It is my favorite time of year again. Aside from the cooler weather, redfish frenzies and Saturday nights in Death Valley that the fall season ushers in each year, it is once again the time of year when ducks come down to grace us with their presence. And it is the time of year that I look forward to with enthusiasm of new ventures and fond memories of the past.

But this year will be a year of change for me on many fronts. For the first time in several seasons, I will not be cranking up a go-devil to cruise the marsh for my waterfowl fix. I was outbid on my marsh lease and was unsuccessful in bidding on two other marsh leases. But I was fortunate to find an opening in a rice field blind. I have hunted rice fields in the past in the Kaplan/Gueydan area with very little success. So, as you can imagine, I was not as excited when the opportunity presented itself. But, I have taken a positive approach to this season as one of comparison and contrast.

Throughout this season, I hope to bring to LousianaSportsman.com followers a comparison between the marsh hunting that I have enjoyed so much since childhood and the rice field hunting that I have not been so successful with. I intend to compare the duck species, their approach and behavior, decoys, even calling tactics that I use between the marsh and the rice fields. I see this as a challenge for me to prove my "worth" as a duck hunter in a new and unfamiliar environment. I also hope that I can provide some interesting points that the readers will enjoy.

The changes that I face this season extend beyond the rice field. My family will be expanding, and I recently learned that I will be blessed with another son in the spring. There will likely be times when I may have to juggle my outdoor desires with my responsibilities as a father and husband, but it is a change that I am certainly looking forward to making. I see a wonderful opportunity of bringing up another young hunter to experience the wonderful outdoors of Louisiana. While I may have to pass on an opportunity to hunt on occasion this season, the birth of my new son will bring more opportunity in later years to pass on all that I cherish in the outdoors to yet another young sportsman.

And change also takes a somber note this fall for me. As many of you may have read in earlier posts this summer, my black lab and long time hunting companion, Mico, was diagnosed once again with heartworms.

Unfortunately, I live in a rural area with wetlands nearby and my efforts to prevent this disease have not been successful. He has contracted heartworms three times while on two different medications, and the vet no longer feels that he is healthy enough to survive the grueling process of removing the active heartworms. As a result, his heart is failing, and he is retaining fluid. His mobility has decreased and he is short of breath, so I don't know that he can make any hunts this season. But I also don't know if I can leave him behind.

This will be a difficult time for me, knowing that I will likely have to leave him behind and he may not survive the season.  If he is able to make a hunt, the rice fields will be less stressful on my lab, so this may be a blessing in disguise. He will not have to swim or maneuver in pure mud, and should be able to maneuver fairly well on the firm bottom rice field in a few inches of water. I will try to make his last months as comfortable as possible and take him into the field if I can.

This season will be one of change for me. Changes in location, tactics, companionships, life and possibly death. Despite what difficulties I may endure this fall, there is one thing that is constant. It is that I will make more lifetime memories with my son in the arena that I love so much. And that, my friends, is why I love this time of year more than any other.

My best wishes to each of my fellow sportsman for safe and successful trips in the outdoors. Now let's go make a memory!