Tree­top Bushy Tails

GAMMO AIR­GUNS ARE PUT TO THE TEST

Modern Pioneer - - Contents - By Thomas C. Ta­bor

Gamo air­guns are put to the test

Those who par­tic­i­pate in the an­nual Squir­rel Mas­ter Clas­sic event are given the chance to gain stature and recog­ni­tion within the shoot­ing com­mu­nity. If you’re lucky enough to pre­vail and walk away with the cov­eted Wooden Squir­rel award, you’ve reached the pin­na­cle of ac­com­plish­ment.

This fun-filled event ad­vances our hunt­ing her­itage through 4-H par­tic­i­pa­tion. It’s also a great way to test out Gamo air ri­fles un­der ac­tual hunt­ing con­di­tions.

The Event

The Gamo Squir­rel Mas­ter Clas­sic is held an­nu­ally by Gamo USA in Alabama’s Black Belt re­gion. Par­tic­i­pa­tion is on an in­vi­ta­tion-only ba­sis, with con­tes­tants con­sist­ing of out­door writ­ers, TV celebri­ties and their film crews, Gamo rep­re­sen­ta­tives, 4-H mem­bers, dog han­dlers and their faith­ful squir­rel-pur­su­ing K9s. Typ­i­cally, the event pairs six teams against one an­other in a fun-filled, one-day com­pe­ti­tion to see how many gray and fox squir­rels each team can har­vest us­ing Gamo USA air ri­fles.

I par­tic­i­pated in the sec­ond an­nual Squir­rel Mas­ter Clas­sic two years ago and found that it was a real hoot. Un­for­tu­nately, my team didn’t fair all that well in the com­pe­ti­tion and landed in fourth place. I hoped for redemp­tion this year.

Off to Alabama

The Squir­rel Mas­ter Clas­sic is hosted jointly by the South­ern Sports­man Hunt­ing Lodge and Gamo USA. It’s held an­nu­ally in the Alabama Black Belt Re­gion about 20 miles west of Mont­gomery. The area is rich with gray squir­rels. In true Alabama fashion, hunters face scat­tered tim­ber­land in­ter­mixed with food plots for deer, wet swampy ter­rain—some­times oc­cu­pied by snakes—and red Alabama gumbo clay that clogs many a boot tread.

A large part of the com­pe­ti­tion is de­signed to en­cour­age young shoot­ers, many of which

are new to hunt­ing. That’s where 4-H comes in. One 4-H mem­ber is as­signed to each team. In pre­vi­ous years, scores were com­piled based solely on the num­ber of squir­rels taken, with any ties be­ing bro­ken by the team with the heav­i­est squir­rel bag. This year, how­ever, the com­pe­ti­tion was ex­panded to in­clude var­i­ous other com­pet­i­tive shoot­ing events. Scores from those events were then rolled into the scores pro­duced by the ac­tual squir­rel hunt­ing to de­ter­mine the vic­tor of the Squir­rel Mas­ter Clas­sic.

To the Field

The down­pour of rain the day and night be­fore the big com­pe­ti­tion re­minded us how weather can in­flu­ence any out­door ad­ven­ture. We lucked out, though: The storm ar­rived a day early and passed be­fore we headed afield for the com­pe­ti­tion. But, while the rain had sub­sided, the South­ern hu­mid­ity had not.

Gunner, my team’s squir­rel dog, was anx­ious

“… hunters face scat­tered tim­ber­land in­ter­mixed with food plots … wet swampy ter­rain— some­times oc­cu­pied by snakes—and red Alabama gumbo clay …”

to get started, and soon we were all loaded into trucks and headed afield. Gunner, like most South­ern-bred squir­rel dogs, is a Feist, also known as the Moun­tain Feist or Tree­ing Feist. This is a mixed-her­itage dog rather than an ac­tual breed, but has been around for cen­turies in the U.S. Even though the Feist is ex­cep­tion­ally well known in the South­ern states, it’s rare to en­counter one north of the Ma­son/dixon Line.

My team mem­bers, like those from the other five teams, con­sisted of a cross sec­tion of the shoot­ing world. Our team leader and noted out­door-tv celebrity, Ralph Cian­cia­rulo, hosts “Archer’s Choice” and was joined by his cam­era­man. The other mem­bers in­cluded three writ­ers (in­clud­ing me), 4-H mem­ber Jeremy Mcfar­land and his chap­er­one, our dog han­dler and Gunner, his ex­pert squir­rel K9.

When we headed back for our mid-morn­ing check-in, we were con­fi­dent our bag of eight gray squir­rels would move us a lit­tle closer to snatch­ing the Wooden Squir­rel, but we found that three teams were ahead of us with 11, 13 and 14 squir­rels in their bags. We did get a bit of a re­prieve at the Red Ry­der BB event when Ralph sur­prised us all, lit­er­ally blow­ing away the com­pe­ti­tion. But, even with Ralph’s im­pres­sive per­for­mance with the Red Ry­der,

we faced an up­hill bat­tle when it came to our over­all suc­cess.

Our af­ter­noon hunt brought us to new grounds in search of our quarry, and when we saw the vast num­ber of squir­rel nests high in the tree­tops, we had re­newed hopes we’d clinch the lead. Nev­er­the­less, we soon found that most of those nest­ing squir­rels had ap­par­ently moved on in search of bet­ter eats. Per­sist­ing, how­ever, we were fi­nally able to add an­other four grays to our tally, and one rac­coon to boot. Un­for­tu­nately, there was no cat­e­gory or credit for that ban­dit.

“… when we saw the vast num­ber of squir­rel nests high in the tree­tops, we had re­newed hopes we’d clinch the lead.”

The End Re­sult

While we all had a great time at the Squir­rel Mas­ter Clas­sic, I’m sorry to re­port my team once again landed in fourth place. Like last time, my team sim­ply couldn’t put enough squir­rels in our bag to cap­ture the in­fa­mous Wooden Squir­rel award.

Even though we fell short, I trav­eled a long way back home to Mon­tana glad that I went. Of course, I hope to re­deem my­self in 2018. One of those Wooden Squir­rels would cer­tainly look good in my tro­phy room.

The Gamo Swarm Maxxim air ri­fles used in the Gamo Squir­rel Mas­ter Clas­sic were cham­bered in .22 cal­iber, but are also avail­able in .177 cal­iber. PHOTO COUR­TESY OF GAMO USA

PHO­TOS BY THOMAS C. TA­BOR

(right) The fox squir­rel is a very large and tough breed to bring down, but the new Gamo Swarm Maxxim ri­fle was well up to the chal­lenge. (op­po­site)) Prior to the be­gin­ning of the com­pe­ti­tion, each par­tic­i­pant must sight-in their ri­fle.

PHOTO BY THOMAS C. TA­BOR

A squir­rel lo­cated high in the tree­tops can be a chal­leng­ing tar­get for any ri­fle and shooter, but the Gamo Swarm Maxxim was up to the chal­lenge.

(top) Ta­bor and team were happy with their har­vest by mid­day at the com­pe­ti­tion, though they found three other teams had har­vested more squir­rels. (be­low)) De­spite tak­ing fourth place, Ta­bor (third from left) and his team are all smiles.

PHO­TOS BY THOMAS C. TA­BOR

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