The walls of Olivia Opre’s home, like those of any proud mother, are speckled with memories. But between the smiling photos of her family holidays are impala heads and wildebeest horns: ‘memorable art’ the 39-year-old Montana-based hunting consultant has collected in her two decades as a big game hunter.
“Animals can die in a lot of ways, and I think being killed by a hunter is the most humane one,” Opre says. “Taking a life is emotional, but hunting is a journey, and a creature’s death is only five percent of the whole hunting experience.”
It’s a stance she’s been trying – somewhat unsuccessfully – to communicate to her legions of detractors since she took up hunting aged 16; Opre receives waves of “vicious” messages, sometimes up to a thousand a day, and has had a $50,000 bounty placed on her head after one critic posted her home address online.
“It’s frustrating that people can cast so much judgment and hatred on me for what I do,” she muses. “The same people who call me a ‘Bambi killer’ think it’s fine to wear leather, put lipstick on and take penicillin, all of which involve the death of an animal.
“Anti-hunters draw the conclusion that I walk up to an animal I’ve shot, smile that it’s dead and cut its head off like I’m Isis, but there’s so much more to it than that.”
Photos may not tell the whole story, but images of smiling marksmen, guns defiantly slung over their shoulder as they pose with their newly slain prey, don’t help their cause. Friday, this week, will mark a year since Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer killed Cecil the lion, an act which sparked worldwide outrage. He was issued with death threats, protesters at his office urged him ‘rot in hell’ and the killing was condemned by everyone from Ricky Gervais to Mia Farrow.
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