Run. Chase. Fall (oops). Trust the dog. Aim. Shoot.
Squirrel hunts are no joke. Sure, whitetail deer, elk, wild turkey and other big game get all the glory, but small-game hunting sure is a lot of fun.
Participants of the 2017 Game Squirrel Master Classic a required to do a few things: run through the woods, have a good time and bag as many squirrels as possible (and don’t shoot the dogs).
This was the fourth consecutive year that Gamo Outdoor USA and Buckmasters hosted this made-for-TV squirrel hunting competition at the Southern Sportsmen’s Lodge in Tyler, Alabama, just outside of historic Selma. There were six teams total made up of outdoor-TV celebrities, 4-H shooters, media representatives (like yours truly), veteran hunters and Gamo executives.
Each grey squirrel was worth one point; fox squirrels were worth two. Everyone was armed with the Swarm Maxxim. This Gamo, quick-shot air rifle features a 10-round, rotary-style magazine that offers faster loading for repetitive shooting.
Led by assigned celebrity hunters, each team’s hunt was filmed to be featured the team leaders’ respective hunting shows. The team that harvested the most squirrels (or in the event of a tie, whichever team collected the most weight in squirrels) won a beautiful, hand-carved wooden squirrel trophy. After each hunt — one in the morning and one in the evening — Jackie Bushman, Buckmasters’ CEO and founder who hosted this event with Gamo, counted and weighed each team’s squirrel bounty. And while my team didn’t come in first place (or second or third …), I still had a heck of a time on my first small-game hunt. The Gamo Swarm was deadly accurate and easy to carry while chasing after Molly, our squirrel-treeing Feist, through thick Alabama woods. It shot well on the range, too. It’s great for anyone looking to use an air gun to sharpen their hunting skills or introduce a younger generation to shooting.
An Afternoon On The Range After A Morning In The Woods
The squirrel hunts were only one component of the Squirrel Master Classic. Gamo added a twist to this year’s point system so it wasn’t weighted as heavily on the hunts. Instead, a multi-stage shooting competition made up for the majority of each team’s total score for the day. The courses included a 4-H-only, three-stage range where the students had to shoot standing, kneeling and prone; a mounted shooting setup where two participants from each team shot at various targets placed on the range; a three-man pistol, Gamo Swarm Maxxim and Daisy Red Rider BB Gun course; and, finally, a relay event where one member from each team would have to complete a particular range before the next shooter could start.
At the end of the day, the Travis “T-Bone” Turner Bone Collector team took home the coveted squirrel trophy, marking the third consecutive year that Michael Waddel’s crew emerged victorious. Other teams were a little bitter over not getting their paws on the wooden-squirrel trophy (OK, just highly-competitive me), but it’s impossible to harbor ill will toward someone as big-hearted as T-Bone.
The Swarm Maxxim by Gamo
While you do have to break the barrel after each shot fired, you’re allotted 10 pellets at a time. So, there’s no fumbling pellets after each discharge and losing time with the reload. The Swarm Maxxim is available in either .22 or .177 caliber configurations, providing the ideal shooting platform for small-game hunting, recreational shooting and pest control.
Here are the specs:
- 10-shot break-barrel for fast follow-up shots
- Delivers speeds up to 1,300 fps (.177) and 975 fps (.22)
- Factory-mounted 3-9×40 scope
- Cal.: .177, .22
- Length of pull: 14.4″
- Cocking effort: 30 lbs.
- Barrel length: 19.9″
- OAL: 45.3″
- Wt: 5.64 lbs.
Why Squirrel Hunting Needs A Comeback
Small-game hunting has become less and less popular over the years as big-game hunting thrives by comparison. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. The resurgence of big-game hunting and the diligent work of state and federal wildlife agencies to improve habitat and increase wildlife populations is a source of immense pride in the hunting community. But what about the little guys? Or, rather, little critters?
The Squirrel Master Classic is a great example of how small-game hunting can bridge the gap between generations of hunters and shooters: old and young, experienced and new, all of whom were trudging through soggy woods together and chasing after tiny targets with eyes on the prize. Hunting small game offers novice and expert hunters lessons in woodsmanship, marksmanship and food preparation. If you hunt squirrels but don’t eat them, you’re missing out on some primo protein, my friends.
What do you think of small-game hunting? And if you did bag a few squirrels this season, what’d you do with the meat? This wild-game twist on a southern favorite caught our eye — buttermilk fried squirrel. Let us know in the comment section below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!
Featured Photo: Lon E. Lauber/Windigo Images