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The Squirrel Master Classic is back and that is a GOOD thing!

Airgun Angie ( on the range with the GAMO Swarm Magnum air rifle, at the Squirrel Master Classic.

The Squirrel Master Classic is back, and that is a good thing!

The Squirrel Master Classic is back again for it’s tenth consecutive year and that is great news. Why is that such great news? Well I’ glad you asked!

The Squirrel Master Classic is held each year near Montgomery Alabama (actually Hayneville, Alabama) at the Southern Sportsman Lodge. This quaint, authentic hunting lodge in the heart of Alabama’s Black Belt area, known for its dark, rich soil and many hunting opportunities. This lodge has a rich 35-year history for hosting deer and turkey hunters and now squirrel chasers. The walls of the lodge are adorned with rows of pictures of hunters, outdoor personalities, writers, sports figures and entertainers who have stayed here. By the way the ladies in the kitchen at Southern Sportsman Lodge make the best Bar-B-Que this side of Memphis!

The Squirrel Master Classic is the brainchild of Jackie Bushman, the well known hunting personality and founder of the Buckmaster organization and outdoor TV program. In 1986, 29-year-old Jackie Bushman acted on an idea he’d been developing since he was a teenager. The Montgomery, Alabama native had grown up exploring the great outdoors and hunting with his grandfather and he wanted to take the camaraderie of the hunting camp to a national level. He envisioned a deer hunting association that would encourage a feeling of community, sportsmanship and wildlife conservation while promoting a positive image of deer hunters everywhere.

In 2014 Bushman had another brainstorm that led to the inception of the Squirrel Master Classic. The decline in hunter numbers for the past several years is no secret. Jackie Bushman felt, like many of us, that one way to generate more interest in hunting with young hunters is to bring back an emphasis on small game hunting.

A young hunter with the Gamo Swarm Magnum air rifle at the Squirrel Master Classic.

That decline in hunter numbers is the key here and is the main emphasis of the Squirrel Master Classic, sponsored by Gamo air rifles, and that is to bring attention on the hunting that got most of us started, small game hunting. Time was when most of us started hunting with squirrels, rabbits, and other small game. As deer and turkey populations increased many young hunters skipped the small game stage and started on deer and turkeys. That may not be a bad thing but learning on small game is where a hunter often learns the basics like gun safety, woodsmanship, tracking and finding food sources for game, as well as dressing and preparing your game for the table. Being taught all of this on rabbits and squirrels and game birds is a good way to start.

Jackie Bushman’s idea was this, have a squirrel hunt in a fun competition atmosphere. Teams are made up of outdoor television personalities, outdoor writers and editors, a dog handler with a squirrel dog to find the squirrels for you, and most important a young person who is a 4-H shooter. As we have talked about here before 4-H has a very extensive shooting program. Young people can learn and compete in several different shooting sports categories, air rifle and pistol, .22 rifle and pistol, shotgun, recurve and compound archery, muzzle loader and hunting skills. 4-H shooters in the Montgomery, Alabama area get the extra benefit of participating in the Squirrel Master Classic.

Michael Waddel, Jackie Bushman, yours truly, Nick Mundt, and Travis T-Bone Turner at the Squirrel Master Classic

I understand this year there will be a Gamo team made up influencers in the air gun and hunting world. Airgun Angie, Harlod Rondan from Iguana Lifestyles in Florida, Stephanie Ray, and Anthony and Memphis Synoground are some of the hunting and outdoor personalities that will be there. The competition is fierce between team leaders like Bone Collector team Captains Michael Waddell, Nick Mundt, and Travis “T-Bone” Turner and leaders of other teams like Jackie Bushman for Buckmasters and Ralph and Vickie Cianciarulo with Archer’s Choice Hunting Show.

Gamo Air Rifles sponsors the event and supplies all the hunters with a Gamo Swarm Maxxim pellet rifle. The Swarm Maxxim, now in the Gen3i version is the world’s only ten shot break barrel air rifle and the 10X Quick Shot magazine allows the shooter to load ten pellets in the magazine, insert it into the rifle and fire ten quick shots before you have to reload. The Gamo Swarm Magnum Gen3i is capable of a whopping 1,650 feet per second pellet speed (in .177 caliber) due to the new IGT Mach 1 technology. In short, Gamo put a large inert gas cylinder on this air gun to deliver speed and power unheard of in a manually operated air rifle.

Believe me, you need those quick second and third shots on this hunt as these squirrels will have their running shoes on. Once they start running in the treetops, sometimes with spectacular leaps from tree to tree, you have to be quick or you came up empty handed.

So Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise, this coming Monday, February 19th I willing be flying out for Alabama and will spend Tuesday and Wednesday chasing some crazy squirrel dogs and crazier hunters through the Alabama woodlands. I will already be there by the time some of you see this, but I will try to get a post-game report to you to see how things go at Squirrel Master Classic 2024!

It would be really nice to get an unprecedented third Squirrel Master Classic trophy. Wish me luck!

Larry Case with 4-H shooters at the Classic.

Larry Case

Larry Case and Ronnie Snedegar at the Squirrel Master Classic with Hammer and Annie.