Upon his seventh birthday, Kenny Ray received a Winchester Model 67A,
bolt-action, single-shot, .22 caliber rifle presented to him by his father. The
year was 1956 and the gift was the inception of his life-long desire to take part
in the shooting sports.
The initiation into sport shooting with rifle, pistol, including archery, eventually
led Estes to the scattershot games, trap shooting becoming his fixation.
As a competitive trap shooter for nearly 30 years, he will be the first to tell you
that competition is not the sole reason for his participation. He affirms: “You will not find a
better group of friends in all of the sports in the world. The socializing with fellow competitors
at gun clubs and tournaments is what keeps me attending these events.”
He started shooting trap regularly in 1983 at the Quinton Sportsmen’s Club, his home club.
He became a member of the ATA in September 1987, registering only 600 singles targets in
the 1988 target year, his highest score being an 89. In 1989 he registered 500 singles; 400 handicap and 100 doubles, carding his highest registered singles score of 98 at Silver Lake GC
(Dover, Del.), on September 3rd. He also earned his first yardage punch, a half Valley GC (Berlin, NJ) on October 9 with a score of 92 in the handicap event. Competing in the New Jersey State Sporting Clays tournament, Estes was not far off the top score and captured the Class A trophy.
Estes started the 1990 target year as a 20 ½ yard shooter and while attending his first State
Shoot, he received a half yard punch to the 21, on June 1, after posting a 93. He earned a half
yard for a 96 and a yard for a 98 in a 200 handicap target event at the Pennsylvania Grand.
His 194 tied the great Frank Little of Dillsburg, PA and Warren Passmore a Jersey shooter from
Dunellen. In the shoot-off for the championship, Little smoked 25 for the championship and
Passmore in the same yardage group missed one, Estes missed two and Passmore was awarded the one yardage trophy. Estes didn’t win a trophy but went home with $1077 in option money.
At the end of the target year, Estes earned a total of 8 total yardage punches pushing him back
to the 25 ½ mark. Estes went to his second Grand American Handicap in 1991, at Vandalia, Ohio with a handicap at 24 ½ yards. On August 11th he broke a 96, earning a punch to the 25 ½ yard mark. He broke another 96 at the Wilmington Trapshooting Association grounds, August 25th, in which he once again received a one-yard punch to the 26 ½ post. At the annual Westy Hogan tournament the following week, contested at Thurmont, Maryland, Estes carded another 96 and he earned his way to the back fence (27-yards).
At the 1994 New Jersey State Shoot, Estes posted his his first 200 straight in the Singles
Championship. That year a record number of shooters with 200 straight were posted. Shooting
off the tie in addition to Estes were: Barry Allen, Phil Barber, Robert Malmstedt and Dave
Robbins. Estes ended up with the Class AA trophy.
Co-founding the New Jersey State Trapshooting Hall of Fame with the late Ken Miller in
1999, Estes wrote the constitution and by-laws and served as a member, researcher and secretary of the Selection Committee for over 10 years.
Serving as ATA State Alternate Delegate since 2001, he volunteered as State Director of the
Scholastic Clay Target Program overseeing the State’s youth shooting program administered by
the National Shooting Sports Association. In 2003 he was elected NJ ATA Delegate. While
holding the aforementioned positions, Estes was requested to serve as Museum Director of the
Trapshooting Hall of Fame, Inc., in Vandalia, Ohio, serving as interim director from
November 2006 and confirmed as Museum Director at a meeting of the Trustees during the
2007 Grand American Handicap tournament.
Unfortunately, the responsibilities of working with the Trapshooting Hall of Fame caused him
to decide not seek re-election as ATA Delegate and also leave the SCTP Program. In “recognition
of supreme dedication to the ATA, sport of trapshooting and and the outstanding ability to
enhance our beloved sport”, the ATA, in 2007, presented the “Official of the Year” award to
Estes during a ceremony at the Grand American.
Estes credits two major reasons for his passion with trapshooting’s history. The first was assisting his parents with their family tree; the second being his research of trap shooting history in New Jersey, and while compiling this information he learned that Annie Oakley, “Little Miss Sureshot” lived, competed, gave exhibitions of her skill and even starred in stage shows in his home state.
It is his desire to introduce today’s shooters and history buffs to little known facets of the sport
from the early days, such as notable but forgotten crack shots, important tournaments, gun
clubs and precious awards and trophies, to name a few.
One of Estes’ proudest accomplishments was to spearhead the project to place a headstone on
the grave of a Missouri shooter who attended the 1897 Grand American Handicap tournament
held in Long Branch, N. J. Tobias Cohron’s grave lay bare since his death in 1955 but
thanks to the kindness of a fraternity of today’s trap shooters it now is aptly marked with a
beautiful black granite monument, listing his achievements.
Among other contributions Estes prides himself with is assisting researchers on a variety of topics. He has provided information on the formation of State Associations and shooters long
since past. He has provided research for three books, The Road To Yesterday by Dick Baldwin;
Beatrice Gun Club – 1886-2009 by Lt. Col. Leigh F. Coffin and Donald Keller and Love on
the Line, a novel by Deeanne Gist.
Estes is a life member of Quinton Sportsmen’s Club, Pine Valley Gun Club, Pine Belt
Sportsman’s Club, the National Rifle Association and a member of the Atlantic Indians where
he serves on the Historical Committee. Estes resigned from his position with the Trapshooting Hall of Fame in May 2012 when the collection of artifacts was being placed in storage. From that time, he has continued to conduct the majority of research request as a Hall of Fame volunteer.
At the end of the 2013 target year Estes has registered 97,675 singles, 68,050 handicap and
47,5,50 double targets.