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2024 Gamo Squirrel Master Classic

The Gamo Squirrel Master Classic, a unique annual event, takes place at the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge just outside Montgomery, Alabama. Created by Gamo USA over a decade ago, the SMC is a fusion of 4H shooters and industry personalities like The Bone Collectors, The Choice, Buckmasters, and more. The event is a blend of fun and competition, with participants vying for the prestigious squirrel trophies. Let’s delve into the highlights of this year’s event. 

Why Squirrel Hunting

Jackie Bushmen of Buckmasters is always ready to tell the story of how he, the guys from Bone Collectors, and Gamo came up with the concept of a small game hunting competition.  Taking a youngster squirrel hunting is very different from taking them deer hunting.  Deer hunting generally means getting up early and being very still and silent as you wait for the deer to come in.  Squirrel hunting is very different.

Squirrel hunting, a thrilling experience, especially with world-class hunting dogs, is a dynamic activity. Unlike deer hunting, where a single shot is a rarity, squirrel hunting often involves dozens of shots in a single outing. The process is not just productive but also engaging and fun, with the reward of some squirrels to take back to camp. 

The Teams

This year, we had five teams, starting with two teams from the Bone Collectors, the Buck Masters “America’s” team with Jackie Bushman, The Choice, and the Gamo Influencers team. Each team was provided with a hunting guide, a squirrel dog team, and their handlers.  

Group of hunters lined up ready to head into the field for the squirrel hunt.

The 4H shooters were selected at random and assigned to their respective teams during the opening ceremonies. This event is all about the youngsters, and it was great to see them really enjoy themselves, connect with their TV heroes, and learn about rich hunting traditions.

The Gear

Gamo USA provides all the gear for the hunt.  This year’s airguns featured Gamo’s SWARM multi-shot break barrel loading system.  The primary models were the Gamo Swarm Viper 10x Gen 3i, the Gamo Bone Collector Swarm 10x Gen 3i, the Gamo Swarm Fusion 10x Gen 3i, and the Gamo Swarm Magnum Pro 10x Gen 3i.  

the Gamo Gen3  Bone Collector and Gamo Swarm Fusion leaning on a tree stump.

They all feature Gamo’s new Gen 3i magazine that only advances to the next pellet when the gun is fired. This helps prevent double-feeding pellets into the breech.  Gamo’s SWARM system took the lead in multi-shot breakbarrel technology back several years ago and continues to push the boundaries with regular advancements in reliability, durability, and accuracy.

If you’ve ever hunted with a traditional breakbarrel, you know how long it takes to break the barrel, fish out a new pellet, load it, close the barrel, and then get ready to take your next shot.  The SWARM system puts 10 pellets in a magazine that auto-loads the pellet during the cocking cycle.  It’s an ingenious way to make breakbarrel airguns far more fun to take out in the woods for small game hunting where quick follow-up shots often mean the difference between success and failure. 

The Competition

Participants arrived late Tuesday morning to collect their airguns, get them sighted in, connect with their team, and prepare for the first hunt at 1:30 following the opening ceremonies.  Hunting lasts till sundown when all the teams come back and deliver their squirrels for counting.  At the end of day one, The Choice was sitting pretty with a score of 21 squirrels.  The next closest team was the Gamo team, with a count of 17.

two shooters taking aim at squirrels in the tree line

It’s hard to describe what a typical SMC squirrel hunt looks like, but we’ll give it a try.  Once a team gets to their location and the dogs come out of the kennels, the race is on.  They take off into the woods, and it’s your job to keep up with them and find the squirrels when the dogs start barking.  They are nearly always right, by the way.  It can be really hard to spot those little tree rats, but if the dog is barking, you better believe there’s a squirrel there somewhere. 

two participants posing for a picture.

Once you find the squirrel, it’s up to the team to make their shots count to bring down the game as quickly as possible. Nearly every shot is taken with the squirrel on the run or having paused for just a split second. Out of the hundreds of squirrels we’ve seen taken, only a handful held still for that perfect profile shot. It’s accuracy by volume, and a lot is going on.  

Can you find the squirrel in this photo?

It’s incredibly impressive to see how well the 4H shooters conduct themselves.  You can tell that they know gun safety and have a real handle on what’s important.  They are also often the best shots on the team.  It’s a joy to watch.

4-H top shot winner holding her trophies.

The next day starts very early with a 5:00 AM breakfast and then immediately out into the woods for round two. It’s not unusual for a team to put in 8 to 10 miles per hunting round.  The terrain may be flat, hilly, wet, or dry; you really never know what you are going to get.  What you do know is that you are going to be utterly wiped out when you get back to camp for the final count. 

event score board

The Winners

The final count is a blast because there are always a couple of very close teams in the running. This year, the trophies went to The Choice, with a final total of 31 squirrels. This was especially awesome as Ralph and Vickie often come in dead last or second to last and really wanted a win this year. They got it for their team and their 4H shooter, who helped take a good percentage of the squirrels, ensuring a win for their team.

The Choice wins top prizes with a total of 31 squirrels.

The Big Takeaway

So, what did the 2024 Gamo Squirrel Master Classic accomplish? Sure, it was an opportunity for Gamo USA to share its gear with youngsters, the media, and other hunting personalities, but it went beyond that, too.  It continued to demonstrate that youth shooting sports and youth hunting are worth the investment of time, energy, and resources.  There’s nothing like watching a youngster have success in the woods, especially if it’s their first hunt.  While deer hunting is awesome, there’s a lot to be said for small game hunting and what can be taught by us old-timers and shared with the next generation of shooters and hunters. 

All the winners posing for pictures after the event.

So, if you have a youngster who’s interested in shooting sports and hunting, remember to grab a couple of Gamo airguns and get out into the woods for some small game hunting.  It will be something you both will never forget. 

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2024 Gamo Squirrel Hunt

The Gamo Squirrel Master Classic, a unique annual event, takes place at the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge just outside Montgomery, Alabama. Created by Gamo USA over a decade ago, the SMC is a fusion of 4H shooters and industry personalities like The Bone Collectors, The Choice, Buckmasters, and more. The event is a blend of […]