The Squirrel Master Classic reminds us of winter hunting fun

Larry Case/For The Register-HeraldA squirrel hunter takes aim while another watches the shot.

The ravages of the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic seem to have no end. I’m sure all of my brothers and sisters in camo out there are as tired of all this as I am. Besides all the missed events like family gatherings and many other social events, if we are honest it has taken away from our outdoor endeavors as well. Traveling for distant hunting or fishing trips has certainly been curtailed, and sportsman-related events like SHOT Show, the NRA Convention and the National Wild Turkey Convention (it would be taking place this week) have all been canceled because of the nasty little Chinese bug.

One of the events I look forward to every year is the Squirrel Master Classic which is held at the Southern Sportsman’s Lodge in Alabama. Sponsored by the air rifle company Gamo, this event draws outdoor personalities, outdoor industry writers, editors, 4-H shooters and squirrel dog handlers from all over the country. The Squirrel Master is the brainchild of Buckmaster founder Jackie Bushman and was his idea on how to solve the dilemma of falling hunter numbers and bring awareness to the value of small game hunting.

Mr. Bushman looked at the problem like this. How do we get more new hunters, young and old, into hunting? What kind of hunting has easy access, lots of opportunities for success and not a lot of fancy gear required?

Squirrel hunting! That’s the kind of hunting many of us grew up on and how we learned to hunt.

Now, how to have an event and draw attention to this type of hunting? The Squirrel Master Classic was born. Bushman was joined in this idea by Gamo Airguns and the rest is history.

The basic drill for the Squirrel Master Classic is this: have a squirrel hunt in a fun competition atmosphere. Teams are made up of outdoor television personalities, outdoor writers and editors, a dog handler with a squirrel dog to find the squirrels for you and, most important, a young person who is a 4-H shooter, which has a very extensive shooting program. Young people can learn and compete in several different shooting sports categories — air rifle and pistol, .22 rifle and pistol, shotgun, recurve and compound archery, muzzle loader and hunting skills. 4-H shooters in the Montgomery, Ala., area get the extra benefit of participating in the Squirrel Master Classic.

Gamo Air Rifles sponsored the event and supplied all the hunters with a Gamo Swarm Maxxim pellet rifle. The Swarm Maxxim (now in a Gen2 version) is the world’s only 10-shot break barrel air rifle. The 10X Quick Shot magazine allows the shooter to load 10 pellets in the magazine, insert it into the rifle and fire 10 quick shots before you have to reload. Believe me, you need those quick second and third shots on this hunt as these squirrels have their running shoes on. Once they start running in the treetops, sometimes with spectacular leaps from tree to tree, you have to be quick or you came up empty-handed.

The Gamo Swarm Maxxim is capable of 1,300 feet-per-second pellet speed due to the new IGT Mach 1 technology. In short, Gamo put a large inert gas cylinder on this air gun to deliver speed and power unheard of in a manually operated air rifle.

The Squirrel Master Classic is held at the Southern Sportsman’s Lodge, a hunter’s haven in the famous Black Belt region of Alabama. I’m pretty sure if you look up southern hospitality in Webster’s, you will see a picture of the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge. This lodge has a rich 35-year history of hosting deer and turkey hunters and now squirrel chasers. The walls of the lodge are adorned with rows of pictures of hunters, outdoor personalities, writers, sports figures and entertainers who have stayed there. By the way, the ladies in the kitchen at Southern Sportsman’s Lodge make the best barbecue this side of Memphis.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, squirrel hunting is a heck of a lot of fun. These little tree rodents are found in most every state in the nation and are often plentiful on public ground. You don’t need a lot of fancy gear and expensive leases to get you going on squirrels. Another bonus here is squirrel hunting will get you in the woods and you can do a lot of scouting for those big bucks next deer season. The woods are bare now and rubs, scrapes and deer trails will be obvious to you. You can also look for shed antlers while you chase those bushytails!

Grab your Gamo air rifle (or your second-best squirrel gun!), take a youngster with you and see what the February squirrel woods in your area have to offer. Post your pics on your social media channels with the following hashtags for identification and be a part of the fun:








You can also check out Gamo’s Facebook and Instagram postings to see how your favorite TV show hosts are doing with their squirrel pursuits. The 2021 Virtual Squirrel Master Classic teams include:

Bone Collector


Buck Commander

The Choice with Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo

Raised Hunting


The Squirrel Master Classic is canceled this year, but that doesn’t keep us from hitting the squirrel woods. Grab the Gamo air rifle, find some sheds and scout for your buck this fall.

The Covid bug can’t take that away from us.

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