For Payson Family, Archery A Way Of Life

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When the Scott Darnell family gathers for a few hours of pleasure and adventure, it's most often on the archery range.

All five Darnells are accomplished archers, having competed in state and national tournaments. During their time away from the circuit, the family usually heads to the woods for a few hours of archery hunting or bow fishing.

"That's pretty much everything we do," Scott Darnell said. "(Archery) is a big part of our lives."

As a professional archery advisor at Pine Country Outfitters, Darnell has plenty of opportunity to practice his profession. Inside the store at the Rim country Mall is an archery range that is rapidly turning into a popular stomping ground for local bow hunters.

Drop by the store most any day and you'll find adventurers of all ages huddled around Scott eager to learn the secrets it takes to become an accomplished bow hunter and archer As a member of the Bowtech professional staff, Scott has built a reputation as being one of the most knowledgeable archers in the country.

When Scott finds a few hours of personal time to take to the indoor range, his wife Melanie and children Bryan, 15, Brittany, 11, and Brileigh, 8, usually join him.

The many hours the family has put into practicing and honing their skills has paid huge dividends on the competition circuit.

Last week, the family traveled to the White Mountain Apache Reservation near Pinetop where they participated in the Sunrise Invitational 3D Tournament.

Competing in the professional division, Scott shot his way to first place.

Bryan, a freshman at Payson High School, finished second in the youth male division.

In the women's bow hunter class, Melanie was fourth.

Brittany took second in the cub female division.

All of the Darnells agree they enjoy the 3D competitions, like Sunrise, because the shoots simulate a hunting outing.

In the tournament, the competitors were required to hike trails through pine forests searching for targets that often include life-size replicas of deer, javelina and bear.

"There are 40 targets, with rings on them, that are (placed) at unknown yardage," Scott said.

When a target animal is spotted, the competitor has just seconds to sight and fire.

At the conclusion of the competition, the winners are determined by the points accumulated on the ringed targets.

The entire competitive experience, Bryan said, is a good tune-up prior to the family taking to the field for a hunting outing.

During Bryan's short hunting career, he has bagged an elk, whitetail deer and javelina. The elk and deer were of record-book size.

A modest, unassuming teenager, Bryan doesn't talk much about his considerable archery skills. He will, however, tell any listener that hunting and tournament competition top the list of things he most likes to do.

Melanie downed an elk two years ago. She's hoping to someday be drawn for another elk tag so she can relive the experience.

In the past few summers, Scott has expanded his expertise to include bow fishing. During a fishing trip this summer, he and a friend shot a state-record Black Buffalo fish.

About the only archer in the family to have not known success in the field is Brileigh.

At the tender age of 8, she's too young for a hunting license. But that doesn't mean she doesn't enjoy the family pastime.

"I have a really good time at (archery)," she said.

Although the archery tournament season is at an end, the family is primed and ready to enjoy a full hunting season filled with new adventures.

Scott was lucky enough to draw archery tags for both an antelope and bull elk. Brittany has been selected for a whitetail deer hunt in unit 6A.

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