TYRRELL COUNTY, N.C. — After looking at all the mounted deer heads in his house, Madison Moore, a sixth-grader at Clemmons Middle School, asked her grandfather Frank Miller if she could go on a hunting trip with him.
That was four years, two deer and two elk ago.
Oh, and a 610-pound black bear.
Moore, 11, killed the enormous bruin on a hunting trip with her grandfather on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 13, in a grassy road between two cornfields in Tyrrell County in eastern North Carolina.
North Carolina’s coastal plain is home to the biggest black bear anywhere, and Moore, Miller and their guide — Culley Wilson of Wild Wing Adventures in Kilkenney — had a too-close-for-comfort encounter with one of the biggest.
“I thought it was going to get me,” Moore said.
Moore, who has killed one whitetail deer with a bow, one deer with a rifle and two elk with a rifle — all in Ohio — put a bullet from her .308 rifle through the big bear at about 70 yards. The shot knocked the bear down, but it didn’t stay down until Wilson had put one bullet from his rifle in it and finally finished it off with a shot from his .460 Smith & Wesson pistol at 8 feet.
A few minutes after screaming in fear as the big bear came toward them, Moore hugged her grandfather and, according to him, said: “Papa, this is the best hunt we’ve ever been on. Can we go again next year?”
It was Moore who, after last season’s Ohio elk, asked Miller about going on a bear hunt. Miller, a veteran hunter who lives along Muddy Creek, contacted Wilson, who guides bear, deer and waterfowl hunters and specializes in a bear-hunting tactic called “spot and stalk.”
Leslie Moore, Madison’s mother, did the behind-the-scenes work to get her daughter ready for the hunt, including getting an excused absence from school.
“We try to arrange the hunting trips around Thanksgiving or fall break, but with bear season being just one week, we had to miss school,” said Leslie Moore, who asked Sandra Hunter, the principal at Clemmons Middle School, for an excused absence for her daughter.
“I asked the principal to excuse her — for educational purposes. She said she’d never been asked to do that before. Neither had the principal at Whittaker (Elementary School) when we asked her.
“After Maddy had killed the elk last year, she said she wanted to go bear hunting, and my dad called around and asked her if she was serious, and she was. I told them that if there’s a scratch on her head, I’ll shoot all of y’all.”
With permission from the principal and the mom out of the way, Miller and Madison Moore headed for eastern North Carolina last Tuesday night, arriving in time for a Wednesday morning hunt in 27-degree weather, with some snow on the ground and winds blowing 25 to 30 miles an hour.
Wilson took Miller and Moore to private land he leases deep in bear-rich Tyrrell County.
“We walked out at first light, went about ¾ of a mile to where I wanted to hunt, and we saw a big bear that would run 500 or 600 pounds,” Wilson said. “We moved to where I thought he’d step out at about 90 yards, but when he turned and started to walk toward us, he saw us and dipped back in the brush. I figure we had missed that opportunity, but the bear was not really spooked, so we might get another opportunity at him the next morning.
“We walked another 20 minutes, and about a half-mile out, we saw another bear out in a corn field. I knew he was going to walk out close, so we went back about 100 yards to a spot where we set up shooting sticks for Maddy (to help steady her rifle),” said Wilson, who had five hunters take bear weighing more than 300 pounds during the six-day, mid-November segment of bear season in Tyrrell County. “I told her, when he steps out, he’ll see us, so you have to be ready to shoot.”
Almost on Wilson’s cue, the bear walked out right where he was supposed to, in a grassy road, turned and looked at the three hunters.
“I shot it, and it fell over on its back, and then it got up and started running, and Culley shot it with his rifle, and then he shot it with his pistol and it went down,” said Moore, whose bear was officially weighed by an employee of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
“I was real excited; he was huge. We’re going to mount the whole bear and put him in my Papa’s house. We turned my uncle’s old room into a trophy room. I have my deer on one wall, and one of my elk on the other side.”
Leslie Moore said her father and brother hunted the entire time she was growing up, and that Madison was interested in and amazed by all the mounted deer heads her father has in his house.
“She just kept looking at them, and then she asked to go along when she was 7,” Leslie Moore said. “When she went, she was hooked, and she’s been hunting with him ever since. We’ve all worked with our kids on gun safety, and she just loved it.”
Madison Moore came up with the notion that she’d like to add a bear to the deer and elk in the trophy room. Next up?
“It was my idea for the bear hunt; I want to go back next year. I said something about mountain-lion hunting to my Papa, and he and my dad might be looking into that,” she said.
Special report to the Winston-Salem Journal by Dan Kibler, editor of North Carolina Sportsman.