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AP photo by Barry Reeger / Groundhog Club co-handler Al Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-prognosticating groundhog, during the 134th celebration of Groundhog Day on Feb. 2, 2020 on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. In reality, Mr. Groundhog in the wild is still tucked in bed that time of year, writes outdoors columnist Larry Case.

I don't want to start off on a negative note, but I really do not believe all that stuff about the groundhog. You know, the whole bit where he is supposed to peek outside his den on Feb. 2 and look for his shadow.

Most of us know that no self-respecting groundhog is going to even think about leaving a warm bed on that day. The snow is usually piled up over his hole, and the groundhog is in a deep sleep (they are true hibernators) and probably won't get up and make coffee for at least a month.

I brought up Mr. Groundhog to say at this time of year I sometimes think I know how that big rodent feels the first time he pushes his way up to the entrance of his den, sticks his nose outside and says: "Man! It's pretty nice out here! It's almost springtime!" Well, now that we are getting some pretty days occasionally, that is kind of how I feel. Spring officially started on the calendar this past weekend, but even before then, despite knowing some cold and wet days were still ahead, we could see it coming.

Maybe that hope is what gets us through the winter.

Springtime for me (as most of you know) in large part means spring turkey hunting season. Some states have already started this season, and many other states will soon follow. Most of us still have plenty of time to get ready, and every year I get on you to get your gear, your turkey calls and your shotgun prepped before opening day. Have most of you done any of this yet? Yep, that's what I thought.

Doing all this thinking about turkey hunting coming up and getting ready for it, one cannot help but reminisce about past hunts and adventures, and when I do this, I think of hunting with my dad. My turkey hunting experience with my father was maybe a little different than for some. He got me started on small game such as rabbits, squirrels and grouse, but in my early days we didn't really have many turkeys around our area. Later when I went out into the big wide world and became a conservation officer, I was stationed in an area where turkeys were found and all my misadventures with them started.

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AP file photo by Robert F. Bukaty / Hearing a turkey gobble for the first time this spring is a good moment to reflect on past hunting experiences with loved ones, writes outdoors columnist Larry Case.

As I look back on it, I can see now that while Dad went with me on many, many turkey expeditions, he was probably just going along to humor me. Now he was a hunter and he loved getting out into the woods, but in truth he probably wasn't as mad at the turkeys as I was. That was one of his sayings. If I asked him if he wanted to go hunting, he might say something like: "No, I not really very mad at them today." I do cringe, however, when I think of the days he did go with me. This was many years ago and my Dad could get around fairly good, but I was just plain crazy about the amount of ground I thought we had to cover. I usually overdid it and would walk him though the mountains way too far. I could not see it at the time, but I don't remember him complaining once. Sorry about that, L.O.

Time has its way of showing us all of the folly of our ways in past hunting experiences and many other things in life. We can sit and think about our adventures in the woods with Dad, other family members and old hunting and fishing buddies. Without trying to sound dramatic, I think about what we would give to have one more day out there with Dad or any of our long gone woods-traipsing partners. That day both of you missed the same big buck, the turkey that came in behind you — twice — or the time you got snowed in at camp for two days but nobody cared. Our memories with Dad and others are the greatest thing we take with us from our hunting heritage, and it is why we want to pass it on to our children and anyone else who wants to learn.

Springtime is here, and it's time to get your gear and shotgun ready and get out there and listen for a turkey to gobble. When you hear that first distant turkey, maybe take a minute and think about Dad or a hunting companion who did this with you many times. If your Dad is still with us, hunt with him every day you can.

Maybe he will go with you even when he is not that mad at them.

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Contributed photo / Larry Case

"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at larryocase3@gmail.com.

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