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26/11/2013 06:57 GMT | Updated 26/11/2013 07:10 GMT

'Extreme Huntresses' Olivia Nalos Opre & Mindy Arthurs Insist 'We Are Conservationists' (PICTURES)

Two professional female hunters have spoken of their lust for the blood sport and insist they are conservationists at heart.

Former beauty queen Olivia Nalos Opre, 36, and mother-of-two Mindy Arthurs, 29, have shot more than 70 species between them – including lions, rhinos and bears.

The women decided to speak out following the backlash faced by Melissa Bachman, who sparked fury when she posted images of herself posing with a dead lion on Facebook.

olivia nalos opre

Former beauty queen Olivia Nalos Opre has been hunting since she was 16

They have both tweeted their support of Bachman.

Arthurs, from Arizona, said: "You can be a hunter an a conservationist at the same time. People think you're just killing stuff but if you don't manage a herd then the whole of the herd will die.

"We are taking care of the big picture. I feel the general public doesn't realise that."

Arthurs has 25 kills to her name – including a black bear she felled with one shot.

She said she felt “on fire” and instantly knew she wanted hunting to be part of her life and that of her two sons, Alec, 14, and Owen 11.

Arthurs uses both a rifle and a bow-and-arrow to take down game throughout the USA but prefers to use a bow as it is more “intimate”.

mindy arthurs

Mindy Arthurs has killed more than 65 species across six continents

She added: "I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy knowing the prize I'm going after is out there and the excitement that goes along with pursuing it.

"You feel so much respect when you walk up on an animal you have taken. You feel a connection to the animal, a very strong connection."

Arthurs now has her sights set on being crowned Extreme Huntress 2013.

The competition has been organised by Opre, from Montana, who has been hunting since she was 16.

In that time she has killed more than 65 species across six continents and earned the world's most prestigious accolade for a female hunter - the Safari Club International Diana Award.

The former Miss America contestant has shot in eight countries across Africa and killed a hippo, a Cape Buffalo and darted a black rhino.

melissa bachman

Melissa Bachman sits astride the body of a lion at South Africa's Maroi Conservancy

But her “most memorable” hunt was shooting a male lion in Benin in West Africa.

She said: "I hadn't planned on hunting lion but unexpectedly came across one and my professional hunter expressed urgency to react. I shouldered the rifle, shot and missed, encouraging the lion to run hastily into the forest.

"Then a herd of angry elephants came out of the forest and charged with intention to kill us. This caused the lion to divert, granting me only a running shot.

"I shouldered the rifle again and hit the lion by giving it a six-foot lead. It was a marvellous shot but the elephants were charging and we had to immediately react and so we shot in the air and shot at the ground to give them a warning and they stopped 20 yards away.

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Female huntersOlivia Nalos Opre & Mindy Arthurs
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"We went in after the wounded lion and he came running out of the forest to kill me. I shot and reloaded, shot and reloaded and the lion expired at my feet.

"I was the first woman to kill a lion in that country and the celebrations were incredible. It was of significant importance to the villagers whose cattle had been the target of such a beast.

"It was the hunt that shaped who I am."

Opre and Arthurs, who are both keen taxidermists and have huge trophy rooms, are no strangers to controversy - both in and outside the world of big game hunting.

They say they are the targets of both anti-hunting protests and from male hunters who say that blood-sports are no place for women.

However, Arthurs, who hunts primarily in the USA, says she is doing nothing wrong and even donates her meat to food banks, while Opre says meat from her kills goes to the indigenous people.

Opre added: "Wildlife abounds because hunters put money back into conservation.

“In foreign continents like Africa, we help to drill water wells for the natives and the wildlife. We help to build schools and medical facilities. We create jobs for trackers and skinners.

"As hunters, we are providing the indigenous people with the protein they wouldn’t have otherwise. Nothing is wasted; everything goes back into the circle of life. You can go on a photographic safari in Africa for $6,000 or you can take a big game hunting expedition for up to $125,000 – you do the math - who’s generating more money for the local economy?”

She added: “I see myself as the most important conservationist there is. Hunters put back so much into the world’s great wildlife and make sure future generations can experience what our forefathers experienced."

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Female huntersOlivia Nalos Opre & Mindy Arthurs
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