I could have used a pair of snowshoes.

Opening weekend of the big game firearms season in the Southern Tier was a bit of a mess, at least at our camp in Canisteo. There was a lot of snow and then a lot of mud and it was tough to get around, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time, nor did it prevent the bucks from running around presenting targets, with a few of them eventually finding themselves hanging in the shed.

Nice bucks, too. Our camp ended the weekend with five, none of which were mine, but that’s okay.

I got to the place Wednesday afternoon, and four of us were out the next morning, me with my crossbow. I didn’t see a deer. The other guys did, and two of them had clean misses with their bows, which was more than unusual for them.

We were going to hunt the afternoon, as well, but it started snowing hard and it kept snowing hard — big, heavy, wet flakes — and we decided to hunker down and get settled in before heading down Route 36 to the Killbuck for dinner.

The next morning there was more than a foot of snow on the ground, walking was a real chore and the ATVs were useless, which didn’t bother me because I don’t normally ride. Not much hunting was done.

Saturday was the firearms opener, of course. It normally takes me about a half hour to get to my stand way up the hollow, about three quarters of a mile back. This time, wading through that deep white stuff, it took an hour or so. By the time I got there, my cousin Will Tompkins had dropped a nice 8-pointer with a big body and an almost perfectly symmetrical rack.

But no other deer fell that day.

In the afternoon I hunted the flats across the road, working the thick hedgerows along the bean field and those bordering the river. There was plenty of sign, but no deer. I figured they were out of there and up on the ridges by dawn. I was wrong, because Tony Marchetti went over the next morning and killed a 6-pointer.

Our big Sunday drive didn’t produce anything, but that wasn’t the end of it. In the afternoon John Schiro and Anthony Marchetti came in with 8-pointers with racks almost identical to the one Will shot. And then Will’s son William killed a 3-pointer.

So, that was five bucks in two days of relatively difficult hunting. Four bucks had been taken with the bow the first weekend in November, so that totaled nine off our property. The cameras had shown numerous good bucks all summer, so we were hoping for good things, and we got them.

I would have preferred less snow, like 10 inches less, but at least the obvious tracks got your blood up. And there weren’t just deer tracks. Plenty were left by coyotes, bobcats and bears.

I found one set of bear tracks coming out of the tamaracks directly across the road from the house. I would like to tell you the bear must have been 600 pounds, but I don’t think so. I just know the track was larger than most I’ve seen.

So, the hunting part of the experience was very good, and so was the rest of it, especially the food.

With just the four of us the first two nights, we hit the road, and especially enjoying our dinner at Marino’s in Hornell. Friday night we had our big steak dinner — rib eyes with Montreal rub broiled on the grills in the backyard, a couple of varieties of potatoes, salad, preceded by shrimp cocktail. Well, not exactly shrimp cocktail. More like shrimp that sat chilled in a bowl with everyone grabbing what they could, jamming it or them into the sauce, and then devouring them as quickly as possible before doing it all over again.

This was followed by apple pie. And maybe a Scotch and a cigar.

In the past I was responsible for whatever kind of macaroni dish I could come up with for Saturday night — riggies, lasagna, baked zeets — but Steve Marchetti wanted to handle it this year. I let him, and I was glad of it. His penne with homemade meatballs and sauce was outstanding. Garlic bread and salad went with it, along with my signature black bean salad – or maybe the beans were the night before. We did have shrimp again, although I didn’t. They were gone before I got up from my nap.

This was followed by cheese cake. And maybe a Scotch and cigar.

Both of these meals, two of the best we’ve ever had in our many decades at camp, were augmented and/or separated by a lot of olives, cheese, salami, pepperoni, tomato pie, pizza, and almost any other Italian specialty you can think of.

I can go on and on, but you get the idea. It was a great opening weekend.

Write to John Pitarresi at 60 Pearl Street, New Hartford, N.Y. 13413 or jcpitarresi41@gmail.com or call him at 315-724-5266.