Earl Parker remembers it like it was yesterday, which it nearly was. There he was, with his wife, Valerie, and his youngest daughter, Denise, sneaking around the rolling hills and pine-covered forests near Scofield Reservoir wearing camouflage clothes and darkened makeup.
All this so the deer wouldn't know what was coming.Or at least that was the idea. When you're hunting deer with a rifle, subtlety isn't so necessary. Just turn down the truck radio and make sure the scope has been sighted. But when you're going after those wiley creatures with a bow and
arrow, well, that's what you call real hunting. You have to be sneaky and quick and smarter than the deer. And patient. You've got to be patient. For years, sometimes.
The Parkers didn't limit out on that initial family bow hunt in Central Utah four Augusts ago. They didn't even shoot at any large brown rocks that looked like deer. And in the hunts since they are yet to get a deer, although hope, and the hunts, do spring eternal, and there's always this year.
But they did have a good time getting acquainted with their bows and arrows back in the summer of '84 . . . and a new family pastime was born.
It had all been quite innocent. Glen Webb, a co-worker with Earl Parker at the Newspaper Agency Corporation in Salt Lake, had said one day to Earl, "Why don't we go archery hunting next year?" And on the drive home from work that night Earl had thought, "Yeah, why not?" He priced archery equipment that week, picked up some good used equipment for himself and Valerie and, since she was only 10 and nobody had used-gear for someone aged 10, bought new stuff for Denise.
Denise's older sister, Terri, was 14 and had just been afflicted by the twin trances of the teen-age years and boys. When Earl asked her what pound bow she wanted she thought he said "beau" and said, oh, about 165 with wavy hair and deep blue eyes. She said she wasn't terribly interested in wearing paintblack eye shadow.
So that left the three of them and since, as Earl says, "I can be kind of obnoxious when it comes to getting things started right," no sooner were they equipped with their $600 worth of archery equipment than they asked the guys at Uintah Archery (now defunct) where they might find an archer who could teach them - and who would be willing to start from the beginning.
"If you don't do that, you can develop a lot of bad habits," says Earl, who, as a self-made golfer - since reformed - speaks from experience.
Valerie, Denise and Earl learned the basics together - shooting at the Rocky Mountain Archery Lanes in Sandy at least once a week. They also turned their back yard into an archery range and practiced regularly.
Earl and Denise, particularly. Earl would spot Denise a few points and they'd shoot off to see who would do the dishes, walk the dog, buy the Cokes, and so on.
"When I was younger I'd have probably gone with the guys more. I'd have been more selfish," says Earl candidly. "But now I wanted to do everything with my family."
Anyway, even if their first deer hunt had ended in a shutout - in favor of the deer - they were hooked as archers. They started entering tournaments. Targets with bullseyes were a lot easier to hit, and find, than deer.
They started having success not long thereafter. Even if he had just picked up the sport, Earl brought home a few first place trophies. He finished second in a national tournament in Atlantic City, and 15th in the Tropicana Tournament in Las Vegas, which attracts some of the best archers in the country.
But the real overnight sensation was Denise. She was always shooting with a bow that was taller than she was, and against women who were two or three times as old, and she just kept hitting bullseyes.
Three weeks ago in Ohio she hit the biggest bullseye yet - when, at 14, she won the U.S. Olympic Trials and qualified to lead the American women into the Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea, this September.
"It's really kind of amazing," says Earl Parker. "Four years ago we were just running around the woods with these new bows, wondering what the heck we're doing . . . " Their only sights then were on the elusive deer. They missed them - and hit Korea.