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Victory at the Famous Gamo Squirrel Master Classic

With a Gamo Swarm Fusion 10X Gen2 Air Rifle, Firearms News contributor Barb Melloni takes 1st place at the Gamo Squirrel Master Classic.

Victory at the Famous Gamo Squirrel Master Classic

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It's that time of year again when media personalities, writers, dog handlers, land guides and youth from surrounding 4-H clubs gather far and near over their love of tree rats to compete against one another in the (in)famous Gamo Squirrel Master Classic. Flying in from Pennsylvania, we arrived the morning of day one, just in time for check-in and a quick confirmation of our Gamo air rifle’s zero.  After opening ceremonies where everyone was introduced and teams were each assigned a member of one of the local 4-H chapters, we assembled the rest of our team and hit the woods for our first of two hunts that afternoon. I’ve had the pleasure of attending this hunt a few years now, and this year I was fortunate to be assigned to The Choice, headed off by Ralph and Vicki, along with RJ and Aubrey and a camera crew in tow. Our team of dogs was chomping at the bit to be let off leash, while our land guide Kyle prepared to lead us through the wilds of the Alabama woods in search of every squirrel we could muster. While I haven’t hunted with Ralph and Vicki over the years this event has been going on, I have had Kyle as my land guide and immediately popped a few ibuprofen, because I knew what my legs were in for. Never trust Kyle when he says he has a small piece of land to hunt… I clocked eight miles on day one.

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For anyone not familiar with it, here is a quick and dirty rundown of the event and what it entails. On day one, all competitors arrive in the morning for team assignments and to confirm zero on their Gamo air rifles. Gamo offers quite a selection of air rifles that cater to various needs, whether you’re out for an afternoon plinking session, competing to become the best marksman, or called to dispatch wild game. For this year's hunt, I opted to compete with the Gamo Swarm Fusion 10X Gen2 that I had seen victory with two years prior. This .22-caliber air rifle features a single cocking system, propelling pellets from its 10-round magazines at 1,000 feet per second (fps) toward its intended target. While equipped with fiber optic sights and a GAMO 3-9x40 scope, I chose to swap mine out for a Tract Optics 22 FIRE 3-9x40. This option provides ample magnification and clarity, along with their T-Plex reticle—one of my favorites, as it is reminiscent of an old German #4 reticle. Its design facilitates swift target acquisition without obstructing the view, ensuring precise aiming at those pesky squirrels.

One of Gamo’s newest offerings that also saw time afield during the hunt was the Gamo Vapor 10x Multipump Pneumatic Air Rifle. Taking the air rifle game by storm, this new offering launches .177 caliber pellets downrange at speeds of up to 1,200 fps, with an overall variable velocity range of 450 fps  to 1,200 fps.  These pellets are fed via a 10-round rotating magazine, making reloads quick and easy, especially if you have multiple magazines on hand. Once in place, simply close the bolt, pump the gun and you are ready to fire! While not equipped with an optic right out of the box, there is an 11mm dovetail rail on top should you wish to utilize a scope, otherwise you’re ready to go with the stock fiber optic open sights. Set to be available to the general public by August of this year with an MSRP of only $79.99, we expect several of these to be waiting under the Christmas tree this holiday season.

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After lunch and a safety briefing, everyone is off for the afternoon hunt. The first hunt of the event ends around last light, and everyone heads back to the Southern Sportsmen’s Lodge to tally up their bounty and fill their bellies with some of the best fried chicken around. Our hard work paid off, as our team managed to find ourselves in the lead with a total of 21 squirrels, while Team Gamo was hot on our heels with a total of 17. As tired as we all were, the event is short, and the stories are long. So while it would have been smart to head off to bed, many of us gathered on the front porch of the lodge for a nice cigar, cold drink, and caught up with one another, exchanging stories of what they experienced in the woods that afternoon, and other tall tales hunters and fishermen all tell.

The morning of day two came all too quickly, and slowly but surely we all managed to muster in the lodge’s kitchen for a quick breakfast before heading out on the morning hunt. As the sun began to rise, we let the dogs loose and boy did they take off in a hurry. Much to our surprise, the woods remained quiet, with no barking dogs or barking squirrels to speak of.  Having the morning start so slowly, and beginning with such a small lead, we were all eager to add to our bounty. Dedication and persistence are the keys to success, as evident by our dog handler climbing a tree to shake a hefty squirrel's nest when there was no vine near it to shake.  Silence.  Feeling a bit defeated, our trusty guide Kyle led us to another “small patch” of land, where we managed to walk around six miles, and our luck began to change. Right off the bat the dogs let loose with their version of a war cry, and we had two fox squirrels treed barely into the woods.  

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Once those two squirrels fell to their fate, our spirits were high. As the dogs darted off, we all celebrated in our small victory when they started barking once more, indicating another tree rat was spotted. Off we ran, some more gracefully than others as evident through bruises caused by us not watching where we were going and being tripped up by vines and rocks. Our third and fourth squirrels were quickly dispatched, and we were feeling good. The morning hunt was scheduled to end at 11:00 am, with all teams due back at the lodge by 11:30 am for lunch and closing ceremonies. Our team managed to add another ten squirrels to our count, bringing our total to 31 squirrels, a mixture of both fox, gray and black.  Would it be enough to cement The Choice's first-ever Gamo Squirrel Master Classic victory? YES!  With a grand total of 31 squirrels, we claimed first place and were presented with a trophy stating such. Even the dogs got their version of a trophy, a squeaky toy that I can only imagine would take them 4.5 seconds to utterly shred to pieces.  

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While winning the competition is amazing, it’s not always the highlight of the trip. For the past several years, working with youth from local 4-H clubs has been a blast, and it gives us older folks hope that the younger generations haven't lost sight of a hobby that we adults have come to know and love.  For many of these kids, it is their first time hunting squirrels or small game in general. Seeing the excitement they exude as we hop out of the trucks in the morning once we reach the hunting grounds is contagious. Teaching them tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way in regards to the competition, as well as hunting and the world of firearms in general, keeps us motivated. Passing down knowledge from one generation to the next and fostering another generation of hunters and outdoors enthusiasts is what it's all about.

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162-Foot Shot on Squirrel Made with GSG 1911 .22 LR Pistol!


If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.




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