By Brad Dokken / Grand Forks Herald
One shot late that afternoon at 160 yards, and the teen’s hunt ended in success.
“I thought I was going to have to miss the whole week of school,” she said.
Miller’s dad, Mitch, 46, said they’d made a couple of scouting trips to northwest Minnesota after his daughter drew her tag. A Roseau, Minn., native, Miller owns a trucking company in the Twin Cities and is partners in Sunset Lodge, a resort on Oak Island of Lake of the Woods.
After a mandatory, pre-hunt rules meeting Oct. 19 in Karlstad, Minn., Miller and his daughter set their sights on a field for opening morning where elk had been spotted.
The elk had other ideas though, and the first hours of the season came and went without an opportunity to pull the trigger.
Last Saturday was Lancaster Days, so Miller says he and his daughter went into town for a bite to eat before heading to a different field for the evening hunt. Rain started falling right on schedule, but they stuck with their plan and set up a two-person ground blind along the edge of a woods near a field of corn and soybeans.
“It was like pouring rain, but we still went out there,” Madison said.
Deer started coming out to feed shortly after they set up the blind but paid little attention to the hunters inside, the elder Miller said. That went on for an hour or so, and then the deer started looking beyond the blind toward the field of corn.
“We were thinking something was up,” he said.
That’s when they spotted the first bull with a 6x5-point rack coming out about 250 yards away, followed by a smaller 5x5 bull a short time later.
“She determined the first one was bigger, and they were working toward us, so she just waited,” Miller said. “She was ready at any given time to shoot.”
The two bulls were walking directly toward the blind, a position that didn’t offer the clear broadside shot Madison needed to pull the trigger.
“They like came into us,” she said. “They didn’t really have a care in the world, so they came in to about 160 yards. Finally, the 6x5, the one that I shot, turned broadside.”
Waiting for the elk to walk in for a closer shot actually helped his daughter calm her nerves, Miller said.
“I’m like holding my gun for a couple of seconds,” she said. “I’m trying to focus, and then I shot it.”
She used a 7mm-08 rifle with 140-grain Federal Premium copper bullets to shoot the elk, hitting it in the lungs.
“It walked like one or two or three steps and then it wobbled and then it fell down,” she said. “I was so excited, but I was able to steady my gun and get a pretty good shot.”
Miller said he was confident his daughter would shoot an elk if she got the opportunity. She’s been hunting since she was 10 and has taken two bucks and a doe. She also spent time at the range shooting targets out to 300 yards preparing for the hunt.
“I felt she put in her time and was pretty focused on it,” he said.
And yes, Madison says, shooting the elk was a thrill.
“It was crazy,” she said. “When it fell down, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! This actually happened.’ ”
They waited a few minutes to make sure the bull was down, but it didn’t move.
“I grabbed my phone and right when I was talking to my mom, I was so excited,” she said. “I said, ‘I got an elk!’ It was so crazy.”
Her dad has shot elk in other parts of the U.S., but he says none of his previous hunts will top the experience of watching his daughter shoot her first bull.
“I was really excited, just hoping it would all come together,” he said. “She was very happy, and I was, too.”
As they discovered when they registered the bull with the Department of Natural Resources in Karlstad, so were the other three hunters who had drawn tags for the first season in Zone 20.
Most of the landowners had said they wouldn’t allow access until “the 13-year-old” got her bull, Miller said.
“She had some locals that were kind of rooting for her,” he said, adding the reception they got from landowners and others in the community was something special. Some of the locals even helped line up places to hunt.
“I tell you, the community up there sure was supportive of her and made her feel welcome,” he said.
Since her time away from school was so short, Madison has had plenty of opportunities to share the story.
“Some of my teachers hunt, too, so they’re like ‘wow, I can’t believe you got that opportunity,’” she said.
And it’s not the only opportunity on the teen’s horizon.
“The first week in October I have another hunt in New Mexico,” she said.
“So I might get another one.”