The opening weekend brings to the deer hunting camp | Outdoor column
We had Chinese food on Wednesday night.
It was a first in our hunting camp, at least for me.
Unusual, yes, as we got ready for the opening weekend of the South Level Big Game Firearms Season.
And a little unusual too, as the top performing hunters in our group were two teenagers and the oldest in the camp.
There were four of us that first day, putting things in order and going out with bows and crossbows several times over the next two days.
I like that, the acceleration of the season, like it did when things opened up on a Monday and the guys crept in from Friday. We could go out into the woods early, late, or not at all, take care of what to do, make sure we were well prepared. Now most of the guys are arriving late Friday, ready to hunt the next morning.
I went out on Thursday with my crossbow, until they called The Sidehill Stand. I sat down and 30 seconds later a flat top passed away from the ridge, well out of reach. It was the last deer I saw that day.
No one else did anything that day or the next day.
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Open day of gun season – it was 27 degrees with crackling leaves sprinkled with snow at 6am, but warmed up considerably at 10, which was much better, especially for young children. Vinnie and John Schiro have been hunting for a few years now and have been well trained by their father and grandfather. Vinnie, 16, shot down an 8 point and John a 4 point shot. Their father, John Sr., had shot a very heavy bull-necked 8-point shot a few weeks earlier.
The best stag of the weekend, however, belonged to Lou Marchetti, the dean of our camp. Lou had hunted on Saturday morning, walked in, then decided in the afternoon to drive his four-wheeler up to the north end of the property to an area we call The Swale. He was not there long when two deer came running up with a large penny in pursuit. The male took a break, and Lou let him down.
It was a large 8 point, with thick and wide antlers quite symmetrical, except for a broken tooth. It was an old stag, with badly worn teeth, a few scars, a new cut on the neck, and ears that had been cut and healed. He had been there, and he was a beautiful trophy for Lou, 78 and still hunting hard.
The next day, we set our drive, which chased a little buck that ran away and a doe that Will Tompkins shot. We hunted in the afternoon, but did nothing.
All the while, we ate very well, as we always do. Thursday we went to the Italian Villa in Hornell and Friday we had our big party. This included lots of Italian specialties, as well as shrimp, salad, my own “extra special” bean salad – it’s special in part because it never comes out the same way twice, mainly because it never has exactly the same ingredients – and two-inch-thick Montreal – rubbed fillets. These were expertly grilled by Billy Gabrielli, who happens to be a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. I have probably already mentioned this in this space. Gabe may be the only CIA-trained camp cook in Steuben County, or at least in the town of Canisteo. I could be wrong, I didn’t do an investigation and there are dozens of camps there, but I don’t think so.
Gabe also made a big breakfast on Saturday and what the young people might call Sunday brunch, if you could get the idea of ââusing that word in such a place. On Saturday night we had spaghetti, meatballs and sausage prepared by Steve Marchetti, along with other appetizers. Much more. A few bottles of wine and a beer or two got it all washed down, maybe a cigar or a pipe and a few fingers from Jameson or Talisker to top it off.
Most of the guys left on Sunday afternoon, and the few of us who were left closed the camp properly the next day.
Have that time, and a few hanging deer, with lots of talk about deer, oft-repeated stories that had nothing to do with hunting, and a few shaves and slurs? It was a great opening weekend.
Write to John Pitarresi at 60 Pearl Street, New Hartford, NY 13413 or [email protected] or call him at 315-724-5266.