When writing about archers and archery, reporters have a tendency torefer to their subjects as "latter-day Robin Hoods."

In writing about Todd Kibler of Finksburg, however, the image that springs to mind is that of Robin's loyal and gentle sidekick, Little John.

John, if you remember your mythology, was a giant of a man whose ability with a quarterstaff was every bit as great as that of the more flamboyant Robin.

The 26-year-old Kibler goes John one better bybeing Robin's equal with bow and arrow.

Using a compound bow considerably more sophisticated than the bows employed by the Merry Men of Sherwood Forest, he took first place in the Master Bowhunter Class at May's Interstate-81 Association of the Deaf competition. In June he took both a second and third at the Maryland Association of the Deaf meet held by the Tuscarora Archers of Frederick.

Practicing at home on a recent Sunday afternoon, he demonstrated his marksmanship byplacing five arrows in succession within a 3-inch diameter circle from a distance of 35 yards.

Todd's skills with bow and arrow have developed as a natural outgrowth of his interest in hunting. His father, excavating contractor Ervan Kibler, has always encouraged Todd's interest in hunting and the outdoors.

"I've been taking him huntingever since he was big enough so he wouldn't freeze and could get up in a tree with me," Ervan Kibler says.

When Todd was 9 years old, he shot his first deer on a hunting trip in Virginia. At about age 12he took up bow hunting, a sport in which his father already was involved.

A mount of a magnificent nine-point buck displayed in the Kibler living room is just one of many proofs of his marksmanship skills with both rifle and bow. Communicating through sign language, the modest Kibler admits he doesn't always get his deer.

"Last year I was shooting down from a tree at a 10-point buck. The deer heard me draw the bow and he ducked," he signs.

It is only recently that Toddbecame interested in competitive archery.

Invited by friends to ashoot, he said, "There's nothing to that!" and promptly proceeded todemonstrate his point by winning the competition.

Todd, deaf frominfancy, cannot hear the twang of his bowstring, the sound of the arrow singing its way to the target or the gratifying plunk as the steel tip is embedded in the target. But his keen visual perception is perhaps compensation for the loss of hearing.

"Even though I can hear, Todd can spot a deer much faster than I can," his father says.

The bow Kibler uses in competition, a Mach-Flite 4, is very special. It was given to him by longtime friend and classmate Bert Parks, who died of cancer last September.

Handling the 65-pound draw bow is easy for Kibler, who has always been athletic. A 1984 graduate of Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick, he played football and was also a member of the school's wrestling team.

Recently, Kibler has begun making his own arrows, cutting the aluminum shafts to the correctlength and tipping them with either target or hunting tips.

Todd met his wife, Michelle, when they were students at Maryland School for the Deaf. They were married in 1985. Michelle, who is employed at the Carroll County Bank and Trust's Operations Center on Route 140 in Westminster, has become quite adept at translating into sign languagethe special terms used in archery.

The Kibler home on the Sykesville Road houses three generations of the Kibler family. Todd and Michelle have their own apartment on one end of the attractive stone rancher. Ervan Kibler and his wife, Doris, occupy the main section, and Todd's grandfather has his own quarters on the opposite end.

Because of Todd's deafness, his family has been deeply involved with the deaf community. Frequently, other deaf friends join Todd and Michelle on weekends for cookouts and social times, which sometimes include a bit of archery practice.

Upon graduation from school, Todd joined his father's excavating and construction firm. He is now licensed as aheavy equipment operator and drives the bulldozers, cranes, trucks, pile drivers and concrete mixers used in the construction business.

In 1989, Todd was featured in a cover story that appeared in the Deaf American for his achievement in overcoming his hearing loss to become a heavy equipment operator.

In a month, Todd will be competingin Lancaster, Pa., for a $1,000 prize offered by the Eastern ArcheryAssociation of the Deaf. The competition will be held at the HemlockField Archers range Aug. 24-25.

He will be shooting both indoor targets at 20 yards and a field round of 28 animal targets.

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