WVU mascot told not to use musket for hunting
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The musket toted by West Virginia University's Mountaineer isn't just a prop -- it's a bona fide weapon, and current mascot Jonathan Kimble showed just that when he went into the woods to take down a black bear.
Now, though, after a video of this week's kill was posted online, WVU has ordered Kimble to stop using his university-issued weapon on hunting trips.
The 24-year-old Franklin resident accompanied more than a dozen friends and family members on the trip in Pendleton County on Monday. In the video, Kimble is shown firing the musket at the bear in a tree.
"Let's go, Mountaineers!" Kimble yells afterward. He also posted a photo of himself with the bear on Twitter.
The WVU mascot wears buckskin and a coonskin cap and fires the musket - loaded with black powder but minus ammunition - at athletic events and other sponsored activities. Hunting isn't one of them.
"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 forgo using the musket in this way in the future," said WVU spokesman John Bolt.
Kimble said after appearing at an elementary school in Harrison County on Friday that he's been hunting all his life and this was the first black bear he's ever killed. He said all his friends have congratulated him for that.
"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 said taking the musket on hunting trips has become a tradition with the mascots.
"Other Mountaineers have gone and shot multiple deer with it before," he said. "I've taken it with me deer hunting before, also."
Some WVU fans stood behind Kimble on Friday.
"This is a smart young man from West Virginia who did nothing wrong, who was celebrating who he is," said Robert Hickman, who holds two degrees from WVU and lives near Fairmont. "If you're from West Virginia and you love the outdoors, or if you hunt or don't hunt, or if you fish or don't fish, it is a celebration of this state. As a WVU graduate, I'm thrilled to death with him. Happy as can be."
The Mountaineer mascot first appeared at athletic events in the 1936-37 school year. The Mountaineer is selected each year and the mascot's outfit is custom tailored to fit the winner.
Last February, the bearded Kimble was chosen from among 13 applicants.
In July, he appeared with other Big 12 mascots at the conference's football media days in Dallas, even exchanging words with Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops about the teams' game in November. Earlier this year, Kimble was featured in a national commercial promoting the university and was part of an ESPN commercial with WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen.
"It's been incredible," Kimble said. "The transition to the Big 12 has given so much limelight to WVU."