JEFFERSON CITY — At age 6, Tanner Brundage aimed his .410 shotgun at his first live target and killed a squirrel with a single shot.
“It could have been luck,” said Robert Brundage, his father. But his seven belt buckles earned in shooting competitions suggest his accuracy is no longer a fluke.
A senior at Jefferson City High School, Brundage, now 17, has qualified for Trap Shooting in the National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyo., for his third consecutive year. He developed a love for shooting clay pigeons as well as other rodeo sports through hunting with his father at an early age. Together they practice for the upcoming event that begins Thursday. Tanner Brundage’s success is revealed on his favorite gold belt buckle with the engraved words: “National Champion, 2010.”
Robert Brundage will accompany his son to the NHSFR as he has the past two years. The competition features approximately 1,500 contestants from the United States, Canada and Australia. Athletes compete for national titles, assorted prizes and thousands of dollars in college scholarships.
In 2010, Tanner Brundage received a $1,500 scholarship from the National Rifle Association for winning the National Champion Trap Shooter title. He qualified again the next year and placed 11th in Trap Shooting. In 2006, Tanner Brundage met a fellow trap shooter, John Vislay, who has been involved in the sport for 55 years.
"Watching him shoot, you could see that he has been shooting since he was a young boy," Vislay said. "He knew how to handle the gun, and he wasn't afraid of it."
Vislay recognized Tanner Brundage's natural talent and has spent years helping him improve his shot.
Tanner Brundage is also involved with the Show Me Mounted Shooters based near Columbia. The competitive equestrian sport involves riding horses and shooting at balloons with guns that are loaded with blank ammunition. Tanner Brundage joined the club five years ago and has earned several Overall Champion Cowboy titles.