Down by the Riverlee…
In the fall of 1998 the little township of Socastee, South Carolina welcomed a baby girl home. It was obvious from the start this little girl would be fiercely independent. She was always quiet as mouse and her big brown eyes were busy observing and learning. Riverlee Grace Weaver was named for the place her parents met…on the river. Her Dad wanted to call her River but her Mama, being a southern girl, insisted they dress it up with “lee” on the end.
Where Riverlee was most comfortable was in the woods. Her Dad was a passionate hunter and where her Daddy was, there was her Mama. At the time she was born they were members of Winyah Archery Club in Georgetown, South Carolina. At three weeks old Riverlee had already spent the weekend at the hunt club with her parents. Nearly every weekend during hunting season for her entire formulative childhood, Riverlee spent in a hunt camp. Her Daddy took her with him when he sat nearly from the time she could walk, knowing he had no plans of shooting a deer, but taking the opportunity to share the joy of the quietness with her. Riverlee was an expert at stillness. She could sit for hours without making a peep, still as a statue with never ending patience, just waiting for something to show. A deer, a raccoon, a turkey, a rabbit, a hog…it didn’t matter in the beginning. At seven years old she shot her first deer. As she got older, she began refining her skills. She moved into bow hunting with ease and embraced the challenge of luring the deer in close enough for a good shot. When she was thirteen she called out to her Mama that she was going hunting someplace close to home. This was not unusual. It was typical to see her backside leaving the yard with her bow in hand and backpack strapped on. This particular night she came home with quite a story! As she was walking to her stand she happened to walk up on a doe. The doe never saw her, which is a testament to her stealthiness, so Riverlee dropped immediately into the background as this doe nibbled on her acorn snacks. Over the next few minutes, thirteen year old Riverlee successfully stalked and harvested this doe with her own bow. Dad did have to help pull her out of the woods though! While she loved hunting in general, she preferred bow hunting. She and her family began traveling to expand her hunting portfolio.
She took her first turkey with a bow at 12 years old and they hunted turkeys in Florida and Texas and in Nebraska until at 15 she had achieved her Grand Slam with a shotgun. She’s currently pursuing her Grand Slam with a bow while working as a pro staff member of Gobbler Down. Her favorite place to hunt grew to be Nebraska where the family leased a large farm full of record breaking bucks and flocks of turkeys. We’re sure those turkeys are always happy to see Riverlee leave so that they can get some peace! She hunted in the mornings, scouted at lunch and then hunted in the afternoons for 5 and more days at a time. This is where her Mama saw her happiest. Riverlee actually switched to online school just so she could spend more time in Nebraska!
In addition to bow hunting, she honed her archery skills through the SCDNR’s National Archery in the Schools Program at her elementary school. With her dad as an assistant coach, they logged hundreds of hours in front of round targets with children of all ages. Riverlee excelled, coming home with the State Championship several years in a row. The only one she missed was the year she couldn’t shoot due to breaking her hand at the State Gymnastics meet. She was determined to shoot, even with a brand new cast on her left hand, but the break was too fresh and too painful. At twelve years old she made her first career oriented decision to “retire” from gymnastics and focus solely on archery. It has proven to be a very wise decision as she had decided she wanted to be a professional bow hunter with her own tv show and a clothing line targeting female hunters. Quite a lofty goal, but attainable with focus and planning.
From Stalking Deer to Walking Runways
Riverlee knew she could handle the hunting aspect of her plan, no sweat. But she needed some help with the presentation and fashion components. Being naturally introverted, she was determined to improve the skills she needed to be successful in the industry. She and her mama began weekly trips to Raleigh, NC to attend training at A-List Models and Talent where she successfully completed acting workshops with Tom Logan, a Hollywood director, writer, producer, acting instructor, and former actor. She also completed Female Major Modeling training and IMTA training. She learned about resumes and portfolios…and head shots that didn’t refer to turkey hunting! She learned make up techniques and how to look good walking the runway in 4” heels. In 2014, Riverlee participated in a Modeling Showcase in Niagara Falls and in 2015 the International Modeling Talent Association’s Los Angeles Showcase. The LA Showcase is a seven day intense, but fun, competition with the best new talent and the best teachers in the industry. Over seven days in January 2015 Riverlee made amazing new friends from all over the world and participated in the Makeup competition, TV Beauty, Cold Read, Swimwear, TV Real People, Fashion Print, On-Camera Host, Commercial Print, Jeans Competition, and Improvisation. Her Mama was proud of her courage, her poise, and her determination to put herself in uncomfortable situations to improve her skills. If she didn’t know it before, she knew for sure now…there was nothing this girl couldn’t do. The IMTA LA Showcase was a once in a lifetime experience that neither of them will ever forget. She was definitely a well rounded young woman!
With her archery, she continued to earn local and State championships year after year. She participated in the infamous NASP Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky several times along with about 15,000 other student archers. A National podium spot continued to elude her, so they began traveling to tournaments with other NASP families to allow the kids more tournament setting experiences. It helped to compete and practice with archers of equal and higher caliber. The 2016 National Championship would be her last since she had decided to graduate high school a year early and had enough credits to do so. Determined not to come home empty handed again, Riverlee overcame the nerves affecting her scores in such an epic tournament setting. She and two other girls tied for first place at the 2016 NASP National Tournament. To break the tie, the three girls had to participate in a shoot off in front of several thousand people. Needless to say the tension was off the charts but Riverlee handled it with grace and style! She walked away with a 3rd place plaque, a $10,000.00 scholarship, and a spot on the 16 member All Star Championship Team which would compete in South Africa in July. Most importantly she had achieved the goal she set out to achieve and she was personally satisfied. Job well done!
Of course, as a high school senior it was time for Riverlee to decide what to do after graduation, besides travel to South Africa with the All Star Championship Team in July. Her Mama had initiated the conversation about career choices several times and Riverlee had browsed colleges and the majors each offered but she continued to refuse to commit. She considered Olympic archery. Nothing felt right. It became evident that this girl wasn’t the typical 4 year college kind of girl. She was ready to start her own career doing what she loved more than anything…hunting. With the full support of her parents, she did joyfully commit to the Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School for six weeks. She would use the NASP scholarship she won at Nationals to pay for it. In the mean time, she needed to focus on the NASP World Tournament to be held in her home town of Myrtle Beach and the All Star Tournament in South Africa.
With the pressure of the National Tournament over and done with, the much smaller NASP World Tournament in June was refreshing. This year it was held in Myrtle Beach, Riverlee’s hometown, which was fitting. She was like a celebrity to the local elementary archers, many of whom wanted their picture taken with her. It was a 4 day tournament and Riverlee volunteered when she wasn’t working at her landscaping job, helping out the NASP coordinators and SCDNR wherever she could. She competed on the last day landed 2nd place High School Female at the last World Tournament of her NASP career.
The excitement of representing the USA in South Africa was evident in her smile, in her preparations, in her training, and in her eyes. She hadn’t really had a true team since elementary school. She competed individually, so to be on a team with archers just as good and better than she was proved to be exhilarating. These were the top 16 NASP archers in America. They understood the same things and connected on a level that she had never experienced before. The tournament was held at a private resort in the mountains of South Africa and must have been very similar to what a PG rated Olympic Village experience would be, complete with opening and closing ceremonies. The archers competed all day and socialized in the evenings with other archers and their families from Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. The American team won first place, but the South African team was a close second. Riverlee took 3rd place in the 3D archery competition, but you know she didn’t leave South Africa before she and her dad went on safari with some of the other coaches and archers. At the last possible second of her safari, Riverlee dropped a Blue Wildebeast with her bow to complete her first South African experience at 17 years old. From Canada to Zimbabwe, she had new friends and new doors to be opened. She returned home confident in her career decisions and looking forward to heading to Colorado in August.
Professional Guide Experience
Summer of 2016 was certainly sweet Riverlee! She achieved her goals at the NASP National Tournament and the NASP World Tournament above and beyond, graduated high school, competed in the NASP All Star Championship in South Africa, graduated from the Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School in August, and at 18 years old began her first job in her chosen career field as a hunting guide at Deerfield Plantation in St. George, South Carolina. She’s also an agent with Sable Africa Safari. With all of those goals achieved, you wouldn’t expect her to stop there right? Summer of 2017 may actually be just as sweet as she travels back to South Africa to intern with a safari outfitter there and to prepare to take the difficult Professional Hunters course. Stay tuned!
Contributed by Riverlee’s Mama, Amy Weaver