More than likely, Montana is going to return to the Stone Age when the state House of Representatives passes a bill allowing for the hunting of big game with a spear.
SB 112 has already passed the Senate, 27-21, and now awaits a vote in the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee of the House.
It is currently legal to hunt non-regulated wildlife with a spear in Montana. That includes animals like squirrel, porcupine, raccoon, coyote, weasel, skunk, badger and fox. Big game hunting with a spear for elk, boar, bear and the like is not allowed.
Montana will likely join 12 other states in allowing spear hunting, but the real question is why? It definitely brings hunting back to its more primal nature. However, anyone who wants to go bear hunting with a spear should probably spend some time on a psychiatrist’s couch.
The preferred weapon of choice is not the typical Neolithic spear but the more sophisticated atlatl. The atlatl was used by the Aztecs and can generate a speed much greater than the regular hand-thrown caveman type.
One of the big advocates for the spear legislation is Bob Perkins, also known as Atlatl Bob. He claims to be known as one of the world’s top experts on the atlatl. Atlatl Bob also claims to know the secret to human success.
“That’s one of the first things babies learn to do is throw stuff, and that’s their first experience in direct control over their local environment. This is big in human development,” Perkins said.
Now no one wants to stunt human development in Montana by depriving people of the primitive desire to throw things. Yet if they are going to bring spear hunting, then perhaps they should require the hunters to wear animal skins and run barefoot in true Neanderthal fashion.
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is staying out of the debate, although they think the hunting of some animals like boar with a spear is not a wise idea.
“We feel this is primarily a social issue. There is really no biology involved,” Fish and Wildlife Administrator Dave Risley said.
A social issue? It used to be was easy to identify social issues – abortion, gay marriage, prayer in the schools. Now spears are a social issue.
Not everyone is in favor of spearing big game. Opponents have pointed out that animals are more likely to be injured and suffer agony than be brought down by a spear. Being that the bill lacks guidelines for determining what a spear is, how it is thrown or the training needed to use it for hunting, it would seem to open the door to a range of potential problems.
“Our question is: Ethically, can you kill an elk with a hand-thrown spear? We don’t think so,” asked Tony Jones, president of the Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association.
Spears do have their supporters. Gene Morris, the self-proclaimed greatest living spear hunter in the world, has speared 556 animals. Morris lives in Alabama, one of the states that recently allowed spear hunting. His tally includes a lion, ostriches, bears, buffalo and turkeys to name but a few. Morris has successfully speared two animals at a time 43 times (a spear in each hand). At 77, he is currently working on spearing three at the same time with the third spear thrown by his right foot.
An amendment to the bill for a mental health check sounds more and more reasonable.
Morris and Atlatl Bob are impressive with their use of spears, but this is a hunting technique that is going to get some inexperienced spear throwers in trouble and lead to a lot of animals wandering around Montana badly maimed.
Perhaps next Montana can change its motto to “The Neanderthal State.”