In the mountains of western Maryland, there weren't a lot of ways for a teenager to spend his time in the early 1960s.

"There was no TV up in the mountains there," said Larry Ott, a member of the Alleghany High School class of 1962. "So you looked for sports to do."

At the urging of a friend, the boy from Cumberland, Maryland picked up a bow and arrow and tried out for the Alleghany Campers' archery team.

"My instructor, he says 'you're good' and he wanted me to compete in the state tournament."

Despite being brand-new to the world of competitive archery, young Ott returned to Cumberland as the junior bowman state champion, a lifelong career as a champion archer stretching out before him.

But it was the 1960s, and a draft card got in his way. Ott enlisted in the Air Force, and for the next several decades, moved in and out of active duty with both the Air Force and Army National Guard.

"It seemed like every time I was going to jump back into it, the army called me back in."

But he kept his hand in over the years, practicing on various bases over the years. Finally retired from the military, Ott now teaches the JROTC cadet corps at Hesperia Junior High School. He bought himself a new bow, set up hay bales in his back yard, and got serious again.

"I came out here and picked up a bow again and got the up-to-date equipment," Ott said. Instead of the cumbersome longbow he learned to shoot with, decades ago, he now has a collapsible bow that fits into a black case.

He stayed old school in one way, though.

"I shoot with no [scope], just instinct."

His instinct seems to work: In June, Ott won the California Bowman Hunters State Archery Association championships in the senior recurve bow division.

"I said, 'hey, I've still got it!'"

In September, he'll compete in the state target championship.

"If I hit in the top 25, I'll be feeling good," he said.

Although archery isn't the way most of his peers stay in shape, Ott says it's good physical exercise.

"You gotta walk. It's like playing golf," he said.

His success isn't natural talent so much as it is hard work, according to Ott, and he says would-be archers can follow in his footsteps.

"They don't need a whole lot of natural. They need to be able to listen, they need to be able to see. They need to be able to build up the upper body strength. [Other archers] can teach you to shoot."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.