Along The Trail 9-1-16

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Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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Recently, there was a flap in the hunting world between the multi-billion dollar company Under Armour and one of its sponsored pro-staff hunters.

The rift came as a result of the hunting method used to take a black bear in Alberta, Canada. The hunter in question took the bear with a well placed throw of a spear designed for hunting. The fellow using the spear was well trained and well practiced at the art of throwing a spear, so we’re not talking about someone just chucking a pointed stick around in the woods.

A video of the hunt played on social media and caused an uproar even though the hunting technique used was perfectly legal and accepted method in Alberta. An online petition was formed by an anti-hunting group and garnered 4,300 signatures demanding that Under Armour withdraw sponsorship of the hunting couple in the video and speak out against this method of hunting.

Sadly, for hunters, Under Armour caved in and pulled its support of this husband and wife hunting team. Again, the couple in question did nothing legally or even ethically wrong. The gentleman harvested a legal bear using a proven and legal weapon for hunting in the jurisdiction he was in.

For those of you not familiar with Under Armour, it’s a huge manufacturer/marketing company of sporting goods clothing and equipment. Until a few years ago, UA catered only to the usual sports: basketball, volleyball, track and field, golf, etc., until someone in the company got the idea to jump head first into the world of outdoor and hunting apparel – and its Under Armour line of outdoor goods took off like wildfire.

For the past several years, many folks in the hunting industry have been promotional staff hunters for UA and in exchange for advertising their goods, the hunters receive free or discounted UA gear. Some of the most well known in the industry are actually sponsored by UA and receive payment or stipends of one sort or another from the company. For years, UA had been pretty cozy with the hunting community and the outdoor industry.

I should probably say that spear hunting isn’t for me. Sure, I love my traditional bows and arrows and have enjoyed hunting with my primitive weapons, but the amount of time and practice it would take to become proficient with a hunting spear is beyond me.

But, at the same time, I have no interest in hunting with a long distance high powered rifle either, shooting a game animal 600-800 yards away from me. Neither of those styles of hunting is to my liking.

But, here’s the thing: both of the aforementioned hunting methods are perfectly legal in certain areas, states, province’s, countries, etc., and as a fellow hunter, I will defend your right to use your chosen weapon and to hunt your way as long as it’s legal and ethical.

Up until the last week or so, I would have assumed that a company that purports to support hunters like Under Armour would have done the same thing. But, UA gave into pressure from online, anti-hunting bullies that most likely are ill-informed about hunting or hunters and the role hunters play in conservation. 4,300 signatures was all it took for UA to yank it’s sponsorship away from two legal hunters because their hunting method might have made people uncomfortable or uneasy.

I understand when we as hunters, trappers or even fisherman place photos on social media, we open ourselves up to attack by those that disagree or don’t understand our hunting/outdoor lifestyle; but when a so-called major supporter of the hunting sports collapses under mild pressure from a vocal few, it should be of concern to hunters of all types and methods. As for this hunter, Under Armour can keep their over-priced camo and outdoor gear. I’ll look elsewhere for my outdoor clothing needs and I’d encourage other hunters to follow suit.

If we as a hunters don’t stand together on issues like this and the anti-hunting fringe, there won’t be a hunting community in our kids’ future to defend.

-David Hewitt