The Stansbury Oquirrh Bowmen archery club will celebrate its 35-year anniversary this year. But competitive archery has been around much longer than that in Tooele County. In fact, you might say it’s a family tradition.
Bryan Warr of Erda has been involved in local archery groups since he was “a little tiny kid” in the ’60s and ’70s.
“My dad (Roger Warr) used to shoot professionally when I was younger and so I’ve been involved in it my whole entire life,” Warr said. “He (Jay Walk) and my dad were best friends and were the organizers of archery groups in this county since the early ’60s.”
But during the ’70s, local archery groups stopped organizing competitive shoots.
“We kind of went dormant for a while,” Warr said. “In ’84, we decided to start another club.”
The first official meeting of the new Stansbury Oquirrh Bowmen club took place in May 1984 in the old Tooele City library. Jay and Saranell Walk, Roger Warr, and Fred Shields were the founding members, according to the club website, www.stobarchers.com.
Bryan Warr was elected as the club’s first secretary/treasurer.
“I’ve been involved with it ever since,” he said. “It’s a way to stay involved with a really good group of people; a way to stay involved with it (the club) still.”
Although Warr used to shoot competitively, these days he mostly uses the club as an opportunity to have fun with his bow and practice for the archery hunt season.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources uses archery hunting to help manage the state’s deer population — particularly along the Wasatch Front. The DWR currently holds four extended archery deer hunts to reduce the number of deer that enter cities and towns, according to wildlife.utah.gov.
Archery has a stronger presence in Utah than some people may realize, said Anthony Reed, vice president of the archery club.
The Stansbury Oquirrh Bowmen is one of seven clubs affiliated with the Utah Bowmen’s Association, the state’s official representative in the National Field Archery Association. Typically, the clubs hold 4-5 big archery shoots in Utah each year.
“It’s quite a bit bigger deal than you would think,” Reed said. “There’s anywhere from several hundred to 400 or 500 shooters a weekend. It’s a lot of fun to go hang out with your friends and shoot your bow.”
The Stansbury Oquirrh Bowmen just held its 18th Annual Deseret Peak Indoor 3D Shoot on Saturday and Sunday. More than 400 people were there, said club president Cory Brunson.
The club is known for setting up detailed, realistic target ranges, Brunson said. In the past, they’ve gotten participants from all over Utah, as well as Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming.
“We draw a lot of people,” he said. “We go all out; we spend an entire day setting up for the shoot and we have a lot of people come to our shoot just for the way we set it up.”
The annual indoor 3D shoot started in 2001 — the same year Brunson joined the Stansbury Oquirrh Bowmen at the encouragement of his uncle, founding club member Jay Walk. At the time, the shoot drew around 30-40 archers.
The biggest attendance the club has seen at the shoot to date was in 2017, when more than 500 shooters signed up to participate, Brunson said.
The number of out-of-state visitors that typically attend the event was significant enough to net the club a $1,000 tourism grant from Tooele County in 2018, which the club used to help pay its rent at Deseret Peak Complex.
“It (the shoot) has grown significantly,” Brunson said. “We’ve got a bunch of different shots. We’ve got shots as close as six yards, we’ve got one that simulates a bow fishing shot, where you’re shooting at a carp from an elevated platform. It’s a lot harder than people realize because you have to shoot down at an angle.”
He continued, “We have various different animal (targets), we moved dirt inside the arena to simulate fields, we had 96 Christmas trees donated from Home Depot to help with the effect of the arena and dampen the smell of the arena.”
In addition to the annual indoor 3D shoot, the archery club organizes weekly league nights. During the winter season, from November- March, league shooting is held in the indoor arena at Deseret Peak each Thursday at 7 p.m. The summer league is held on an outdoor range at Deseret Peak between June and August on Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
The league costs $8 for adult club members, or $15 for nonmember adults. Teens age 14-17 can get in for $5, while children age 13 and under shoot free. Club membership is $40 per family per year.
Considering the cost of maintaining the 3D targets, Brunson considers the club fees a great deal.
“They’ve got a replaceable insert in the animal (targets); I spent $9,000 on replaceable inserts and new animals this year and last year I spent about $8,000,” he said. “In that aspect, it’s not a cheap hobby, but for the entertainment and the practice to get ready for the hunt, it’s invaluable; it’s priceless. Eight dollars is a screaming deal.”
Reed has been an archery hunter since he was a child.
“I’ve been doing archery since I could pull back a bow,” he said. “I grew up around a lot of hunters.”
He joined the Stansbury Oquirrh Bowmen around 15 years ago. Reed’s parents and older brother participate in the club, too.
“It’s something to do during the winter,” he said. “For a club member, (paying) 8 bucks a night (to shoot) for several hours, that’s pretty cheap. I’ve made a lot of friends through the archery club.”
Currently, the club has 40-48 family memberships, or around 80 registered individuals.
“When we shoot in our league on Thursday nights, we average between 40 and 50 shooters a night all winter,” Brunson said. “In summer league … we have usually between 18 to 28 shooters.”
Summer league participation is typically lower because there are a lot of other sports and activities going on that compete for family time.
Last summer, Brunson was pleasantly surprised to get a good weekly turnout. However, he and the rest of the club leadership will continue to advertise the league whenever they can.
“I think there are a lot of people in Tooele County that still don’t realize we have an archery club that shoots at the complex,” Brunson said.