to ensure a speedy kill. Those found in violation of the laws can be fined up to $50,000 or sentenced to a year in jail.

Of course, the number of people affected by the new rules is extremely small. Ryk Visscher, a bow hunter, told the CBC that he takes 100 people per year out on hunting trips around central and northern Alberta and has never met anyone who wanted to use a spear. “I mean there’s probably more people running around trying to kill things with a rock.”

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