Over the past 10 years, Rusty Barth's backyard has become a haven for a small band of merry men and women.
Except for the brick rancher, Barth's wooded Benson hideaway could be a slice of Sherwood Forest. Looking out behind the house, there's nothing but woods and greenery and the scampering woodland animals. Just over the hill is a small archery target range.
Barth spends a lot of summer evenings out there perfecting his shots and advising others how to perfect theirs.
The 52-year-old archery guru has instructed archers from 3 1/2 to 73 years old.
Archers from as far away as the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina flock to Barth's place for pointers. Some need advice on the physical aspects of shooting the arrow. Others need advice on the mechanical aspects of repairing a bow or arrow.
Barth can help with either. A competitive archer since 1975 and a gold medalist at the Maryland State Games three weeks ago, Barth also runs a small business, Apache Archer, out of the basement of his home. When he's not working as an inspector at Grummann Aerospace in Glen Arm, he sells and services archeryequipment and supplies.
By far his favorite part of the business is giving lessons, especially to youngsters.
"I love working with kids. To me, that's the bottom line, because they're the future of the sport that I enjoy," said Barth, who often includes free lessons for a youngster after Mom and Dad have shelled out the $150 to $300 forthe bow and arrows.
One recipient of Barth's generosity is 10-year-old Andrew Berlin of Towson. The youngster said the Kevin Costner movie "Robin Hood" got him interested in archery.
"I thought it would be a lot easier," said Andrew, who had made several twig bows before he decided to get serious about archery. "I thought you just held a light bow, pulled back the string and shot.
But the bow's heavier, you have to aim lower and you have to remember a lot of things."
Now Andrew works diligently with Barth for a couple of half-hour sessions a week. Already, he has learned that he can improve his accuracy tremendously by making slight adjustments, but it will take him a while to figure out exactly how to make the proper adjustment for theresult he wants.
To give more youngsters a chance to shoot more often, Barth would like to expand the teaching side of his business. "I would love to move out of here to an indoor range where I could runan archery clinic for kids on Saturday mornings. But I can't find a place that's big enough."
Barth's commitment to the sport's youngest competitors comes from his own love for sport as a child. The native of Mechanics Valley near North East, Cecil County, first started target shooting at the age 6, but he didn't use a bow and arrow. He learned to shoot a gun.
Barth was introduced to rifles and pistols by his father, who had a small gun shop in White Marsh. Soon he was hooked on target shooting.
"I thoroughly enjoyed competition. Growing up, a lot of kids were playing baseball. I was on the rifle range shooting," Barth said.
In his late teens, he found the perfect outlet for his skills as a marksman. He went into the service after graduating from Kenwood High and shot his way on to the Army's rifle team.
From 1954 to 1964, Barth was a member of the Advanced Marksmanship Unit of the U.S. Army. His national match average during those years was 247.9 out of a perfect 250.
In 1964, Barth became a LifetimeMaster and hung up his rifle. He had lost interest.
"I was at thetop," he said. "Where could I go?"
But he soon found another challenge. Already familiar with bow and arrow after hunting with them for about four years, Barth began shooting arrows at paper animal targets. In 1975, he started shooting at bull's-eye targets and joined theHarford Bowmen.
Barth has won several titles for target shooting.He and partner Dave Jackson of Perryville won the state field team title in 1989 and were second in the state indoor championships last year.
At the Maryland State Games three weeks ago, Barth scored 1,224 out of a possible 1,440. Competitors shot for two days at distances of 30, 50, 70 and 90 meters.
Barth hunts mostly deer -- althoughhe takes an annual trip to Canada, where he took down a caribou witha bow and arrow.
"I'm at the point now where I shoot target to improve my performance and consistency as an opportunity to harvest game. I want to make sure that the shot I make is perfect."