The 2017 Buckmaster's Squirrel Masters Classic took the author back to the days of his first air gun and the enjoyment it brought him as a youth.
By Mike Miller
Industry celebrities, media members, 4H youth and the feistiest four-legged squirrel hunters swarmed to the fourth annual 2017 Buckmaster's Squirrel Masters Classic earlier this year in Montgomery Ala.
The highly competitive event was sponsored by Gamo Precision Airguns and Buckmasters.
Once all participants checked in at the lodge, there was an immediate sense of competition in the air. Finding out which of the six registered teams you were on was followed by a dash to the range to sight in your GAMO Swarm pellet rifle.
This rifle is a 10-shot break barrel gun with a magazine that holds 10 pellets. It is lightweight, weighing right around five pounds.
The rotary magazine makes it a joy to shoot — not having to stop each time and load a single pellet. It only took a few shots to dial in the 3x9 scope fixed to this pellet rifle.
We all easily burned through a tin of 175 pellets each, shooting at various distances and angles.
Do All Targets for supplied some of the most innovated targets on the market.
Once the range time ended it was a quick dinner, opening ceremony and introduction of the teams. Jackie Bushman, of Buckmaster's, introduced sponsors and team captains.
Shooting air guns can take you back to the days of your first air gun and the enjoyment they brought you.
The excitement for the following day was tremendous. We were warned we would all find ourselves running through the woods like we were 12 again chasing the sounds of barking squirrel dogs
I just couldn't imagine having that boyish feeling again, but boy was I wrong. As the first rays of sun light hit the woods we were off to our first location.
My team, Team Bone Collector T-Bone, pulled off a gravel road, discussed a brief plan of attack and turned Moe, our hunting dog, loose into the woods.
It took about 20 seconds until Moe was firing off a short distance away, letting us know it was game on.
Bone Collector Kenneth Lancaster and I looked at each other in disbelief for a split second and then turned and ran as fast as we could to see Moe at the bottom of the tree looking up.
We just shot our first squirrel and we were on the board. It did not take long to hear little Moe off in the distance with a squirrel treed again.
Moe was amazing.
I have never experienced a squirrel hunt using dogs and it was really fast-paced and exciting.
If you ever get the chance to go on a squirrel hunt with a dog, don't pass it up. I promise you it is exciting and an adventure you won't forget.
We gave Moe a break during one of our hunts and his handler had a few other dogs in the truck to utilize. We arrived at a smaller stand of timber and let out two dogs this time — or maybe meant to release only one out but two tiny Mountain Feist dogs charged past the hunters into the woods.
These younger dogs went in different directions and the chaos began. They were both treeing squirrels in no time.
These dogs seemed to just ooze energy from the moment their paws hit the wet ground.
The team stuck together and we were on the next treed squirrel. We drop one and started to the second.
We could hear a third squirrel being treed in the opposite direction we were heading.
At this pace, with two dogs we would have been toast. Our dog handler let us know we had to put one of them up.
I was in total agreement. I felt like I was running a marathon with two dogs chasing the squirrels. We ended up covering the whole stand of timber and were ready to make a move to a new spot.
Team Bone Collector T-Bone was off and running through the woods like a bunch of school kids trying not to miss the bus.
Tree after tree, the team would rack up the points, thanks to the tiny Mountain Feist dog Moe.
I don't know who was happier; Moe doing his job treeing the squirrels or us hunters dropping them one by one.
The competition was a one-day event, with hunting in the morning and the evening.
Team Bone Collector T-Bone was in first place after the morning weigh-in and was showing a strong presence on the range.
The humidity made the ground soggy and wet. It was a perfect day to put the Gamo to work and kill some squirrels.
Right after lunch and in between hunts we all took part in a shooting competition.
The competition was to display the accuracy of the Gamo Swarm pellet rifle.
This is a very accurate pellet gun that shoots well out to 100 yards. It is a break-barrel gun that is loaded with a 10 pellet rotary clip.
The days of breaking the barrel and loading one shoot at a time is over now that the Gamo Swam has a 10-shot clip.
There is definitely a place for this rifle for the varmint hunter. I felt there was adequate penetration with its 975 FPS muzzle velocity for varmints ranging from squirrels to prairie dogs out 100 yards.
While hunting the evening knowing we would have to have a large bag of squirrels to reign as champions in the event, I recall one particular squirrel that stood out in my mind.
Moe had treed another squirrel on the side of a hill in a stand of hard woods.
The team approached the tree and this amazing squirrel was seen leaping in the opposite direction from tree top to tree top. That little guy was putting a lot of distance between us and him.
It was like he knew he had a target on his back.
Moe was losing his mind, barking and giving chase from the ground. Finally after a few hundred yards, Moe had him stopped in the notch of a large oak tree.
The team circled the tree and started to let the pellets fly. That little squirrel leaped from at least 125 feet out of the tree, downhill, to the forest floor. He then ran off into some of the thickest understory I think I have ever seen.
That squirrel and a few of his other slick partners were the few that had gotten away from us. It was amazing to see that squirrel get some big air, leaping out of that tree down the hill to escape our weigh-in. I guess today wasn't his time to become famous.
Team Bone Collector T-Bone ended up winning the event however the real champs were those hard charging squirrel dogs.
Although I did feel like a true champion, carrying home my wood Squirrel Master Classic Champion trophy.