“Rimuh! Thiway! Finnussasquirruh! Cummo!”
That’s what Ronnie Faulkner sounds like when he’s hunting squirrels. Ronnie lives in Alabama, where they speak a language that’s sort of like English, only different. It’s actually almost exactly like Texan, except that the only punctuation they use at the end of a sentence is a question mark, unless they’re talking to their dogs. Then they only use exclamation points.
What Ronnie was actually saying was “River Mutt! This way! Find us a squirrel! Come on!” I could understand Ronnie perfectly, being from Texas, but some of the guys from up north may have had a little trouble.
Ronnie’s world-class squirrel dog is named River Mutt, and he doesn’t seem to mind at all. River Mutt doesn’t mind anything, as long as he gets to hunt squirrels. He’s a Feist (or Fyce), a breed found pretty much exclusively in the south, which is probably why River Mutt never seemed to have any trouble understanding what Ronnie wanted him to do.
My team at the Squirrel Masters Classic consisted of Keith Mark and Shawn Michaels of MacMillan River Adventures, Justin Morrissey, a college kid who plans to be a videographer, Jordi Unpronouncable from Spain, who works for Gamo USA, and Heidi Wilson, who was one of the winners of a local 4-H shooting contest to see who would get to hunt with me. Well, not with me, particularly, but in the classic. Every team had the same mix of folks, but Heidi just got lucky enough to be on my team.
Those were the shooters, but we also had a guide, who knew the area and kept us from getting lost, and whose name I won’t mention, since I’ve forgotten it. And there was Ronnie, who brought River Mutt, and Heidi’s dad, who traipsed all over the piney woods in flip-flops. Really.
There were also a couple of camera guys who didn’t slow things down near as much as camera guys usually do, on account of they couldn’t get River Mutt to slow down. Camera guys generally make you do everything two or three times, to make sure they get it on film, but that doesn’t work with a dog. River Mutt didn’t care a whit about the cameras – he just wanted to hunt squirrels.
So we followed along as best we could, and whenever River Mutt started barking continuously, we knew he had a squirrel treed. We would run to where he was and start looking up in the 80-foot pines and hardwoods, trying to find a squirrel. Or something that looked like a squirrel. Or something that didn’t look like a squirrel, but that we could shoot and claim we were shooting at a squirrel. At least that’s what I did. Because I had a hard time seeing the squirrels, way up in those trees.
The Whisper Fusion Pro .177 caliber air rifles Gamo provided us with are outstanding for such a hunt, although I would not have expected to be able to shoot anything that far away with a pellet gun. The Gamos were topped with 3-9 power, 40 millimeter scopes, which helped a lot, but squirrels are pretty good at hiding in those trees. After all, that’s their job.
During our six hours of hunting, between a morning and an afternoon hunt, we covered about 600 acres of thick forest, choked with brush and swampy bottoms and wait-a-minute vines and fallen trees and probably dead squirrel hunters. Luckily the weather was nice and the day was pretty cloudy, but it was still a job to end up with a dozen squirrels, which landed us firmly in third place, behind the Buckmaster team (39) and the Bone Collector #1 team (26). I have no idea how they found so many squirrels, unless they split up and hunted in the backyards of little old ladies all over Montgomery.
The Gamo WFP worked as advertised, spitting out 14.4 grain pellets at an impressive 1400 feet per second, which is more than 100 fps faster than your average high velocity .22 long rifle. That’s even more surprising when you consider that the rifle does that on the strength of an internal spring, which is cocked by levering the front half of the barrel downward almost to the stock. A pellet is then loaded into the breach end of the barrel, which is then returned to it’s original position. It’s sort of like having a gun that folds up.
Justin Morrissey and I, along with Tom Claycomb III, from Idaho, sighted in our guns together, and had our best luck with the all copper pellets. Tom had more trouble getting his gun zeroed than Justin and I, but that may have been because I kept playing with the knobs on his scope while he was checking the targets. Don’t tell him about that.
I liked my rifle so much I decided to keep it, so I stuck it back in the box and mailed it home. If Lou Riley, president of Gamo USA, ever asks for it back I’ll just tell him I left it in the woods somewhere. Or something.
He probably won’t go back to Alabama to look for it, anyway. He doesn’t speak the language . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who hit every squirrel he shot at, as far as you know. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org