Only days ago, well known outdoor TV celebrities, writers and squirrel dogs met at the first annual GAMO Squirrel Master Classic in Montgomery, Alabama. The event was organized by GAMO Outdoors USA with help from Buckmasters.
As I sat in the airport with fellow outdoor writer Tom Claycomb, we discussed our expectations for the Squirrel Master Classic. Neither of us seemed to know much about the event prior to arriving, but the general details we received gave us the impression that it wouldn’t be something to miss. Tony Dolle was driving in from Nashville, Tenn. to pick us up and bring us to the Southern Sportsman Lodge. When he arrived, we packed our gear in the vehicle and gnawed on Tom’s beef jerky as we patiently waited for Kendal Hemphill (outdoor writer). Kendal soon arrived and we were finally off to the lodge.
After a half hour drive, we set our eyes upon the Southern Sportsman Lodge entrance. We all looked like kids arriving at Disney World as we pulled through the gates, our faces were glued to the windows as we analyzed the beautiful area. We pulled up and anxiously hurried into the lodge to sign in. Several squirrel dog handlers were already there, along with Jackie Bushman and the owners of the lodge. We all introduced ourselves, signed in, and received our GAMO squirrel hunting gear. Among this gear was a new GAMO Whisper Fusion Pro air rifle, a BSA tactical LED flashlight, and other useful hunting accessories. The room cleared quickly as everyone sped to their rooms to unpack and head to the range.
I was rooming with Tom and Kendal, so we hit the range together with our new GAMO’s. We all were impressed by the Whisper Fusion Pro .177 caliber air rifles. Shooting at speeds up to 1400 fps, these GAMO air rifles have more muzzle velocity than average .22 long rifles. We were already impressed, but the consistency of our shots was giving us even more of a reason to fall in love with these air rifles. We all got dialed in with the GAMO Lethal Pellets and were ready to pursue some squirrels. There was no doubt that the quiet, lightweight and accurate gun would give us a big advantage on the hunt the next day.
That evening Jackie Bushman officially opened the event. Participants were split into six teams. I was assigned to the “MacMillan River Adventures (MRA)” team with Shawn Michaels and Keith Mark. My other team members included Kendal Hemphill (press), Jordi Riera (GAMO), Heidi Wilson (4-H), and Ronnie Faulkner (dog handler). Each team was allowed to hunt with one world-class squirrel dog to help them find squirrels. As the opening ceremony ended, it seemed like each team had a plan figured out for the next day.
Morning came quickly. Everyone jumped out of bed at 5:00 A.M. and moved out to the dining area for a gourmet breakfast. Talk was cheap that morning, but stayed sportsman-like and friendly. Everyone wanted to taste victory at the end of the day, so things were heating up. We all hung out around the lodge and waited for that first sign of daybreak. Finally, it was time to head to the woods.
It didn’t take long for the action to start. Within the first 5 minutes the squirrel dog had chased a squirrel up a tree for us. Sadly, the squirrel knew right where his tree burrow was and got away. All we could do is press forward to the next squirrel. The dog handler would say to his dog “He’s in the hole, River Mutt [dog’s name]… he’s in the hole.” Then, the dog would immediately take off to find the next squirrel. The next squirrel the dog treed wasn’t so lucky. Heidi put a quick and clean kill on the gray squirrel with her GAMO Whisper Fusion Pro. We were on the board!
The morning was filled with excitement for all teams. The morning hunt’s squirrel total was at 43 with the “Bone Collector #1” team in the lead with 14. Michael Waddell and Nick Mundt seemed pretty confident of their lead, but no one knew what was in store for the afternoon hunt. My team was at 7 squirrels, which put us at 3rd place. We had some ground to cover.
After a quick lunch and some fun at the lodge, the teams headed back to the woods. It was a windy afternoon, so we were happy to have a squirrel dog assisting us in the tougher conditions. My team managed to kill 5 more squirrels that afternoon, which left us at a total of 12 squirrels for the day. We were nervous to see where we would be placed among our competitors in the finals. I was hoping to hold on to 3rd place.
At the final weigh-in, the squirrel total for all teams was just over 100. The “Buckmasters” team had an incredible afternoon hunt, in which they killed 30 squirrels. Their total was 39 for the day. The “Bone Collector’s #1” team came in 2nd place with 25, and the “MRA” team took 3rd with 12.
The closing ceremony took place that night. Wooden squirrel trophies were presented to the “Buckmasters” team. The winning team included Jackie Bushman (Buckmasters), Jacob Landry (Swamp People), Lou Riley (GAMO), Adam Heggenstaller (press), Jim Shepard (press) and Callie Littlefield (4-H). Other teams were amazed at the high number of squirrels the “Buckmaster” team killed. Some were suspicious that they imported freezer-preserved squirrels; but with all kidding aside, they are the squirrel master champions of 2014.
It was a blast hunting and hanging out with the GAMO executives and the other outdoorsmen and women. The event was huge success and has left participants anxious for the 2015 GAMO Squirrel Master Classic. I’d like to thank GAMO Outdoors USA for the opportunity to participate in the event.