HELENA — Montanans may soon be able to add a hand-thrown spear to their arsenal for big game hunting. The Senate Fish and Game Committee on Tuesday discussed, and then nearly voted to approve, a bill to legalize the practice.
The only holdup was the need to add an amendment clarifying the hunting season that the practice would be allowed in, which the committee expects to approve Thursday.
Sen. Greg Hinkle, R-Thompson Falls, said about 12 other states legalized the use of spears. The bill, SB 112, would also allow the use of an atlatl, a spear thrown with a separate device to increase power.
Spear hunters often await their game from up in trees or track the game with dogs.
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is taking no position on the bill.
"We feel this is primarily a social issue," FWP Fish and Wildlife Administrator Dave Risley said at the hearing. "There is really no biology involved."
But he said FWP was concerned about sending any signal that wild boar — a popular spear target in other states — was an acceptable species to hunt in Montana.
Hinkle noted that Jared Allen, defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings, is an avid spear hunter and has taken bear and elk with the weapon. His exploits have been featured in American Hunter magazine and are viewable on YouTube.
The world's self-proclaimed champion of the practice is Gene Morris, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, who claims to have hunted more than 500 big-game animals including bison, bear, lion and alligator.