GAMO Outdoor USA partnered with Buckmasters in hosting the first annual Squirrel Master Classic in Montgomery, Alabama, on February 19-20, 2014, which paired together top hunting celebrities with Gamo executives or distributors, media, and 4-H youth participants. The hunting event, which was comprised of six by invitation only teams, was held at the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge that sits on 6,000 acres nestled in Lowndes and Dallas County.
Each team included two hunting industry celebrities, a GAMO executive or distributor, a media/press personnel, a 4-H youth hunter, a guide, a cameraman, and a dog handler. The teams included Team Buckmasters led by Jackie Bushman, Team Bone Collector let by Michael Waddell and Nick Mundt, Team Bone Collector II led by Travis “T-Bone” Turner and Edmond Waddell, Team High Road led by Keith Warren, Team Addicted to the Outdoors led by John and Gina Brunson, and Team MRA Hunting led by Shawn Michaels and Keith Mark. I was placed on Team Bone Collector II and knew immediately, with T-Bone on my team, we were in for some fun hunting. Jim Mason of Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge was our guide for the hunt; we had an advantage of a guide who knew the land well.
Every hunter on each team was issued a GAMO’s Whisper Fusion Pro air rifle in .177 caliber with one hunter on each team issued the same model in .22 caliber. The single shot, break-barrel GAMO Whisper Fusion Pro air rifle has an amazingly quiet shot at 1400 fps (PBA Platinum) with a 3.74-pound Smooth Action Trigger (SAT) with a manual safety. Mounted on the air rifle was a 3-9x40mm GAMO scope. My first concern was being able to cock the air rifle with the rated 41 pound cocking effort. That concern quickly vanished after I adapted my own style of break-barrel cocking. The air rifle measures 43” with 18” of barrel and weighes in at 8 pounds making it very manageable during the hunt and perfect for small game and varmint hunting.
Fedor Palacios and Jeff Roll from GAMO Outdoors USA were an amazing wealth of information about the GAMO products; answering the many questions I had about the air rifle, the GAMO scope, and the various type of ammo that was available for us to shoot while at the event. Jeff Roll shared new generalized products and products ideal for youth and women, and he provided extremely helpful tips and suggestions for using the GAMO Whisper Fusion Pro to improve my marksmanship.
Immediately after the GAMO air rifles were issued along with a SWAG bag and ammo, many of us made our way to the practice range to sight in our rifles. After all, this was a competition and a hunter is only as accurate as their precisely tuned weapon. I had the opportunity to share the range with several of the 4-H youth hunters and was extremely impressed with their shooting skills and range etiquette. After a few shots, it was apparent I would need to move the sight on my rifle a little to zero it in. I found the GAMO scope easy to adjust, and in no time I was able to quickly adapt to the break-barrel loading. I shot the air rifle about a dozen times mostly for the experience of shooting it. With this model’s patented double integrated noise dampening technology, the air rifle was so quiet that hearing protection was not necessary on the practice range or the hunt. This also gave the hunter an advantage because the shot was nearly undetectable to the game being pursued. I got dialed in quickly which freed me up to spend the rest of the evening getting to know my teammates.
The entire group enjoyed a wonderful southern-style meal of fried chicken, creamed potatoes and gravy, seasoned baby limas, cornbread and southern sweet tea. Shortly after supper, each individual team grouped together and started strategizing for the hunt. As would be expected, it didn’t take long for the “smack-talk” to roll across the room with many laughs and good fellowship shared before it was time to call it a night in anticipation of the hunt the next morning.
The teams woke to a country-style breakfast with sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, grits, biscuits, orange juice, and coffee. The rules were covered with the group and we all gathered our gear and climbed into vehicles to go to our designated hunting areas. We had a 3-hour time limit on the morning hunt where each squirrel would count as a point and a fox squirrel would count as two points, with a limit of only one harvest on fox squirrel per team. In the case of a tie, the most weight determined the lead.
Butch Morton brought two of his champion squirrel dogs, Mo and Mexico, to tree squirrels for us. Both dogs were equipped with Garmin collars for safety. Butch swapped out the two dogs on each stop at a new location and both dogs did a fantastic job on both of our hunts. The morning started off slow and finally about 30 minutes into the hunt, Mo started barking at the base of a tree–the hunt was on!
Ken Piper of Buckmasters put the first squirrel in the bag by making a perfect shot on a squirrel sending it to the ground for retrieval. I was fortunate to put the next two squirrels in the bag and then Travis “T-Bone” Turner put a squirrel in the bag followed by Edmund Waddell. Right before time was called, Mo treed a fox squirrel. Our team ended up with a morning count of 5 squirrels and a fox squirrel for a total of 7 points.
Team Bone Collector II’s 7 points was not enough to put us in the lead, but we did break a tie for 3rd place by weight. At the noon weigh-in the standings were Team Bone Collector in the lead with 14 points, Team Buckmasters with 9 points, Team Bone Collector II with 7 points (8.125 lbs), Team MRA with 7 points (8 lbs), Team Addicted to the Outdoors with 5, and Team High Road with 1. Team Bone Collector had an impressive lead…but could they keep it? Smack-talk ensued and carried on through lunch where we dined on BBQ pulled pork, baked beans, potato salad, and coleslaw. The lunch break flew by and we all found ourselves riding back out to the woods.
The three-hour afternoon hunt started off with Kelley Hartley of Buckmasters bagging the first squirrel of the afternoon. The dogs worked hard, treed some squirrels for us, and a few got away by getting into holes in the tree. One wily squirrel hit the ground, and I am pretty sure it’s probably still running cross country. We bagged a total of 4 squirrels on the afternoon hunt.
When we returned to the lodge for weigh-in, it was obvious that our afternoon harvest was not going to keep us in 3rd place; however, we held onto a good solid 4th place. Team Buckmasters weighed in an amazing 28 squirrels plus one fox squirrel to take the win with 39 points. Team Bone Collector had a great afternoon hunt weighing in 12 squirrels to take 2nd place, followed by Team MRA with 12 points, Team Bone Collector II with 11 points, Team Addicted to the Outdoors with 8 points, and Team High Road with 2 points.
Weigh-in was followed by dinner of bacon wrapped pork loin, baked potato, green beans, black-eyed peas, salad, dinner rolls, vanilla cake, and sweet tea. After dinner there was an awards presentation and closing ceremony. Lou Riley from Gamo shared news about several new air rifle models that GAMO is preparing to release, and Jackie Bushman awarded the winning team with the coveted wooden squirrel trophy. The winning team of the 1st Annual Buckmasters-GAMO Squirrel Master Classic is Team Buckmasters.
AND THE WINNER IS…Team Buckmasters. Jackie Bushman (Buckmasters), Callie Littlefield (4-H), Lou Riley (GAMO), Ronnie O’Neal (Dog Handler), Jim Shepard (Media), Adam Heggenstalker (NRA), and Jacob Landry (Swamp People) with the coveted wooden squirrel trophy. Photo: Life in Camo
I feel extremely fortunate I was invited to participate in this hunt. Not only was I able to experience my first squirrel hunt, I was able to field test the GAMO Whisper Fusion Pro air rifle while hunting with some of the industries top hunters and making new friends all the while. Watching the squirrel dogs work is something I enjoyed as much as shooting the GAMO air rifle. I have a feeling that there will be a bounty on some squirrels and small game in my backyard now – I am thankful that I live out in the country!
Watch for the GAMO Outdoor USA-Buckmasters Squirrel Master Classic coming to you on television this spring. If you are looking for a great small game air rifle or an air rifle you can use for plinking on the range or perfecting your shot, GAMO Outdoor USA has a model to meet your need.
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