Alaskan Girl Awarded Biggest Bear Trophy

Rivers Family A Great Example For Hunters

Gary Gustafson, Bear Hunting Magazine
05/02/2007
Fern Rivers With The Ursus Rex Trophy
Rivers With Her 11'4 Brown Bear
Rivers With Her 8'2 Grizzly Bear
(Advertisement) Great Canadian Sportsman Magazine

"Dad, can I get a tattoo?"

Icy silence. Followed by a firm "No Fern, you cannot get a tattoo."

"Well then, can I go Brown Bear hunting?"

With this exchange, ten year-old Fern Spaulding-Rivers of Talkeetna, Alaska finally began persuading her Father Larry Rivers into taking her hunting for a Brown Bear and later, a Grizzly Bear. Not that it was any surprise. Since a young age Fern had been asking Larry to "teach her hunting." She shot her first Caribou at age eight. She was skilled with a rifle. Within a few months of getting grudging permission from Larry, Fern was learning to shoot a 375 H&H.

Accurately.

Out to 300 yards.

But she was not pushed into shooting the big bore. She asked Larry repeatedly to let her try it so she could prepare for the Brown Bear hunt she hoped was just around the corner.

Fern had been learning to handload her ammunition as well. Under her Father's careful guidance of course.

Fern's father, long-time Alaskan guide Larry Rivers believes in giving young people the chance to become excited about the outdoors. "It's simple. Start taking them with you as much as safely possible and as young as possible. Keep them comfortable and warm and give them the chance to shoot the good trophies. If they have success and receive some recognition, hopefully a love of the outdoors will rub off on them." Not all of Larry's children have taken a liking to the hunting and shooting lifestyle. But Fern has in a big way. From a very young age she could not get enough of shooting, hunting and tagging along on her Dad's adventures around the world. She has harvested Caribou, Dall Sheep and the major bears in Alaska, as well as a Marco Polo on a trip to Tajikistan.

In 2006, it seems God had some special surprises in store for Fern. But first she had to conquer the recoil of the 375. "I lay awake at night thinking about that more than I did the bears," she said. She was already well accustomed to shooting a 7mm-08. The 375 kicked a lot more. But Fern had been dreaming of hunting big bears, and she was determined. With a muzzle brake, and a special shoulder pad from McCoy Shooting armor, plus hours of practice on the shooting range, Fern and her dad gained confidence in her ability to humanely and effectively drop a Brown Bear. The next step would be the hunt itself.

In May of 2006 Fern's practice, desire and preparation paid off. Earlier in the week, Larry brought Fern and her mother out to hunt Brown Bears via spot and stalk in an area on the Alaskan Peninsula that he was very familiar with. After seeing approximately 11 other bears that were smaller, Fern and Larry observed a huge brownie in the distance. Coincidentally, the bear was distracted by a fox that was loitering just a few feet from it. The group closed the distance to about 150 yards when they saw the bear enter a gully. Fern watched and waited for a good shot. Several times she had to get up and move to reposition herself while waiting for an acceptable portion of the bears kill zone to be exposed. Finally the upper third of the bears body became visible as it traveled through about a 10 foot section of the gully. Fern's shot from only 32 yards hit it hard. So hard it went down and didn't get up again. At least, not until Fern and her Father began to celebrate. While Fern and her dad were congratulating each other, her mother saw the bear get up and start walking away. Fern dropped to a prone position for the second time and put the bear down for good from 112 yards. Larry knew it was a good one, but when they approached the dead bear they finally knew just how big it was. The bear squared an honest 11'7." It was among the top three brown bears ever harvested on any hunt Larry had ever been associated with. Many Alaskan hunters are encouraged to know that such bears still exist on the "Penn." After many weeks of being pestered (mostly by this author) to get the skull scored, Larry sent it to a Boone and Crockett scorer who measured the skull after 6 months of drying at 29 1/16." A monster bear by anyone's standards. But Fern is not interested in setting records or winning awards. She is simply a school girl who loves to hunt more than most.

Later in 2006, Fern continued her great run of hunting success when she took an Arctic Grizzly that squared at 8'2". (Alaskas hunting seasons run from July 1st to June 20th, thus this bear was counted as being harvested in a different regulatory year). Although it is a huge Grizzly for the area, they have no plans to get the skull scored. She knows it is a big bear and she is satisfied with it.

Fern's bear hunting exploits are over for a little while unless she goes black bear hunting. The zone she harvested her huge Brownie in offers hunters a tag once every four years. But her hunting is not over by a long shot. Her family recently hunted Arctic wolves. Their next adventure will be a second African safari. At age 9 Fern accompanied her Father to Namibia to hunt with Boet Nel. On that safari she harvested a number of animals.

Bear Hunting Magazine is proud to honor Fern Spaulding-Rivers with the Ursus Rex Trophy for the biggest bear of 2006. In an age when young people are listening to vulgar rap music and being tempted by drugs and other vices, it is encouraging to see a young lady whose passion in life is hunting and shooting. And equally encouraging to see a father willing to devote his time and talent to encouraging that passion.

To Larry and Fern, winning awards like Bear Hunting Magazine's Biggest Bear Of 2006 is secondary to the excitement of the hunt.

Neither Larry nor Fern sought out the celebrity that has begun to surround them. And they definitely have no obsession at all with record book rankings. Larry says: "I really don't hold with grabbing a tape measure to score any animal. That tape measure was invented for construction purposes, not to measure happiness. You can have six happy hunters in camp, but pull out the tape and you end up with just one. Why ruin everyone else's hunt? If it's a trophy in your eyes when you pull the trigger, it better stay that way once it's on the ground. It did not give it's life willingly, that was a life you chose to take, so respect it. If it's not a trophy you will be proud of, don't pull the trigger. Go home empty handed but with honor and integrity knowing you did the right thing."

Hunters all over North America look forward to hearing about more of Fern's hunting and shooting exploits. Congratulations!



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