Fined but no jail time in poaching-related plea bargain, truck-burning & cabin-burning cases still ahead
OMAHA, Nebraska––Self-promoted online celebrity bowhunters and physical fitness gurus Josh and Sarah Bowmar on January 12, 2023 escaped jail time for misdemeanor conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits transportation of illegally obtained wildlife and wildlife parts across state lines.
The Bowmars on October 19, 2022 entered guilty pleas to conspiracy on behalf of themselves and their business, Bowmar Hunting, in exchange for the prosecution dropping six much more serious charges of committing Lacey Act violations.
Striped suits don’t come in mossy oak
While staying out of striped suits in lieu of hunting camouflage, the Bowmars forfeited $44,000 worth of property to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, were prohibited from hunting in the state of Nebraska, must pay restitution of $13,000 to the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, and must pay a fine of $25,000 to the Lacey Act Reward Account, which exists to bring people like them––poachers––to justice.
Summarized Francesca Block of the Des Moines Register, “Josh Bowmar, 32, and Sarah Bowmar, 33, were among dozens of defendants charged in a poaching case after they went on hunting tours guided by Broken Arrow, Nebraska-based Hidden Hills Outfitters, between September 10, 2015, and November 6, 2017.”
Goalpost, Superman, & Head Turner
Hidden Hills owner Jacob Hueftle “guided 118 clients from 21 states on hunts that primarily used illegal bait traps to attract white-tailed deer,” Block continued.
Specifically, Josh Bowmar was indicted for killing trophy deer named “Goalpost,” ”Superman” and “Head Turner,” to make YouTube videos.
Sarah Bowmar was originally indicted for hunting deer and turkeys over baited fields without a valid permit on November 1, 2016.
The Bowmar sentencing was the last act in a seven-year investigation and prosecution that brought 39 convictions, bringing fines, restitution, and forfeitures totaling more than $750,000.
Facing the heat
But the Bowmars are not yet out of hot water.
Josh Bowmar is next to appear in court in April 2023 on criminal charges of reckless use of a firearm or explosive in Clarke County, Iowa, a year after he started a “controlled burn” amid strong winds and dry conditions, allegedly to improve the deer habitat on the Bowmars’ farm near Ankeny, Iowa.
The fire incinerated Josh Bowmar’s own pickup truck. But that was not all.
Burned a cabin
The pickup truck fire reportedly came just three days after Josh Bowmar allegedly set a fire that burned down a cabin owned by neighbors Brian and Susan Crites, of Waukee, Iowa.
Brian and Susan Crites sued the Bowmars for damages on October 18, 2022.
Video of the truck-burning posted to the Bowmar Bowhunting page on Youtube page “shows Josh Bowmar lighting a prescribed fire from the cab of his truck, catching the vehicle itself on fire, attempting to put the blaze out with a leaf blower, evacuating his gear from inside the cab, and ultimately watching the vehicle burn to the ground,” recounted hunting writer Will Brantley on his Realtree web site.
“In the video, Bowmar calls his wife, who tells him to document things for insurance purposes, and then he calls 911 to request a fire truck,” Brantley narrated.
“A tutorial on what not to do”
Though not questioning why Josh Bowmar did not call for a fire truck first, before the fire got further out of control, Brantley observed that, “The video could be a tutorial on what not to do when conducting a prescribed fire.
“I’ve done a fair bit of prescribed fire work myself,” Brantley acknowledged, “and to me, the blatant mistakes were easy to see. But for even more proof, I reached out to Lindsay Thomas Jr., chief communications officer for the National Deer Association, for his input. The NDA routinely touts the benefits of safe burning practices as a habitat management tool, and Thomas himself has years’ worth of experience with prescribed fire.”
Continued Brantley, “The drone footage at the beginning of the video shows what looks like a propane torch being used from the driver’s side door, as Bowmar drives around the field, ringing it with flames. It’s obvious fuel gets on the back tire, and of course tire fires aren’t easy to extinguish.”
Brantley and Thomas recommended that Josh Bowmar should have worn “protective clothing and walked the fire line with a drip torch, the tool designed for this very job. Burns should be lit carefully,” they said, “next to good fire breaks, and ideally, on foot.”
But that was just what Brantley and Thomas identified as Mistake #1.
“Mistake #2: No Water,” Brantley continued. “Why would anyone set a field on fire without water handy, along with basic hand tools like shovels and rakes?
“Bowmar used a leaf blower to try and extinguish the flames on his truck, and it just seemed to make it all worse.”
No fire extinguisher
Said Thomas, “If he’d had even one or two 5-gallon cans of water in the truck, he probably could have extinguished the flames while it was just on the frame of the truck. If he’d had a shovel, he could have thrown dirt on the flames, which would have worked better than the leaf blower, which seemed to just intensify the flames on the tire and paint.”
Water might not have extinguished a tire fire. But a fire extinguisher would have. ANIMALS 24-7 has long recommended that every driver should carry a fire extinguisher in his/her vehicle at all times, and not just because a fire extinguisher is the safest device to use to stop an attacking pit bull.
“Mistake #3: No Firebreaks,” intoned Brantley.
Observed Thomas, “If firebreaks are there, they’re not adequate. That’s an absolute prerequisite. I don’t care how small a job or how many times you’ve done this. He’s lucky he only lost a truck. It gets a little more expensive when you start burning up other people’s land and buildings.”
The Bowmars are likely to discover this as the Crites case advances.
“More people on hand would have obviously been good,” Thomas added. “They should have been on their feet monitoring the fire and engaged with the situation, instead of flying drones and cameras.”
Josh Todd Bowmar was a lifelong resident of Ohio before the Bowmars moved to Ankeny in 2002.
Sarah Bowmar was born Sarah Elizabeth Bakian in South Bend, Indiana.
According to the Bowmar Archery web page, Josh and Sarah Bowmar, then purportedly a vegetarian and volunteer at the Toledo Area Humane Society in 2013-2014, met at a February 2014 bodybuilding competition.
By 2015 the Bowmars were a married couple, killing animals together and making videos about it.
Killed bear with spear
On June 5, 2016, disclosed CBC staff reporter Verity Stevenson six weeks later, the Bowmars posted a video of Josh Bowmar “killing a black bear in Alberta with a spear,” which had a GoPro camera attached, to capture the death of the bear at the closest possible distance.
Josh and Sarah Bowmar celebrated the spearing on camera.
“The video shows him returning the next day to retrieve the bear,” continued Stevenson, “who appeared to have been left overnight, ‘60 or 70 yards’ from where he was struck. The camera pans to the bear’s wound.”
The Bowmar videos were then sponsored by the Under Armour underwear manufacturing company, but Under Armor cancelled their contract three days after Stevenson’s broadcast.
The Bowmars have alleged ever since that they were victims of a “leftist” conspiracy.
Spearing now banned in Alberta & 45 states
A gap in Alberta hunting laws precluded successfully prosecuting the Bowmars for using an illegal weapon to kill the bear.
However, the Alberta Ministry of Environment & Parks, the Alberta Fish & Game Association, and the Alberta SPCA pushed for an amendment which since 2018 makes hunting with a prohibited weapon, including a spear, punishable with a fine of up to $50,000 Canadian dollars, plus a year in jail.
Hunting various animals with a spear, especially feral pigs, remains legal in four U.S. states: Alabama, Hawaii, Alaska, and Oklahoma.
Missouri allows the use of a spear thrown with an atlatl, a device similar in concept to the ball-thrower many people use to exercise dogs.
Atlatls were used by hunters to kill animals, including bears, for at least 40,000 years, but largely fell out of use after the invention of more accurate weapons including longbows, crossbows, and firearms.