Q&A: Linda Parker

Linda Parker is the club reporter, handling media and internal communications, for the Grays Harbor Bowmen archery club. She is also editor of The Quiver, the official publication of the Washington State Archery Association. Introduced to archery some 35 years ago by her husband, TC Parker, she has been a member of the Bowmen for 17 years. TC was one of the charter members of the club when it was formed about 60 years ago. Linda has attained a high level of success in tournaments at the world and national level. Her husband has twice won national field championships. Retired after careers in the military (Linda in the Navy and TC in the Marine Corps), the Parkers live in Hoquiam.

What is the background of the Grays Harbor Bowmen?

In the early 1950s, club member Carl Carson was shooting a tournament in a cow pasture on the Wishkah. He stated he was tired of moving the range every year to a new spot. As he had just logged a spot on the south side of Grays Harbor, he deeded the land to the club. Since then, we have been on this place. When the railroad traversing the property closed out, Dean Hollingsworth bought the land, logged it and then donated that parcel to the club.

The Grays Harbor Bowmen have about 60 members and we usually run four tournaments per year that are open to the public. We meet in the range clubhouse on the first Tuesday of each month (except September, because of archery deer and elk season). The club also runs four leagues during the year, two indoors and two outdoors, each running for a six-week period. We shoot the league rounds on the Tuesdays when we are not holding a meeting, between December and July.

The club welcomes new members. Each member is expected to contribute 12 hours of work to maintain our facilities and support the club events. Applications for membership are accepted at the monthly meeting at any club event. Annual family dues are $100 for new members and are pro-rated for renewing members who have met the work requirement in the previous year. A reduced rate is available for those living more than 50 miles from Aberdeen.

Those interested may contact TC Parker at 533-4698 (parkertc@live.com) for information about the club, facilities and events.

Speaking of facilities, doesn’t the club have property and amenities that other clubs lack?

The range is located just off State Highway 105 (the Westport Highway) seven miles southwest of Aberdeen. The club has a clubhouse, a 35-yard indoor range with 10 lanes and an outdoor practice range. The roving course can be variously configured for a 42-target 3D course, 35-target safari course and a 28-target field course.

The Grays Harbor Bowmen offer some special amenities that make us a favorite of the traveling archer. We can accommodate about 30 campers during our events and usually attract an assortment of trailers, motor homes and tents for “dry camping” on event weekends.

The clubhouse has wood stove heat, so participants can take a break out of the elements before or after shooting the course. The indoor range is also open for practice during the events and gives visitors an extra option.

We take pride that our course has varied terrain and environment, with some challenging and interesting shots. At the same time, we make it easy for people to get around the course, with steps for the uphill and downhill sections and boardwalks traversing the wetter areas.

What are your most popular tournaments?

Our signature event is the annual Clam Shoot Safari tournament — hand-painted sea-life targets with bright aiming spots and known distances from 4 to 101 yards. The highlight of the Clam Shoot is a cooperative seafood dinner on Saturday night.

Most years, we also conduct a Rainforest Safari shoot in the summer, with a mixture of printed and painted targets. Each of these events is a two-day affair, with archers shooting at 35 targets each day.

In 2013, we added a special attraction. For the first time ever, custom zombinal targets designed by Northwest HydroPrint were the focus of the Zombie Shoot Safari. These unique creatures created quite a stir in the archery community and we had a large turnout for the event. We plan to keep the Zombie shoot in the rotation for 2014.

The other two events during the yearly cycle are an unmarked distance 3D shoot in early spring and a marked distance 3D in late summer. The four events are almost equally popular, attracting between 60 and 100 participants.

What percentage of your membership actually hunts with a bow and arrow in addition in competing in tournaments. How well do the archery skills translate to bowhunting?

About 50 percent or more of our members participate in bowhunting for big game. Some consider themselves primarily hunters, who mainly use the range as a place to prepare themselves and their equipment for the hunt.

Others distribute their interests between hunting and the tournament side of the sport. One member mentioned he wasn’t even aware of the competitive side of archery until he started attending club events.

It is certain that a bowhunter’s skills are developed by regular practice and keenly honed in the environment of tournament competition. Walking and shooting along the club range also helps bowhunters condition their bodies to the rigors of the hunt and accustom themselves to their protective clothing (rain gear and boots) and archery accessories such as binoculars and rangefinders.

People who try archery seem to be hooked by it. To what would you attribute the sport’s popularity?

Archery is a sport in which almost everyone can participate and anyone can excel in it. It is a lifelong activity and an ideal family sport in which multiple generations can participate together.

Since it is an individual sport, your own performance or degree of success can be measured against the challenges of the course, independent of the skills of your opponents and without concern of holding up a team.

Young archers can begin as soon as they pay attention to instructions, usually about the age they start school. People can continue to participate in archery into their senior years, even 80 years of age and older. In competition, archers are categorized by age and gender and by the type of equipment they use, with the youngsters shooting shorter distances.

For a novice taking up archery or bowhunting, what would you recommend? What are common mistakes of a beginner?

I would advise a new archer or bowhunter to contact a qualified coach, or at least a good shooter, for advice on equipment selection and fitting. Borrow a bow if possible and try a few different configurations before making the investment. It is important to discover how heavy a bow you can (or should) shoot and how to hold the bow, draw, aim and release. The rest of the process is repetition of these steps over and over until it becomes natural.

An archery shop or coach should be able to measure the new archer and set them up with bow and arrows that are suited to their size and strength. A common beginner mistake is to buy a bow that has too much draw weight or too long a draw length.

A new archer with poorly fitted equipment will struggle to pull the bow back, developing form flaws and possibly causing muscle or joint strain or injury. Aiming will be difficult and the number of repetitions will be limited. The experience will not be rewarding and the pursuit is often abandoned. A yard-sale or pawnshop bow isn’t much of a bargain in the long run if you can’t shoot it.

The Grays Harbor Bowmen have three certified instructors among our membership. We also have world and national champion archers and some experienced and knowledgeable bowhunters. Any of us are willing and able to help new archers or bowhunters get off to a successful start.