After 45 years of hunting deer, it has recently become clear to me that I’m approaching a transition point in my life as a sportsman. September is still a big month, but now it’s because dove season opens, not archery season. October is a still a big month, but it’s because North Carolina has a four-day early duck season, and I take advantage of it. 

November has traditionally been the month I reserve for deer hunting, but now, I’m more interested in whether or not one of my buddies is headed to Kansas to hunt oversized whitetails, because he has the key to the land where we duck hunt. December. Forget it. Quack, quack. January? Quack, quack.

This is what happens when you welcome a new member to the family. We brought Buckshot, a black Labrador retriever, home around Memorial Day 2014. He was a graduation present to my son, who had apparently talked the president of his university into handing him a diploma earlier that month.

Originally, my son wanted an all-expenses-paid trip to the coast so he and a couple of friends could fish for cobia with a guide. Then, around Thanksgiving his senior year, he changed his mind. He wanted a Lab puppy. Seems he didn’t like leaving two or three doves in the brush on Labor Day. And he sure didn’t like leaving a drake mallard and a drake wood duck somewhere in the cat-tails on two duck hunts with college buddies to some state-managed impoundments.

In true, fatherly fashion, I answered, “Ask your mother.”

It was okay by her — with certain understandings that were quickly brushed aside. I knew a bass-fishing buddy who was breeding his female Lab and put in an order for a male puppy. Buckshot was born on April 1, 2014, and it was the best money I’ve ever spent, other than what I handed the guy in the jewelry store for a diamond ring 35 years ago.

Last Christmas, we bought a big, wide-beamed canoe so we could float local streams and rivers for ducks in case our access to the waterfowl impoundment across the river dries up. At the time, I also thought we needed another climbing stand, but I saw the error of my ways.

Our conversations no longer concern getting tree stands hung or sighting in various weapons. What nights is he working the dog out? When is he going to do a water session? Is Buckshot still amazing following hand signals? What kind of non-toxic shot are we going to buy?

I find myself counting the days until mid-November when duck season arrives, especially after the amazing performance Buckshot turned in on opening day of dove season. Yeah, I’ll probably find my way into a deer stand sometime before New Year’s Day, but Saturday mornings are spoken for, my son and I and his dog, crouched down in the sorghum and millet by the pond, waiting for the woodies and teal and greenheads.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.