Behind the Scenes at the Gamo Squirrel Master Classic

Behind the Scenes at the Gamo Squirrel Master Classic 640 480 GAMO

By: Naomi Eutsler


(Naomi is the daughter of Rick Eutsler of AirgunWebTV fame, and is a budding writer with talent. Thanks Naomi!)


My father, Richard Eutsler, is into guns and hunting. Me, not so much. I am more interested in what goes on behind the scenes to put on an event like the Gamo Squirrel Master Classic, so I’ve written an article explaining the hard work of pulling off a successful event like this.


The Squirrel Master Classic was started in 2014 by Jackie Bushman, Gamo Adult Precision Airguns, and others in the outdoor sporting world, as a way to create an event where celebrities and youngsters could get out and get in the woods and do something fun. Bushman often says, “If you’re going to take your youngster hunting, don’t take them into the deer stand and bore them to death the whole day. Instead, take them out into the woods, and let them shoot squirrels. They get out there and get to engage in the woods and pull the trigger.”


Airguns are a great way to do this because they are safer, cheaper, and easier to maintain than firearms, as well as being effective squirrel guns. Gamo is one of the premier makers of breakbarrel airguns in the world and has an amazing range of products up to the task. That’s how the Gamo Squirrel Master Classic started.




Each year, when Gamo plans this event, they contact Mark Sidelinger, the owner of Media Direct, who does all of the legwork. They start by aligning the different personalities, the media, Gamo employees, and Jackie Bushman’s Buckmasters team and support crew. Next, they figure out who the teams will be, where they will be hunting, where the media will be coming from, and makes all the travel plans.


“We end up being the travel agency to work out all the logistics and coordination,” said Mark Sidelinger. Next, they determine what products are needed, from guns and ammo to hats and targets, safety gear, and more. Finally, they prep the airguns by mounting the scopes and getting them ready for the hunters.


Because of the prep work done by Media Direct, the Buckmasters support staff, and the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge, the celebrities, youth shooters, and the rest of the hunting crews can drop their stuff and get to know their guns. After a safety briefing, teams are paired with guides, dog handlers, and writers. Finally, they receive their hunting locations and head out for the first hunt. All this could only happen with great planning and execution.


Let’s talk about the Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge Inc. The lodge is a hunting destination for anyone that follows the sport, and it’s where the event has been held the past nine years. The lodge is a family-run business, started back in early 1982. To prepare for the Gamo Squirrel Master Classic, they have a checklist of things they must do, from ordering food to ensuring they have enough towels and rooms for the people who attend. Ashley Mason, the daughter of the owner of Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge, coordinates the logistics. Her brother and sister actively help with the lodge, managing the money, and keeping track of all the feeders and hunting areas.


What is an overnight event without food? I don’t know about anyone else, but after a long day of hunting, I have worked up quite an appetite. The four amazing women in the kitchen make the food to satisfy that appetite. They start prep for breakfast the day before so they can start cooking by 4 a.m., to be ready for the 5 a.m. food rush. It’s a job keeping up with the seconds and sometimes thirds of the hungry hunters by filling serving trays and trading them out when empty. After the breakfast rush, they clean up and prep for the 12 p.m. lunch rush, “rinsing and repeating” every meal. The juiciest pulled pork, the sweetest buns, and the best sweet tea you have ever had may await you for a meal, and you don’t want to be late for that dinner bell.


We discussed the planning by the company hosts and the lodge, but there is much more that happens to make a successful event and hunt. Local hunters get in on the action by guiding teams, and area landowners volunteer their land for the hunts and some help as additional guides. They know the land better than anyone else, leading teams to the highest populated areas and the safest paths.


The tiny heroes of the event are the squirrel dogs. These teams come from all over and add to the logistics.  The dog trainers and their dogs are amazing to watch. Their years of training teach the dogs to differentiate between the scents and how to adapt on the fly. The dogs bark when they sniff out the prey, and the hunters converge on that location, hoping to put another squirrel in the bag.


All the attention and planning to make this event successful shows that this isn’t just about hunting for everyone involved; it’s about family, history, and tradition. Many of these folks have been coming to this lodge since they were kids. History and heritage get passed down every year in every hunt. It’s a chance for 4H youth shooters to do some hunting with celebrities they watch on TV – a chance for people to share their stories and make new memories.


This wonderful event is full of tradition, running jokes, and old memories. I suspect that no matter the challenges, this event will be going on for many more generations to come and that Gamo will continue to be the sponsor.


“Gamo Air Rifles serve shooters and hunters as a bridge between their starter Daisy BB Gun and firearms – or as an end in themselves,” said Lawrence Taylor, Gamo Public Relations Director. “The long-standing tradition of giving your son or daughter a BB Gun to begin learning the lifelong lessons of gun safety and marksmanship skills now includes the next airgun step, a Gamo Air Rifle.”




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