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Meet the Arkansas Great-Grandma Who’s Completed the ‘Triple Trophy’ for 20 Deer Seasons

Charleen Parten took up hunting in her mid 50s. Since then, she has killed deer with a gun, a bow, and a muzzleloader all in a single season — for 20 seasons
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Charleen Parten poses with a whitetail buck.
Parten's hunting life began when she was 53 years old. Photograph courtesy of Charleen and Daniel Parten

Charleen Parten was an adult-onset hunter before it was trendy. 

Deer hunting was part of her retirement plan from a life of farming in southern Arkansas. The kids had graduated from school and were out of the family house, and Parten golfed, but she wanted to spend more time outside. So she started hunting with her husband, Lowell. If only the pair had known then what Parten would go on to accomplish: 20 years of certified “triple trophies,” or killing three deer in a single season with three different methods of take. As the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission recently reported, the agency can’t confirm whether this is a record for deer hunters, female or otherwise, but the feat is impressive nonetheless.

Charleen and Lowell Parten dance together.
Parten credits her husband Lowell with mentoring her and celebrating her successes.

Photograph courtesy of Charleen and Daniel Parten

I caught up with Parten, now 90, and her 37-year-old grandson, Daniel Parten, to ask about hunting, the wisdom she’s accumulated over decades of successful deer seasons, and what it takes to complete a triple trophy. She hung up her camo hat after her most recent three-deer season in 2018, but the memories of mornings in the stand and nights with family at deer camp remain strong — especially now that her great-grandkids are starting their own hunting journeys.  

OL: What outdoor activities were you into before you got into hunting?
CP:
When I was a kid, if we weren’t working, we were playing ball. I played softball until I was 44 and got too old to play. I miss being outside more, but I don’t need to be outside as much as I used to. Time changes everything.
DP: Grandma, weren’t you offered a professional basketball scholarship?
CP: Yep, the All-American Redheads. I wanted to do it, but I turned that down to get married. It was a traveling team. They went overseas and everything.

OL: How old were you when you started hunting?
CP: I was 53 or 54. My husband loved to fish, but hunting was his main thing after we retired. We always did everything together. We worked our farm together, we raised the kids together, and he wanted me to start hunting after they went off to college. So I took it up. At the time, he was hunting in south Arkansas in a deer camp with other men, and he wanted me to go. So I went with him a few times but I wasn’t comfortable being the only woman. I told him I couldn’t do that anymore, so he started looking for our own hunting land. We bought land up in north Arkansas, in Fulton County, and that’s how we ended up there. We lived there until he passed away in 2019 when he was 87. A year and a half later I moved back here to Marianna, my home place, where Daniel grew up. But I took hunting up and loved it, and Lowell was quite an instructor. I tried to do what he told me to, and it was fun. I got my first deer in south Arkansas, where I didn’t like to go. But it was a real thrill.

OL: Was there a particular triple trophy year that really stands out? Maybe your first year completing one?
CP: Well, at my age, I forget a lot. But after the first one, I got a letter in the mail. I saw “Arkansas Game and Fish” on the envelope, I opened it up, and there was that triple trophy certificate. And I thought, Well now, this is neat. And that just makes you want to go get another one, and another one, and another one, so I tried to do it every year.

OL: When was your most recent triple trophy?
CP: Daniel, what year was it? 2017?
DP: Yes ma’am, the 2017 to 2018 season. And you had a knee replacement in there, didn’t you? That sort of disrupted the streak? 
CP: Yeah, I missed one year. 
DP: Yeah, she got 20 of them in a 26-year window. She had a five-year streak from 1999 to 2004 and a nine-year streak from 2009 to the last one. The streak would have been bigger if she hadn’t gotten the darn knee replacement. 

OL: If you had to pick between a bow, a modern gun, or a muzzleloader, which would you choose? 
CP: I loved all three, but I think bowhunting is my favorite. It’s more of a challenge and the deer have to be closer. I used a crossbow, and mostly hunted in the tree stands that Lowell built.  

Charleen Parten poses with a whitetail buck and her gun.
While Parten harvested many deer with both modern guns and muzzleloaders, she preferred bowhunting for the added challenge.

Photograph courtesy of Charleen and Daniel Parten

OL: Do you feel like you were different from a lot of the other women and wives in your friend groups?
CP:
Yeah, there weren’t a lot of other women hunting back then. At least, not that I ran with. The women I played golf with certainly did not hunt. The pro at the pro shop where we golfed was always quite impressed, though. Whenever I got a deer, Lowell would tell him, and he’d put it on the board at the clubhouse.

OL: What do you think was the key to your deer hunting success?
CP:
I think you have to really concentrate on what you’re doing, and take aim, and pay attention to what your instructor is telling you. But you have to really pay attention to what you are doing. I guess if you like it well enough, you’ll pay attention and do what you know is the right thing to do. Sometimes you get excited, and yeah, sometimes you miss.

OL: Did you ever miss any deer? 
CP: I didn’t miss a lot, no. I had a bad shot one day, but we found the deer. I think that was a gun hunt back when I had just started hunting. We had to track this deer quite a ways. Lowell was quite a tracker and he taught me how to do it, too. We finally found the deer, and Lowell looked it over, of course he always looks it over to see where I hit it, that’s the first thing he wants to see is where I hit the deer. And he looked at it and looked at me and said, “You know, this really wasn’t a good shot.” And I turned to him and said, “Well, he’s dead!”

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OL: Does any other hunt in particular stand out?
CP: I think my first 10-pointer was the most exciting. Of course, they were all really fun. But this was the biggest deer I had gotten up until then. I was sitting in the stand and I heard something, this deer came prancing right into the food plot. And he was big. I got my bow ready, and he started strutting across the food plot. I shot, he kicked, and I knew I hit him. Of course I waited for a while, got down and found my arrow, and it was bloody. So I started tracking, but I didn’t have to track far. He only made it about 30 or 40 yards. I looked at him and thought he was an 8-point, then I picked his head up out of the leaves and he was a 10-point. So that was quite exciting! And another time, I killed a turkey with a bow. That was also exciting. But I think Lowell was more thrilled about that one than I was. He had that turkey mounted with the arrow in it.

The sun sets behind the Parten family hunting cabin.
The Parten cabin continues to be the go-to spot for the family of enthusiastic deer hunters.

Photograph courtesy of Charleen and Daniel Parten

OL: Do you have any advice for new hunters, or anyone who’s thinking about hunting but might be unsure where to start?
CP: Get someone to teach you the basics. And you need to stick with it and work at it. Just like with anything: If you want to be good at it, you have to work at it. Practice. You have to practice with your weapons. And you have to love it. I love it. I love being out in nature. I love the early morning, seeing the day waking up, and the evening when the day is closing, I love watching the animals and birds moving. Being a hunting family, it’s so fun at the end of the day when everyone comes in, and you share the stories of the day and of the hunt. And if anyone was lucky, we’d all go out and watch the deer get cleaned, then everyone would help shrink wrap and put meat in the freezer. Hunting is really a family thing for us. We have all enjoyed it.