Some of the finest hunters in the industry descended on Southern Sportsman’s Lodge in Montgomery, Alabama last week to take part in what is fast becoming one of the greatest small game hunting experiences in America.
Beginning in 2013, the Squirrel Masters Classic joins major outdoor television personalities, select media members, dog handlers and local 4-H teenagers for a fast and furious day hunting squirrels in the Alabama forests.
This year’s events saw television personalities, Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo from Archer’s Choice and The Choice television, Doug Koenig, of Championship Season with Doug Koenig, Team Realtree, Buckmasters, Buck Commander and Bone Collector. The event places each TV personality team with two media members and one 4-H teen from Alabama. To determine teams, the 4-H team member drew a name from a hat that reveals the dog used to assist with treeing squirrels and the property owner where the hunt will take place. The 4-H participants this year were; Aliyah Frick 14, Silas Frick 15, Joshua Frick 12, from Opelika, AL, Matthew and Ethan Lenna 14, from Prattville, AL, and Shelby Moore 15 from Waverly, AL.
Local farmers and land owners opened their property for this one-day event to allow the teams to trek through thick and thin in an attempt to tree and kill the most squirrels. To up the ante the teams all used Gamo Swarm Maxxim air rifles in .22 caliber. Each Gamo Swarm, is a break barrel air rifle with the industry’s best 10 shot magazine. Meaning, when the magazine is full, you can get 10 shots before having to reload. Breaking the barrel each time, it sets a new pellet in place to be fired. The Gamo Swarm is accurate and deadly.
The Squirrel Masters Classic is an invitation only event and through the years the event has sprung into the forefront of small game hunting. One of the primary purposes of the Classic is to introduce teens to the thrill of small game and air rifle hunting.
Hunter participation has been tailing off over the past decade. Gamo, along with these television personalities and media members agree that we need to do something to instill a passion for the outdoors in the younger generation. By partnering these teens with some of their hunting hero’s and exposing them to the wonder of small game hunting, we hope to increase the opportunity for the younger generation.
Jackie Bushman, founder and president of Buckmasters and whose brain child this event is, kicked off the event. Bushman stated, “Use small game hunting, squirrel hunting in our case, as a method of introducng kids into the outdoors.” He went on to say, that it’s his desire to help young people find a way into the outdoors through events like this and through participation in shooting sports like those sponsored through 4-H.
The Squirrel Masters Classic ran on a strict format. As mentioned earlier, each team has a trained dog to sniff out and tree squirrels. Hunts began at daylight and lasted until 10:30 a.m. Each team gathered back at the lodge for lunch, general ribbing and good-natured bragging. Following a hearty meal, the SMC changed gears and went into a marksmanship challenge.
A range was set up and 4-H participants shot 10 shots with their Gamo Swarm, against one another at a variety of objects – balloons, static clay targets, cans, and the like. The 4-H shooter who won the competition for their team received a bonus of 4 squirrels added to their overall total. The second-place team gets 3 squirrels and so on. Each team is guaranteed at least one squirrel added to their team total. For the second year in a row, a female won the 4-H shooting competition. This year’s winner 15-year-old Shelby Moore from Waverly, Alabama won with an impressive 8 targets in 10 shots. The future is looking brighter already!
Once the 4-H shooting competition concluded the television personalities competed head-to-head in a test of skill and speed. Using a Daisy Red Rider BB gun, the teams had thirty seconds to shoot as many targets as they can. To no surprise, Team Doug Koenig won this event. Koenig is the nations most decorated competitive shooter with 10 world championships and 18 Bianchi cup victories among many others to his credit. Even with the Red Ryder in his hands, he looked as comfortable as ever.
After the competition, the teams hit the fields again to see how many squirrels we could kill. Alabama allows for eight squirrels per person per day. With teams of ten to thirteen, we were in no danger of hurting the population. At the end of the day, teams gather around the Southern Sportsman’s Lodge for the tally.
This year, Team Buckmaster’s dethroned the three-time defending champions Bone Collector with a whopping total of 42 squirrels. Winning by an impressive 12 squirrels. Second place was a tie between Bone Collector and Doug Koenig, with 30 squirrels each. In all the Squirrel Masters Classic totaled an impressive 148 squirrels taken during this one-day event and donated to the local community. But the real winners are the 4-H teens who had the chance to hunt with some of the nations most recognized personalities and media members.
The Squirrel Masters Classic was a great opportunity to expose teenagers to the thrill of small game hunting with air rifles. It offered them a chance to spend two days with some of their outdoor heroes. As Ralph Cianciarulo put it, “if us doing this helps get more kids into the woods, then it is a great event.” Personally, I could not agree more.