10 facts you didn’t know on the charges against bowhunters Josh and Sarah Bowmar
Josh and Sarah Bowmar, the couple behind the popular Bowmar Bowhunting YouTube channel and Instagram account, are no strangers to the public eye. While they are known for their world records in bowhunting, large social media presence, and fitness accolades, they’ve recently been blasted in the media for charges related to hunts they conducted with a Nebraska outfitter. Now that the case is closed, we reviewed the facts about the Bowmar case and are setting the record straight.
1. The Bowmars Were Cleared of All Hunting Charges Against Them – Since there was no substantial evidence against the Bowmars, the hunting charges, which included illegal baiting and poaching, were dismissed. The Bowmars indeed did bait in Nebraska. But what’s often left out in the media is that you can legally bait in Nebraska, although you must be 200 yards away from the bait when hunting. Josh and Sarah relied on the guide they hired through the outfitter to ensure they were in compliance. Not only that, Josh states, “Since the investigation began in 2014, 9 years ago, we have been under constant surveillance and scrutiny, and despite that, we have not had one single baiting or poaching charge brought against us other than the Nebraska case, and even those charges were dismissed.”
2. The Bowmars Were Only Charged with a Federal Crime Because They Lived Out of State – Sarah and Josh were only charged with one count of conspiring to violate the Lacey Act, which is a federal law enacted in 1900 that bans trafficking in fish, wildlife, or plants that are illegally taken, possessed, transported, or sold. In their specific case, they had planned to take their hunt home from Nebraska to Ohio, where they lived, which violated the act. Had they lived in Nebraska and taken their hunted quarry out of state, they would only have been charged a $75 fine.
But ONLY since they were from out of state, hunting in Nebraska, and then planned to return to Ohio with their quarry, it became a federal crime. As such, their punishments were much more severe and included three years of probation and community service plus a $133,000 fine.
3. Although Involved in a Federal Investigation, The Bowmars Were Only Charged with a Misdemeanor – Sarah and Josh Bowmar pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor of conspiring to violate the Lacey Act, a relatively unknown federal law. Sarah said, “Josh has hunted his whole life, and I also have my hunting license and have taken a hunter’s safety course, and neither of us had ever heard of the Lacey Act before hunting in Nebraska. That’s not an excuse, we accept accountability for our ignorance here, but the average hunter either doesn’t know about it or doesn’t fully understand the ramifications. We hope to educate on the Lacey Act to help other hunters avoid this situation in the future.”
4. You’re Hearing More About the Bowmars in This Case, Not Because of the Depth of Their Involvement, But Because of Their Notoriety – While the charges against the outfitter, its owners, and clients involved 100 animals, Sarah and Josh Bowmar’s involvement consisted of only two deer and a wild turkey, and again they were cleared of the hunting charges. Among the group, the Bowmar’s 3 million combined social media following made them, “The big fish in this space,” as Sarah states.
5. The Bowmars Have Never Been Convicted of any Baiting or Poaching Charges – After fighting the hunting charges for years and succeeding, the Bowmars agreed to plead guilty to the conspiracy charge because they thought it was fair. Josh states, “We should have paid more attention to what was going on with other clients at that outfitter, and for that, we rightfully plead guilty to conspiracy against the Lacey Act. But it doesn’t mean we committed any acts of ill will; we didn’t. It’s simply that we hunted with someone we should have known more about and should have known better and about potentially taking our quarry across state lines after the hunt was over.”
6. The Outfitter at the Source of the Investigation Came Highly Recommended, But the Bowmars Had Low Success With This Outfitter – The couple was interested in hunting mule deer which are not found in Ohio, where they lived at the time. Josh had always dreamed of hunting this type of deer, and it was a new challenge for both of them. What’s more, they wanted to connect with others in the bowhunting community, and this Nebraska outfitter came highly recommended by others in the bowhunting community. However, in the three times in which they visited this outfitter, Josh and Sarah only caught two white tail deer and a wild turkey.
7. It is Not Illegal To Bait In Nebraska – It should be noted that in Nebraska, it is legal to bait—yet you cannot hunt within 200 yards of the established bait site, and that’s one of the things the Bowmars have admitted to, they baited but they did so legally in Nebraska. But that’s a part of the story—a fact of the story—that the Bowmars believe hasn’t been made clear in recent reporting.
8. This Case is Nine Years Old – Most people think this happened yesterday, but it started almost nine years ago and boils down to two deer and a turkey. Unbeknownst to the Bowmars, the outfitter was the subject of a multi-year sting operation after the Nebraska Fish and Game Association caught wind of the shady dealings and launched an intensive investigation. The Bowmars had three hunting trips in Nebraska between 2015 and 2017, which was in the middle of Fish and Game’s intensive investigation. They found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, hunting with the wrong people. They became caught up in the same net that involved 33 other clients of the outfitter who were eventually charged with various violations, such as baiting and poaching.
9. The Bowmars Did Not Plead Guilty To Poaching They Plead Guilty To Conspiracy To The Lacey Act – In fact, all hunting violations against us were dropped. We did plead guilty to a conspiracy charge with the Lacey Act, which we felt was fair and true and take responsibility for.” Josh states. In planning to take the deer they’d hunted back home with them out of state, that’s when the conspiracy towards the Lacey Act occurred, that’s why federal law then applied, and that’s when the feds got involved. Had the couple lived in Nebraska, their violation would have carried a $75 fine, equivalent to a speeding ticket. However, they lived in Ohio then; therefore, this planning, not even an actual hunting violation, led to a federal charge. So, basically, all this boils down to two deer and a turkey. If only Josh and Sarah had known that attempting to hunt and cross state lines could lead to violating The Lacey Act, they would not have left Ohio. The Lacey Act is a U.S. piece of legislation written in 1900, and the act itself is not a hunting law but rather a form of protection for wildlife and conservation, including plants and trees.
10. The Bowmars Have Gone Above and Beyond To Be a Positive Influence In Their Community and The Hunting Industry – To date, they have also donated upwards of $300,000 of their branded supplements to nurses, teachers, and individual first responders; $279,000 worth of their products to military bases, hospitals, and police stations; and $1.4 million to food banks. They have donated almost $2 million worth of products to organizations they value and care about. The Bowmars also partners with O.U.R. (Operation Underground Railroad) to assist in the detection and arrest of child sex offenders and traffickers. To Introduce more people to the great outdoors, in 2020, they co-created Kids in the Outdoors, which allows children from inner-city schools to immerse themselves in nature through day-long, fun-filled activities, such as archery and fishing. They are also vocal advocates for ethical hunting methods and promoters of the Dallas Safari Club’s anti-poaching efforts.