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WVU mascot told to not use musket for hunting

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JOHN RABY, Associated Press

CHARLESTON (AP) — 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 WVU has ordered Kimble to stop using his university-issued weapon on hunting trips after a video of this week's kill was posted online.

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 home 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 forego using the musket in this way in the future," said WVU spokesman John Bolt.

Kimble, who didn't immediately return a telephone message Friday, told media outlets he's been hunting all his life.

"I'm sorry if anyone took offense to it," he said.

Kimble said he went deer hunting with the musket earlier this year.

"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."

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 former WVU graduate, I'm thrilled to death with him. Happy as can be."

The Mountaineer mascot first appeared at athletic events in the 1936-1937 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 coach Bob Stoops about the teams' game in November. Earlier this year he was featured in a national commercial promoting the university and was part of an ESPN commercial with WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press