CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A video circulating on the Internet of a young man hunting bear in the woods with his friends and dogs is raising a few eyebrows across the country.
The hunter, West Virginia University Mountaineer mascot Jonathan Kimble, was carrying the school-issued muzzle-loader rifle in the woods of his native Pendleton County on Monday, which was opening day for bear hunting with firearms.
The video shows Kimble, 24, in a camouflage WVU sweatshirt and a ball cap instead of the well known buckskins and coonskin cap. He points the five-foot long rifle at a treed black bear. Dogs can be heard yipping and whining over the university's fight song, which was edited over the video.
Kimble, who was voted to be the Mountaineer in February, fires a shot. The sound is similar to the one WVU fans are accustomed to hearing at games. But instead of bringing out the Mountaineers, the shot brings down the bear.
Kimble and his friends whoop and holler, and he throws in a "Let's Go Mountaineers!"
The rifle, which bears a distinctive gold West Virginia-shaped plate on the stock, is fired before every Mountaineer home football game and is carried at school events the mascot attends.
It is a real working rifle, although as university spokesman John Bolt pointed out in an emailed statement, only powder is used when the musket is discharged at public functions.
Bolt said university officials spoke to Kimble about the incident. Kimble said he agreed the rifle should only be used for school-related activities.
"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 forego using the musket in this way in the future," Bolt said in the email. "There are some provisions regarding the gun, but none that prohibit its use outside of the University-sponsored functions or for hunting purposes."
Kimble was toting the muzzle-loader Wednesday night in Charleston where the men's basketball team downed Marshall's Thundering Herd in the Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic.
As the mascot, he stays busy between making appearances and taking classes. He said Thursday evening in a phone interview that Monday was the only day he'd been able to make it out to hunt so far this month.
He hunted deer with the musket earlier this year. He also said Mountaineers have taken their guns hunting.
"A previous Mountaineer told me he'd taken it deer hunting back in the 90s and others have said they've been hunting with it," Kimble said. "It's something like a tradition."
Kimble said he and about 15 others, friends and family members, got up early Monday morning and made their way out into the woods in Pendleton County. He said there were a number of bears visible that morning but that their dogs finally treed one about four or five hours into the hunt.
The rifle doesn't have a scope but Kimble, who said he has hunted all his life, raised the muzzle-loader and fired one shot, taking the female bear down. It was the first black bear he'd ever killed.
Kimble was active on his WVU Mascot Twitter account.
He posted a picture of himself holding the dead bear and the rifle on Monday, saying "Killed a WV Black Bear today with my Mountaineer rifle today!!" That post was re-tweeted 110 times.