Much to my brides dismay, I crank up the Christmas carols right about now. Actually, I belt out just a single Yuletide standby: Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Its my favorite song ever, because coming up is my favorite day ever. The most magical day. Ever.

Opening Day of dove season.

Julie is squeezing out the last sunscreen left in the Coppertone tube, morose and sulking that summer is slipping away, and Im tripping around the house like a kid who just heard Rudolph clattering on the roof.

Hearts will be glowing! I singvery, very loudlyfrom the basement, surrounded by dove decoys and musty camouflage netting and 5-gallon bucket seats. Doors slam up upstairs.

The couple of weeks before dove season send me into a prolonged period of childlike mania. Julie will concur. Hardly anyone understands how ridiculously excited I get. For a couple of reasons. First, I love dove hunting. I love everything about it. The heat, the sweat, the waiting, the action. I love to cook doves and eat doves. And I love the no-pressure aspect of it all. Tactically, I take dove hunting quite seriously. But mostly its just a big barrel of fun. Theres just not a lot of performance pressure.

And second, of course, opening day of dove season is just the beginning. Doves are up first, but then comes resident goose season. Early-season woodies. Mid-season mallards. And late season all-of-it-at-the-same-time.

It helps that Im not yet sleep deprived and creaking like rusty pliers with knees and vertebrae complaining about weeks of abuse.

Nope. Right now, its all new and fresh as a blanket of snow we never get in North Carolina. For now, its just sugarplums and Mojo decoys dancing in my head.

Come on, Julie! I holler through the floorboards. Sing it with me!

Its the hap-happiest season of all!

Therell be much mistletoe-ing!

And hearts will be glowing!

I hear heavy footsteps. A car starting. Tires screech.

Its the most wonderful time of the year.

She knows its true.