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Local treasure hunter fishes WWII rifle out of river (VIDEO)

'This would have to rank as one of my all-time best finds,' says local history buff who often 'magnet fishes' to find sunken treasures
jeremiah bowes with gun
Jeremiah Bowes, an Orillia treasure hunter, was all smiles after hoisting this vintage rifle out of a local river while magnet fishing. Contributed photo

An Orillia treasure hunter went fishing for a Harley Davidson on the weekend and caught a vintage rifle.

He is not your typical angler.

Jeremiah Bowes, a self-professed history buff, often scours the local landscape with his metal detector, looking to unearth relics from the past. He also regularly goes “magnet fishing” in an attempt to find sunken treasures in local waterways.

He’s not looking for gold. Rather, he’s looking to find remnants of the past.

Over the weekend, he and a friend returned to a site near Big Chute where they knew a Harley Davidson - stolen and stripped in 2016 - had been dumped into a stream.

"It was stripped of sellable parts and tossed in the river,” Bowes told OrilliaMatters. “The OPP have confirmed that for us since I found a part with the VIN number on it.”

But while casting his heavy magnet into the river, he hooked on to another item and was shocked when he reeled in what appears to be an old sawed-off shotgun.

After he pulled the old waterlogged weapon out of the river, he immediately called the OPP to surrender the firearm. He would love to get it back some day.

“From the people I have chatted with it is a Cooey Model 39, Second World War-era .22 bolt action rifle,” said Bowes.

He’s hoping to hear back from the OPP soon to learn if they were able to track down the gun’s owner.

“It's funny, we went to get the Harley Davidson and got this instead,” said Bowes, still smiling at his “incredible” find.

He says it’s why he does what he does.  

“I go magnet fishing very often,” he said, noting his YouTube channel is “dedicated to treasure hunting whether it's magnet fishing, metal detecting or other ways.”

It’s not the first “amazing” relic he has discovered.

In the winter of 2018, while metal detecting near the old train station on Front Street, he unearthed a ceremonial brass spike thought to be the ‘last spike’ driven into the ground in 1918 by then Orillia Mayor Robert Curran, marking the completion of the construction of the new train station.

That spike is displayed prominently in his home. He hopes the gun might someday join it.

“This would have to rank as one of my all-time best finds,” Bowes said of the vintage weapon.

“If I do get the rifle back, I'll be putting it into a display box and having it on display,” he said.

Bowes home is filled with the relics he has discovered. He has an old bottle collection and dozens of smaller collections of belt buckles, bullets, marbles, keys and other historical items.

“I’m not looking for old coins, like some. I go for the relics,” he said, noting he was stoked when he found a belt buckle from the 1700s or an old military pocket knife. “I love the history you can find and it’s amazing to see how things can last this long in the dirt. It’s breathtaking.”

While the thrill of finding a treasure keeps him going, there’s more to his hobby, he says. 

“The reason why I magnet fish is it’s a very exciting hobby. I have the chance to find things like Harley Davidson motorcycles, guns and more,” he said.

“But most importantly, it cleans our lakes, rivers and streams of metal debris. I pull up more trash than I do treasure and I am perfectly fine with that.”

Bowes shares his passion through the Orillia Metal Detecting Club, which he runs. You can find more information about the club on his Facebook Page or discover more about treasure hunting on his YouTube page.

Dave Dawson

About the Author: Dave Dawson

Dave Dawson is community editor of
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