A MILLION THINGS to do and not much time to do them.

Any sportsman who has embarked on a mission involving fish, wild animals, beer or wild women knows that a lot of preparation must be taken care of before the trip ever starts.

In less than a month now, I will be taking a trip for the 29th time. The destination is North Dakota. The mission is to catch some fish, hunt some ducks, eat a lot of food and tell tall tales that outdo all the tales my fellow hunting camp mates tell.

I am still in the early stages of getting ready and the more I look at my getting ready list, the more I remember to add to it.

One thing I have done is to organize all my leftover shot shells from last year. There are plenty. I’m not sure if that’s because I didn’t shoot as much last year or because I bought way more than I needed last year. On second thought, it couldn’t be the latter since I am a firm believer that you can never have too many boxes of shells on any hunting trip.

I also have gotten my decoys ready or at least I’ve collected them from various places in the garage, my outdoor storage shed and even from a couple of my flower beds where I use them for decorations during the summer. Now, all I need to do is remember to tie on new anchor cords, once I remember to buy some new decoy anchors.

One important item on my preparation list is to find everything I’ve misplaced since last season. You could start with an expensive hatchet used for cutting brush and saplings for blind materials. I know I’ve got one, but at the moment, I can’t quite seem to lay my hands on it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am the kind of guy who carefully stows away anything and everything I could possibly need and want for my outdoor expeditions, but sometimes, I forget to write down exactly where I’ve stored those things. At times, I have prepared extensive written lists of what I have and where each item is stored, but it seems that right now, I have forgotten where I put the list. At least I’ve got another 27 days to find the list and then, find everything on it assuming, of course, that I haven’t used or moved anything on the list.

I have found through long experience that it is always a good thing to check your chest waders before embarking on a hunting trip, especially when you might be standing in 40-degree North Dakota water for long hours. Since I am somewhat frugal in some areas, I try to make a pair of waders last for at least 10 years. They seldom do.

On the occasions when I do realize I need a new pair of waders that would keep more water out than they let in, it is usually when I get about crotch deep in 40-degree North Dakota water. Trust me, that is not a good time to come to that realization.

When planning a trip like my North Dakota getaway, there are two other considerations to take care of. One very important one is to approach your dear, loving wife and plead in a profuse doe-eyed manner, letting a few tears slide down your cheeks while doing so, that you have worked and saved very diligently over the past year to accumulate enough spending money to cover your trip, but you are still short of cash and would she lend you a little.

It’s important, too, that if she agrees it’s worth a few hundred bucks of her cash to get rid of you for a couple of weeks, that you throw in a number of promises of good deeds you’ll do when you come back that you both know will never be kept.

The second thing to remember is to don’t let it slip that you actually have a large stash of cash hidden at the bottom of her winter clothes drawer that would easily cover food, shells, new duck calls and waders, and most of all, a jug or two of Crown Royal.

Unfortunately, I have found more than once in the past that a stash of cash is never truly hidden away from your lovely wife’s prying, instinctively suspicious eyes.

Once you have covered all these bases, it’s important to remember that you call each of your half-dozen or so duck camp associates each night for four weeks to check on rainfall totals for the past six months in North Dakota compared to the previous year, to reminisce about the 600 ducks you could have shot in one afternoon at Swanson’s pond last fall, to compare and to modify preparation lists, to trade hints on mollifying petulant mates and just generally to make sure no stone is left unturned.

No matter how much the expert, getting ready guy you think you might be, your loyal camp mates always seem to have a bit of useful advice or tips for you.

Oh, and one last thing on your preparation list; always remember to gently and sincerely kiss your lovely wife “good bye” the morning of your departure, adding that each second you are gone you will miss her more. While you’re at it, you might even want to throw in that you can’t wait to get back to her warm embrace.

That’s it. That’s my secret to getting ready for North Dakota. Now, if only I could remember where I left the spare chokes for my Benelli.