He couldn’t deny that it felt like coming home. As the car turned down the lane toward the Southern Sportsman’s Lodge, I knew I’d see old friends and feel right at home. I walked up to the porch, opened the door, and as I walked into the living room, I really felt like I was here yesterday. The Southern Sportsman’s Lodge near Hayneville, Alabama doesn’t seem to change much.
Mounts of deer and turkey adorn the walls, and the comfortable sofas and armchairs seem to entice you to sit back for a while and soak it all up. He always wandered into the kitchen to greet the ladies who cook there and to pay. homage to the rows of paintings on the wall. From the past, celebrities from sports, entertainment, politics, and the like are featured.
All of these people have hunted here and enjoyed the hospitality of this historic hunting lodge. Many were here hunting with Jackie Bushman, father of the Buckmasters deer hunting organization and creator of the Squirrel Master Classic.
The Squirrel Master Classic is the brainchild of Bushman, founder of Buckmasters, one of the first deer-related outdoor magazines and television shows. Eight years ago, Bushman was looking for a way to bring hunters back to his roots, small game hunting, where many of us began this journey as hunters.
Jackie Bushman’s idea was this, to have a squirrel hunt in a fun competitive environment. The teams are made up of outdoor TV personalities, outdoor writers and editors, a dog handler with a squirrel dog to find the squirrels for you, and most importantly, a young man who is a 4-H shooter. .
The 4-H shooters are very important in this company as they are really the reason for the event, to introduce young hunters to the world of small game hunting.
Gamo Air Rifles (www.gamousa.com) sponsored the event and provided all hunters with a Gamo Swarm Magnum pellet gun. The Swarm Magnum is the world’s only ten shot air rifle and the 10X Quick Shot magazine allows the shooter to load ten pellets into the magazine, insert it into the rifle and fire ten quick shots before having to reload.
Trust me, we needed that quick second and third shot on this hunt since these squirrels had their running shoes on. Once they started running in the treetops, sometimes with spectacular leaps from tree to tree, you had to be fast, or you’d be left empty handed.
A revolutionary horizontal inertia-fed magazine integration into the Gamo airgun makes it lighter, more compact and low profile. This improved quick-reload technology prevents double loading a pellet: the magazine rotates and inserts a pellet into the gap using the inertia of recoil as the airgun is fired.
Utilizing a single-cocking break barrel loading system, custom two-stage action trigger, and an ergonomically designed stock with a thumbhole-style vertical grip, prominent cheek riser, and padded buttstock, the Swarm Magnum 10X GEN2 .22 offers balanced handling and a comfortable fit for precision target shooting and hunting applications.
(Meanwhile, in the squirrel forest) Nick Mundt, Michael Waddell, and others from the Bone Collector team seemed a little exhausted. They were working the action of their Gamo air rifles as fast as they could, aiming at the top of a very tall oak tree and pulling the trigger. Unfortunately for them and our team, they weren’t connecting with their target, a very fast and very agile gray squirrel that was showing off acrobatics in the treetops.
This squirrel was good, he was fast, and he didn’t stick around to get shot anymore. This little tree-dwelling rodent was leaving Dodge.
Under full disclosure, I could have been shooting too, and should have, but I was trying to take photos and video, so I was no help with the squirrel. One of our dog handlers for the day, Shane Mason, watched the entire show with some dismay and offered words of encouragement such as “Guys please, one of you whack that squirrel!!”
This whole little vignette was taking place in a beautiful forest in Alabama, not far from Hayneville, and we were the guests of Neal Pettus, who was our guide and he showed us some wonderful squirrel forests.
As with most good things, the Squirrel Master Classic ends too soon. At the end of the second day of hunting, everyone gathers and the squirrels on each team are counted. There is much anticipation as Gamo’s Jackie Bushman and Lawrence Taylor count each squirrel.
I was on the Bone Collector team and to be honest we were feeling pretty confident as we had caught a record 33 squirrels the day before. However, when all was ready it was not, the hard-charging Bone Collector team had caught 59 squirrels in the two days, the Raised Hunting team brought in a whopping 60!
There was a lot of waving and patting on the back, not to mention some very happy but tired squirrel dogs. I went back to the hostel and walked one more time before leaving. The mounts of big bucks and turkeys, as well as photos of football players and country music singers from the past seemed to say, “Until next time”, I assured them I would be back.