THE TOURISTS HAVE had their time. The summer homeowners have had their time. I don’t begrudge them their time at all. Many of them are my friends and along with the new friends I meet each summer, I welcome them.

But there is a time coming and that time is mine. My time is reserved mostly for myself, whether it be in a duck blind, sitting on a deer stand or doing a walkabout for partridges.

My time is fast coming upon northern Wisconsin and parts farther west. I got a taste of it during the first 10 days of September, when Wisconsin’s early teal and goose seasons opened.

I did not shoot a single bird of either species. Yet the time I spent sitting in a blind of cattails and alder brush was well spent. I had teal within easy range and never fired a shot. I had mallards and wood ducks fly by, some of them deciding to land close to me. I may or may not be tempted to bring a few of them home beginning Sept. 26, when the regular duck season opens.

For now, just being at water’s edge watching for ducks is enough to keep me happy. In case you didn’t know it, I am a duck addict. There is no group to help people with this malady as there are for people with real problems. My group consists of ducks swimming, dabbling and feeding all around me, their wildness and beauty being all I need to maintain a healthy mindset.

I have been a duck addict almost my entire life and I make no apologies for my addiction. It began when I wasn’t much more than a toddler sitting in the middle of my mother’s kitchen floor on a chair plucking feathers into a 5-gallon bucket.

The mallards, wood ducks, teal, bluebills, ringnecks and an uncommon redhead or canvasback that my dad brought home from every hunt at Rice Lake or some other favored duck water near our house quickly put a lifelong hold of pure pleasure on me.

I hunted ducks with more passion than for any other wild game from the time the law first let me at the age of 12. I missed a lot more ducks than I hit, but I never despaired. Each one I did manage to hit erased the pain of the half-dozen or more I missed before getting lucky.

Each spring I would ride my bike on the back roads to check out where ducks were resting on ponds and lakes newly free of winter’s ice. I would sit, sometimes for hours, watching ducks, knowing that I would catch “you know what” for skipping out on assigned chores.

The chastisement was a small price to pay for an afternoon of watching drake wood ducks in full breeding plumage gliding silently on a small seasonal pond, and for time spent with mallard drakes showing off their resplendent green heads and chestnut breasts.

In college, I hunted the Beef and Eau Claire rivers for ducks. Lucky to bring any home or not, the chance to maybe have a small flock or two fly by in range during a few hours of sitting quietly at river’s edge was enough to draw me back time after time.

Then 29 years ago, my duck hunting addiction was opened to new horizons. Four of us headed west to North Dakota for the first time.

We hunted. We saw new country. We found enough ducks to use up several boxes of shells apiece. We found geese, mostly snows and blues, by the thousands. Our combined take of geese wasn’t a drop in a thimble compared to the flocks in fields we found where several thousand were feeding on the leavings of recently harvested wheat crops.

I was hooked. I fell in love with the prairie country of North Dakota. I’ve been returning to the prairie potholes and sloughs every year since. For the past 15 or so years, I have called a little white house on the prairie about 60 miles north of Devil’s Lake home for a week or more.

The time for me to head west is growing shorter and shorter, though not moving fast enough to suit me, until I once more point the nose of my truck westward.

There I will open up the house, drive many miles to check out favorite potholes, visit with friends I have made there and make ready for a band of grungy duck hunters to join me.

Together we will hunt ducks, shoot our fair share, eat many of them within hours after we get them and share a few dollops of the brown liquor from Canada that I have grown fond of.

For the 12 days I plan on being in North Dakota, I will be in duck heaven. There will be no bounds to the peace and contentment I will feel. I have been saying for many years that during the time I am in North Dakota each year, it is the most beautiful and wonderful place in the world one could ever find.

Some days I will shoot some of the ducks I hunt. Other days I will just watch them. I will greet beautiful sunrises each morning and say goodnight to burning sunsets each evening.

We will eat duck breast strips with jalapeno slices wrapped in bacon some evenings; highlight one meal with duck breasts simmered in onions, sauerkraut and beer; dine one evening on duck breast enchiladas; and enjoy yet another with a casserole made of wild rice, celery, cream of mushroom soup, broccoli, cranberries, cashews, almonds and, of course, duck breast meat.

Trust me, I am counting down the days and hours.