Celebrating a Win at the Gamo Squirrel Master Classic

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Who knew a squirrel-hunting competition could be so much fun?

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I couldn't be more proud. With a total of 15 squirrels, our team, Bone Collector 1, won! My team members consisted of Michael Waddell, Nick Mundt, Gamo's marketing guru and event coordinator, Fedor Palacios, champion feist breeder Danny Williams and 4-H youth club member Sarah Phillips.

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The coveted Squirrel Master Classic trophy. Mine is now on display on my fireplace mantle in the den, right next to the photo of my kids. 

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Buckmasters' Jackie Bushman accused Michael, Nick and T-Bone of cheating with the products pictured above, which include Hunter's Secret Frozen Squirrels, the Squirrel-A-Flator air pump and Lead Belly Squirrel Feed. The guys maintain their innocence.

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Hope, Danny Williams' Grand Squirrel Champion dog, is doing what she does best. My favorite part of the competition was watching the dogs work. Their excitement for the sport is contageous and their energy is enviable. Those little pups never seemed to tire.

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With temperatues dipping down into the teens, the squirrels refused to leave their nests throughout the day. So, our plan of action was to shake the nests by pulling on vines and shaking sapplings. It worked. We bagged almost all of our squirrels by using this method.

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Nick Mundt was the sharp shooter of the day, hitting almost every squirrel he managed to get in his sight. 

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Williams' dog Gracie did what she was told throughout the hunt, but I'm sure she wondered why she couldn't keep at least one squirrel for herself. 

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While beautiful, the Spanish moss that draped from the trees made locating the squirrels and their nests quite a challenge. 

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We ran across these two questionable characters during our hunt. You never know who you'll encounter deep in the Alabama backwoods.

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Sarah Phillips, member of a local 4-H club, held her own throughout the competition, downing squirrels every chance she got. The new Gamo Whisper G2 .22 caliber air rifles were spot-on. 

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It was so cold that day that I actually wore four pairs of pants and five shirts. I was warm, but I couldn't bend my knees.

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The morning's bounty. Even though we led the second place team by four, we knew we had to keep up the momentum that afternoon if we wanted to win the competition. We walked miles and miles up and down hills searching for squirrels. It took me two days to recover from the sheer exhaustion of the hunt.

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The 4-H kids were put in charge of tagging the squirrels for their teams. This was Sarah's first hunting experience. I could tell by the huge grin on her face that she was having a blast. In fact, she told me she didn't sleep at all the night before because she was so excited. 

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The morning weigh-in. The team with the most squirrels and heaviest weight would take home the trophies. We had a good head start, but we knew we couldn't slow down. Last year the team that ended the morning in second place ended up winning the competition after a remarkable afternoon of hunting. 

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When the Bone Collector 1 team was announced as the winner, Michael and Nick hoisted Sarah into the air in celebration. Just look at those smiles.

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I didn't play sports in high school, so I didn't know what it felt like to be on a winning team, but I do now. It feels good. As I type this, I'm admiring the 2015 Squirrel Master Classic championship trophy that's sitting prominently in the center of my fireplace mantle. 

A collaboration of Gamo Outdoor USA and Buckmasters, the Squirrel Master Classic is a hunting competition/TV event that takes the best hunters and hunting personalities from some of the top hunting TV shows and pairs them with outdoor media members, 4-H kids and Gamo executives. The point of the competition is to showcase the latest and greatest in Gamo technology and display the principles of hunting with air rifles. It was held at Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge near Montgomery, Ala., last week on what ended up being the coldest day in Alabama so far this year.

My team, Bone Collector 1, won the competition with the most squirrels and heaviest weight. I admit that I was more of a second-string player. The star players were definitely Michael Waddell and Nick Mundt, as well as our champion squirrel dogs, Gracie and Hope. But, I must say, the entire team contributed to our championship win, and we had a blast in the process.