Despite some backlash on social media, an Arkansas mom said she's proud of her 10-year-old daughter's big accomplishment killing a 220-pound black bear with a crossbow.
Ayla Highfill, 10, of Hartman, who weighs only a quarter of her prey, was photographed standing over her kill after a bountiful hunt with her father.
“I’ve hunted many animals, but I’ve never killed or seen something like this before,” Ayla told InsideEdition.com. “It wasn’t exactly scary, but it was a mixture of excitement and scary.”
Ayla, who has been hunting since she was 6 years old, explained she was on a routine hunting trip with her dad when they spotted the bear. They originally anticipated coming home with a deer, squirrels, or raccoons.
“I heard something like leaves crunching and it was huffing pretty loud,” she said. “It looked like a black log that has been burnt or something, but it was actually a big black bear. It scared me to death.”
With the help of her dad, she delivered a fatal shot using a crossbow, and the two brought the bear home.
“When she did call me, she was shaking like a leaf, just the adrenaline from the hunt," her mom Tina Highfill told InsideEdition.com. “I was super proud of her. It was a really great shot — bear didn’t suffer.”
However, she said her family has come under scrutiny online after sharing the photo.
"This is disgusting," someone commented on Facebook.
Another user wrote, "Sickening behavior for a young girl."
Highfill, however, said her family is paying no mind to the criticism.
“Some people responded that we’re bad parents for letting her do that, but I think it’s making her strong and confident,” Highfill said. “There’s more to hunting. It’s patience, it’s teaching her respect and poise. There’s a long line of hunters in this family and she’s carrying on the tradition.”
Highfill explained their family eats everything they kill and says it is a healthier alternative to buying from the store.
“Our meats that we bring in from hunting are antibiotic free, hormone free and really, cruelty free,” she said. “They’re not kept in cages and overcrowded, they’re not mistreated, and they’re out there for us to hunt and to feed our family.”
The evening following the hunt, Tina Highfill said she treated the bear’s meat like she often does with venison and other game meat they bring home, serving it for dinner.
“It was really tasty, really rich. It was like a pot roast — very delicious,” she said.