Unless you have been living under a rock the past week and a half, you have seen images or read about West Virginia University mascot Jon Kimble hunting and killing a black bear with his university-issued firearm.
Kimble, the 2012-13 Mountaineer mascot tweeted a picture of his kill to the hosts of ESPNU RoadTrip which had just recently interviewed Kimble for their coverage of the Kansas vs West Virginia football game on December 1.
Kimble also took video of the hunt which found its way to the internet. For those who have not seen the video, you can find the video here (WARNING: Video clearly depicts bear being shot and killed from atop a tree).
While Kimble legally hunted the bear, West Virginia University has urged Kimble to keep the shooting to athletic events:
“While Jonathan Kimble’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,” said WVU spokesman John Bolt.
Kimble and an unnamed hunting partner, went hunting for black bear with dogs in tow. Kimble’s video and images of the hunt found their way to the internet on December 4. Firearm season for bear hunting opened in select counties in West Virginia on December 3. Hunting for bear with dogs is allowed in Preston County from December 3-31, the most likely (yet unconfirmed) location of the hunt.
Kimble said of the kill and subsequent video:
“Hunting can be a controversial topic,” Kimble said. “I apologize to any of those who took offense to the video. It definitely wasn’t my intent to offend anybody.”
Kimble also contends that previous Mountaineer mascots have used the school-issued firearm to hunt for deer. So in his mind, he was not doing anything illegal and certainly nothing out of the ordinary for the long line of school mascots.
“Hunting with the rifle is prevalent and has never been considered an issue before.”- Brady Campbell, former mascot.
Brady Campbell offered up some of his personal insights on the matter to HailWV. Campbell served as the Mountaineer mascot for the 2006-07 and the 2007-08 school years. He is one of the more iconic Mountaineers in recent history and has a firm understanding of what it means to be the symbol of West Virginia University.
Before we could even get far into the interview, Campbell made sure to correct one common mistake in the coverage of the hunting incident. The Mountaineer does NOT in fact carry a musket, but rather a Kentucky long rifle. Here is Campbell’s description of the school issued firearm:
“The Mountaineer carries a Kentucky Long Rifle — not a musket. This comes from the mouth of the gun smith and is evidenced by looking at the rifle. A rifle has a narrower/leaner stalk as opposed to a musket which has a hefty stalk to avoid breaking. A musket is generally a military issued weapon whereas a rifle is a tool used primarily for hunting and protection if necessary. Finally, a musket has a smooth bore inside the barrel. If you look at the Mountaineer’s gun, it has lines drilled into the barrel which are called riflings.” – Brady Campbell
Now that we have the firearm appropriately identified, let’s delve into the requirements of the mascot to carry the iconic rifle.
Campbell described to HailWV that each Mountaineer mascot must have a firm understanding of firearm safety and proper usage. Each Mountaineer has to go through the process of obtaining a state firearm safety certificate, the same certificate utilized in obtaining a hunting license. A license that Campbell suggests many Mountaineer mascots have had prior to assuming their role.
“Nearly every Mountaineer in the past decade (including Rebecca) had hunting experience before they ever came into contact with the Mountaineer rifle.”-Campbell
To further their knowledge of the Mountaineer rifle, each incoming Mountaineer shadows the outgoing Mountaineer for the final two month of the outgoing Mountaineer’s term. Furthermore, each Mountaineer, when being selected, is evaluated on their ability to safely handle the rifle.
So it is obvious that Kimble and every other Mountaineer mascot before him have been properly qualified to tote the official rifle. Kimble abided by the hunting laws of the state of West Virginia, using a rifle that was allowed for the hunting of black bears. A rifle that he had a state license to carry.
Whether Kimble should have publicly posted his video of the kill is a matter of taste. Public outcry from those with animal rights sensitivities are understandable, but those same people should not be harassing Kimble publicly through social media. He is a sportsman, indulging in a perfectly legal sport.
The whole matter has been over-exaggerated, a sentiment echoed by Campbell.
“My opinion is that this issue was blown out of proportion. With that said, the University must maintain a neutral appearance and prohibiting activities seen as unnecessarily controversial by such a public figure using a University-owned piece of equipment is understandable. The University did not ban the Mountaineer from hunting, only hunting with the University’s rifle.” – Campbell
All those personally attacking Kimble through social media should understand the facts of the case before attacking a man who did nothing wrong in the eyes of the law. Kimble has been one of the more visible Mountaineers in recent history and has done a great job of being an ambassador for the university.