The Bowmars, who were sentenced on Jan. 12, 2023, in connection with their involvement in the largest poaching case in Nebraska state history, appeared in court today to petition for a modification to the terms of their probation.
Josh Bowmar, Sarah Bowmar, and Bowmar Bowhunting LLC pled guilty to conspiracy late last year as part of a plea deal to have multiple charges relating to the case dropped. As part of their January sentencing, the pair were barred from owning/possessing weapons — including firearms and archery equipment — while on probation.
Much of the argument from the Bowmars’ counsel in today’s request surrounded both conditions of personal safety and the ability to run their business. Because Bowmar Bowhunting manufactures custom archery equipment, they argued that this standard probation condition inhibits their ability to make a living.
They also have had their Nebraska hunting rights revoked for the probationary period of 3 years. Because of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, that loss of hunting rights could translate across state lines to almost every other state. The Bowmars’ counsel argued that because they are professional hunters, revoking their right to hunt would drastically affect their ability to run their business.
When addressing the weapons accommodation request, the court decided to allow for a partial modification to the Bowmars’ probation terms.
- The Bowmars may manufacture and possess bows and accessories for business purposes only.
- The Bowmars are still prohibited from owning, accessing, or possessing firearms. The Bowmars can make an additional request to modify the probation conditions to allow them to possess firearms only for their personal safety and only if stored in a secure and locked manner in their home, (as the probation officer observed that firearms were not secured within the home).
Some may question whether the Bowmars will interpret the modified condition narrowly or broadly. Will the Bowmars stick to manufacturing and selling custom bow hunting equipment? Or will they interpret this condition to allow them to engage in both bowhunting and continuing social media engagement around their bowhunting activities on the basis that social media activities are part of their business? At this point, it’s hard to say.
In addressing the ability to hunt in states other than Nebraska, Judge Michael D. Nelson had this to say:
It is clear to the court that the standard condition applies to those convicted of misdemeanors as took place in this case and 11 other occasions. It is also clear to the court that the parties, in reaching their plea agreement to resolve this case, understood that the defendants would be prohibited from hunting activities in Nebraska, but by necessity, that means [sic] that would not prohibit them from hunting in other states.
It’s unclear how that will be enforced or allowed, as those rights are typically controlled by each individual state.
As related to firearms, the judge made it clear that all of the other parties involved with Nebraska’s largest poaching case were sentenced with the same condition, one that restricts access to firearms and other weapons.
Josh Bowmar spoke about his unease about the public knowing about any restrictions to weapons in his ability to protect himself and his family. Their lawyer echoed the same. Mention was made about multiple articles across several platforms covering the case, resulting in “online hate” for the Bowmars. They asked to be able to maintain their ability to possess firearms for their safety.
He further asked the court to seal the firearms restrictions because he didn’t feel comfortable with that being public knowledge. The court declined, as it is public information.
The judge made no ruling to modify the condition for firearm possession but acknowledged their concern and advised them to file a separate modification request as it applies to firearms, though only with the ability to utilize them for safety — not hunting.
Judge Nelson also made a point that it’s never OK for anyone to threaten Josh Bowmar or his family, no matter what they think of their crimes. and the Bowmars should report any such threats to law enforcement