Hillary Maybery is a photographer and self-professed "California girl." Her time in the Golden State left her thinking hunters were "barbaric, blood thirsty, gun lovers."
That was before she moved to Idaho where hunting is engrained in the culture. There she began understanding "hunting has nothing to do with violence or aggression." And that has culminated in a series of recent photographs showing a 15-year-old hunter out in the wilderness with her dad -- pictures that are absolutely stunning.
The photography blog Wonderful Machine describes how Maybery came across Halee, and the story surrounding the antlers on her back:
Hillary came across Harlee (pictured above) when she was browsing Facebook for a teen model. She then saw a photo of Harlee standing over her first 6×6 point elk with her dad, Bryan. She had made a clean, 350-yard shot, hit the elk right behind the shoulder and it dropped. Hillary contacted Harlee, got the okay from her and her dad and set out before sunrise for the shoot.
It was in a conversation with Wonderful Machine that Mayber explained her conversion from anti-hunter to someone who has come to respect it:
I am totally a [Southern] California girl, I thought hunters were barbaric, blood thirsty, gun lovers. What I've learned moving to Idaho is hunting has nothing to do with violence or aggression. It’s a little like farming or gardening. People protect and care for their chickens and their vegetable plants, only to end up using them for food. Also, hunters support conservation of wild places and laws that protect wildlife populations. What I learned with Harlee’s family is that they want to know where their food comes from, have clean lean meat, they eat the whole animal, and share the meat with friends and family. I still would never be a hunter, but my perspective has shifted and learned hunters are more knowledgeable and thoughtful about animals and nature. It was a great morning!
But since her story started spreading on Facebook earlier this week, Maybery said a heated debate has broken out.
"There are TWO types of hunters: the ones who hunt for food and actually eat it and use all they can from the animal, and the barbaric, blood thirsty gun lovers that only want to shoot a beautiful animal to get a icture and a trophy," a commenter named Mary wrote. "So her thought of hunters were only half wrong."
Another named Jake responded: "I am a very avid hunter today, and often harvest multiple species of animals in a given year. I hunt for the sport of it, but my family and I benefit all year long because of the meat. It's about sustenance, and a personal reverence for the animals life. I'd argue admittedly that those "hunters" who are blood thirsty killers and shoot animals and leave them to rot, are not hunters at all and in fact are CRIMINALS!"
How does Maybery respond? She told TheBlaze in an email that from what she's seen, hunters are good people.
"The hunters I know and photograph stalk their animal, plan, and take its life for food, much like many predators do in any ecosystem," she wrote. "The animal was able to live its life in its natural environment in its natural state. Factory farms on the other hand (more times than not) are raised in mass quantities, while being injected with steroids, to expedite their growing process. They are bred simply to be food and therefore are denied the chance to live their lives in any sort of natural environment. What I have learned from this whole experience: a deer killed by a hunter in the woods lives a much, much better life!"
You can see more pictures that Maybery took of Harlee on the photographer's website.