WHEN AUGUST ROLLS around, something happens to me every year, just like clockwork. It is ready to happen to me again as we speak.

Though we haven’t seen much of cool days yet, the calendar says they will visit us soon. I spend much of my days counting down the time until they do because certain as Santa Claus will visit in December, I will be dreaming of cool days and ducks in North Dakota.

I am, as everyone who has ever met me knows, a duck addict. I grew up hunting ducks from the time I turned the legal hunting age of 12. In those days of 1961 and for a few years more, this north country of Wisconsin was not that far removed from the Great Depression.

For many of us, hunting put the bulk of the meat we would eat for an entire year on the table. During my seventh- and eighth-grade years, when I attended Sayner Grade School, I hunted ducks nearly every school day morning.

I would roll out of bed at 4:30 a.m., and my dad and I would be on our way, usually to Rice Lake. Those were years of low duck numbers and the daily limit was two ducks. We put ducks on the table. We did, though in truthfulness, my dad was responsible for almost all of them.

We shot about an equal number of times. The only difference being that when my dad shot, a duck would fall, while the ducks I shot at would almost always turn and thumb their noses at me as poorly aimed shot whizzed by, oh say, maybe within 50 feet of them.

No matter whether I shot any ducks or not, and usually it was not, I fell deeply in love with ducks and duck hunting.

I loved everything about duck hunting: the smell of cattails and balsam; a wind, sometimes gentle, sometimes wild enough to send a Jones cap flying, earflappers down or not; a melody of quacking from mallards in a resting place amidst the thick stands of wild rice turned golden by the autumn sun; a sun just peeking over the ridge above the east shore.

There were those things and more that I loved about duck hunting, but as much as anything, I loved duck hunting for the time I got to spend with Dad and our faithful companion, Ike. The latter was the best duck dog I’ve ever hunted with. He was a Chesapeake retriever and if a duck went down, dead or crippled, it was as good as ours. Even wet after a retrieve, he would send a warmth through me as he pushed against my legs while waiting for the next duck to fall.

My love for ducks never wanes, no matter the time of year. In the long ago, there were always Field and Stream, Sports Afield and other outdoor magazines, all issues of which I saved so that whenever the mood struck me, and it often did, I could leaf through the stack and find a duck hunting story to read again for the umpteenth time.

In the spring, I could hike or ride my bike from our house to any number of potholes and woodland ponds to sneak up on early-arriving ducks, mostly mallards and wood ducks, as they set up housekeeping for raising a family.

Eventually, my love of ducks, not surprisingly, took me to the “duck Mecca” of North Dakota, the prairie pothole region where somewhere around 4 million ducks reside from April through October, even part of November, if things don’t freeze up.

Heading west to country north of Devils Lake, N.D., this year will mark my 29th migration there. I have killed and eaten several hundred ducks since I was a child, but surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, I have found myself shooting fewer and fewer ducks each year.

It’s not because they aren’t there, but rather because oftentimes, when ducks land in my decoys, I find myself just watching them and enjoying their company until they get wise to the fake ducks around them and either swim or fly out of range.

Don’t get me wrong, I still take enough to the little white house on the prairie to be transformed into duck, wild rice, mushroom and assorted other ingredients casseroles, duck breast enchiladas or sauerkraut and beer dinners for a gang of hungry hunters.

More than anything though, I go where the ducks are simply because I love being near them and in the habitat where they live. They are amazing creatures, the most beautiful and precious wild creatures in the world in my book.

When the day comes that I hang up my shotgun for good and hopefully, that will be sometime well into the future, I’ll still make an annual trip west to visit all my duck friends. I’ll say high to Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, renegade Cousin Spoonbill, delicate flower Miss Greenwing, man of sophistication Sir Pintail and all the rest of the ducks I have gotten to know and love.

I’ll wave at flocks of snow geese flying overhead, listen to the haunting melody of Canada geese as they head south and soak in the beauty of every prairie slough that I have come to know over the years. But this year, I’ll still be waving at some ducks with a 12 gauge and at the nightly dinner table I’ll be toasting those that somehow fly into the path of one of my shots.

I will never outgrow being a duck addict.