Growing up in a bear hunting family, 13-year-old Taylor Horner’s desire to kill her first bear was part of tradition. And on Nov. 14, she became the third generation member of her family to bag a 500+ pound black bear in eastern North Carolina.

Horner killed the bear in North Carolina’s legendary Hyde County. The bear tipped the scales at 580 pounds, and based on preliminary measurements by NCWRC biologists, her bear may qualify for the Boone and Crockett Club with a combined length-width skull measurement of over 21 inches.

Bear hunting runs deep in the Horner family. Her father Doug Horner, and grandfather, Bobby Horner have both killed bears over 500 pounds in the past seven years, and Taylor was happy to join the club. 

This year, Taylor’s father connected with Guide Mike Spear of Lakeside Outfitters (252-331-5345) to find a nice bear for his daughter. Spear had several 200 to 300-pound bears on trail camera on one of his farms in Hyde County with a nearby enclosed box stand that would be a perfect place for the Horners to still hunt.   

“Taylor would be extremely satisfied if we got one of those,” Doug Horner said. 

For most of the day, the action was slow without any bear activity at all. But right before dark, Taylor Horner saw something move down her side of the woods and the tables turned. 

“Taylor nudged me and said she saw one. I turned and looked and it was a big one about 300 yards away,” her dad said. “Taylor started getting real excited, but I told her to get her breathing under control as I handed her the rifle.”  

The massive bruin kept easing through the woods and closing in on the hunters as darkness grew closer and closer. Her father kept switching back and forth between his binoculars and his rangefinder as the bear worked his way through the thick cover. Then, the bear stepped out into a fire lane and stopped, well within lethal range. Taylor Horner was ready. 

“He was quartering to us, but she wanted to wait until he turned broadside,” he said. “And it was like somebody whispered in his ear.”

The bear picked up his feet and turned broadside giving her the perfect shot. Moments later she picked out a spot six inches behind his shoulder and squeezed the trigger on the 7mm magnum. 

“I saw his fur wrinkle when she shot and the bear took off through the woods,” said Doug Horner. 

It was a perfect heart shot. Forty yards down the trail, they found the massive bear, which could be one of the biggest bears taken in the eastern U.S. this year.