MURRAY — Vernon Anderson says that he has had a huge fascination with firearms since he was a young boy.
In those days, it was hunting ventures with his uncles that drove his interest, along with a desire to know how they worked. He had no idea that love would lead to competitions and victories and finally honors.
He did not begin trap shooting competitively, in fact, until 2003. He was 57. Now, several impressive performances at the state, national and even world levels later, at the age of 75, he is about to receive a very meaningful honor, that of 2021 inductee to the Kentucky Trap League Hall of Fame.
“This includes some of the best trap shooters in the history of the country, like Nora Ross (of Ohio). She has been the captain of the women’s All-American team 27 years in a row. Then, you have Keith Ditto from Brandenburg (Meade County), who is the captain of the men’s All-American team this year,” said Anderson, a native of Metropolis, Illinois, who has resided for several years in Calloway County.
“But to be on the same wall as those people, I didn’t ever think of that. It’s a huge honor. The other day, I was kind of talking to myself about it and asked, ‘Can you really believe you’re going to be on the same wall with those people that you’ve admired for years and years?’ I’m very honored.
“You know, it’s something I do love.”
And trap is loving Anderson back. From the time he entered his first trap shoot in 2003 at Memphis, Tennessee, he has been reaping the rewards. There have been championships at some of the biggest events of trap shooting. He has also been at the cusp of victory many times at the biggest single event in the world —the Grand American in nearby Sparta, Illinois.
“I’ve always been fascinated with what a firearm will do if you know how to use it well enough,” he said of how, in trap, this consists of exhibiting one’s ability to knock swift-moving targets out of the sky with a shotgun at varying distances from where they have been launched.
“And it takes a good firearm to shoot trap,” he said, recalling a time where he thought he needed to make an upgrade. “I’ve broken 99 out of 100 (targets in a round) several times with a Browning (shotgun). I decided that I had to get a better gun that could break 100 every time, so I bought me this new, more expensive Perazzi … and I’ve never broken 99 with it. I’ve broken 98 several times, but I never have broken 99 as I did with that Browning.”
Anderson will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on the weekend of July 4 at the Central Kentucky Gun Club near Berea during the 2021 Kentucky State Trap Shoot. He has qualified to be a member of the Kentucky State Trap Team 10 times and has also served as a member of the KTL Board of Directors since 2009.
It was at a board meeting earlier this year that he was informed he would be inducted to the hall of fame.
“I was asked to leave the room and that’s when I kind of began to realize I’d been nominated,” Anderson said. “I was overwhelmed, honored, humbled. Some of these folks on that wall are absolutely incredible. They’re great trap shooters. I think I’m what you would call a consistently good trap shooter.”
However, it is not only his competitive abilities that have made this possible. Anderson had a hand in one of the biggest developments for trap shooting in Kentucky’s rich history when, five years ago, he helped promote a bill in the General Assembly with then-5th District state Rep. Kenny Imes (now Calloway County’s judge-executive) to make trap shooting a high school sport. Thirty schools now have teams, including Calloway County High School, where Anderson has coached since its inception.
Twice, the Lakers Clay Crushers have finished state runners-up.
“I love those kids. The character just bubbles out of them,” said Anderson, who coaches the Clay Crushers with Tracy McKinney, Kenny Wyatt and Kim Hernandez. “I’m glad I’ve had the chance to help them. I had a young man the other night (at the Jackson Purchase Gun Club near Coldwater) and he had shot his first box and hit 15 (targets). So I talked to him a little bit right before he shot the next box and he hits 21. He went from 15 to 21, and I said, ‘Hey! I’m proud of you young man! Look here! You had 15 for the first box, then you hit 21. That is a significant improvement.’ That’ll be good for him.
“And we’ve got a bunch of them like that on this team. Some are hitting 22s, 23s and 24s now, they’ll breaking 25s by tournament time. Leonard Henry did that two years ago. He had never broken 25 before he went to state, then he breaks 25 three times. His mother was doing back flips.”
Anderson, however, also says that he is lucky to even have had the chances trap shooting has afforded. In 1975, he nearly lost his life when he was shot by a nighttime deer poacher as he performed his job as manager of Yellowbank Wildlife Management Area in Breckinridge County, working with officers with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Twelve projectiles of buck shot blasted into his abdomen. He was hospitalized for nine weeks. In the recovery room, he prepared to see loved ones who had died earlier as he thought he was in Heaven, then wondered if he was actually in Hell because of the pain in his belly.
“I asked my doctor, ‘What were the odds?’ He said, physical damage alone, it was between 1 in 100 and 1 in 150,” he said. “He said, ’Now, you had 12 projectiles go through you and three of them missed vital organs by less than a quarter-inch. I have no idea how to figure the odds of that happening, but I’d say you pretty well won the lottery.’
“I got to thinking later and thought, ‘You should’ve said the good Lord didn’t want me to die yet.’”