Many of us started out on a BB or pellet gun and graduated to small game like rabbits and squirrels. Trouble is in these times of shrinking hunter numbers, fewer and fewer of our young people are going down that path. Four years ago Jackie Bushman of Buck Masters fame did something about that and created the Squirrel Master Classic. The event is held every year at the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge west of Montgomery in Alabama’s legendary “Black Belt” region.
Designed to be a friendly competition the Squirrel Master Classic pairs up teams consisting of an Outdoor TV personalities, young hunters involved in 4H Shooting Sports, outdoor writers, and squirrel dog handlers. The teams compete in a morning and evening squirrel hunt with a shooting competition at midday. The team with the most squirrels and most points earned in the shooting competition wins the competition. The six 4H shooters in this year’s Squirrel Master Classic had to compete with others in their area to get to the event. The only girl who attended, petite Moriah Christian, outshot all of her colleagues during the shooting competition.
The hunting and shooting competition is done with Gamo air rifles, the event’s sponsor. All of the hunters this year were supplied with Gamo’s new Swarm .22 caliber pellet rifle which features a 10 shot detachable magazine, eliminating the need to reload after each shot.
While the competition is intense for the coveted squirrel trophy awarded to the winners, the real emphasis here is on the young hunters. The TV personalities attending this year, Bushman, Michael Waddell, Travis “T-Bone” Turner, Kenneth Lancaster, Ralph and Vickie Cianciarulo, and Richard Eutsler along with Gamo’s President Keith Higginbotham and others at the event all recognize the need to encourage and nurture young people in hunting and the shooting sports.
In the end T-Bones’ team won and while we were all very pleased, I saw no smiles bigger than those of the young 4H shooters.