By Tom Claycomb
Manasquan, NJ –-(Ammoland.com)- GAMO’s Marketing Communications Manager Fedor Palacios asked me if I could attend the SMC again this year on Feb. 19 2015.
Sure, last year was crazy and this year promised to be even better if the Press Session at the SHOT Show was any indication of how it would play out. There was a lot of popping off going on.
Details were soon lined out and I flew into Alabama last Wednesday and met up with fellow outdoor writer Tom Tabor. We jumped in the rental car and headed to the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge. We checked in, grabbed our rifle and went out back to sight them in. This year we were using the GAMO Whisper G2. We got sighted in and went back in for the dinner and Pre-game activities.
Last year it was on the verge of being out of control. This year…..Jackie Bushman lost control fast. During his announcements one of the 4H kids went down front and claimed they had been found some fishing weights (to stuff in the squirrel’s mouth) in Travis T Bone Turner’s room, an air pump in Shawn Michaels (to pump up his squirrels) and a box of frozen squirrels in Michael Waddell’s room.
Everyone had a good laugh and then teams were assigned and we all met with our respective team. I was assigned to Championship Season led by Doug Koenig.
The next morning we all met at 6:00 for breakfast, loaded up and headed to our assigned hunting areas. Each team consisted of a TV star, dog handler with a championship squirrel dog, a GAMO executive, 1-2 writers and a 4H kid. Add in 1-2 cameramen and that rounded out to around 10 on each team.
At daylight squirrels come down and start feeding. It was unbelievably cold for Alabama, something like 20 degrees so the dog handlers were scared that the squirrels wouldn’t be moving. If they don’t come down then the dog can’t smell and tree them.
Sometime I have to do an article on the dogs. Most of them are little Feist dogs. The handler turns it loose and he shoots through the woods. Before long (hopefully) he is baying and you run through the woods to where he has one treed.
Everyone circles the tree and tries to get a shot. I’m probably exaggerating but these trees, I bet they’re 100 yards tall. The squirrels are unbelievably hard to see. I took my 10×42 binoculars and it’d still take 20 minutes to find him and even then we didn’t ever spot a few. They get in the crouch of a limb up high and lay flat.
At 11:30 everyone headed back to the lodge for the weigh in. Each team piles their squirrels on the scale and they’re counted and written down on the board. You win by having the most squirrels and if there is a tie, the highest weight determines the winner. Fox squirrels count as two.
We ate lunch and headed back out for the afternoon hunt. The morning hunt had been flat out cold but by the afternoon it had warmed up somewhat. We had a good afternoon hunt. Last year we used .177 cal. rifles but this year everyone had .22’s. There is a noticeable difference in their killing power.
If a Squirrel drops, the dog is on it in a hot second because if not he’ll zip in a hole or under the roots of a tree and you lose him. They’ll also crawl into a hole in the tree. We lost a few like that. Doug made one exceptionally long shot. I don’t know if it was a 100 yards but it was impressive. He’s a good shot so he helped our team a lot.
Well darkness soon fell and we headed back for the check-in. The Bone Collector Team #1 ended up winning. We then headed indoors for another Sothern cooked meal and then they held the awards portion. This year they also awarded a trophy for the best dog which was a great idea.
Shannon did a super job with her 4-H kids. They were all super polite and a joy to be around. 13-yr. old Taylor was on my team and a delight to be around.
That night we set around shooting the bull and I got some new insights from Adam Heggenstaller on airguns. Everyone finally stumbled to bed and then the next morning we ate a late breakfast at 7:00 and headed back to our own worlds. It’d been a fun time.
About Tom Claycomb
Tom Claycomb has been an avid hunter/fisherman throughout his life as well as an outdoors writer with outdoor columns in the magazine Hunt Alaska, Bass Pro Shops, Bowhunter.net and freelances for numerous magazines.