With opening day of dove hunting season bearing down on us, tens of thousands of North Carolina sportsmen are atwitter with anticipation – and so are at least a few ammunition manufacturers.

The latter understand that the former’s eagerness sometimes exceeds their expertise. In other words, they know that a lot of dove hunters will miss a lot of birds on opening day.

If you think about it, though, that can be a good thing both for doves as well as folks who own stock in companies like Winchester, Remington and Federal. It’s been estimated that the average dove hunter fires about seven shotgun shells for

each mourning dove he or she bags. Many years of very unscientific observation tells me that those figures are pretty accurate. In fact, for some hunters, that may be a generous estimate.

So, in the interest of conserving mourning doves (even though their numbers are at an all-time high) and stimulating the country’s economy, I offer ten suggestions for missing doves on opening day:

1. If you really want to miss a lot of doves on opening day, the last thing you should do beforehand is practice. My goodness, it’s only been what – eight months - since the last time you fired your shotgun? Isn’t shooting like riding a bicycle:

you just get on and start pedaling? Under no circumstances should you shoot a round of skeet before taking to the field. You might accidentally pick up some bad habits like taking a good lead on a passing target or not stopping your swing.

2. A sure cure for hitting doves (or quail, woodcock, etc.) is to use a shotgun equipped with a full choke. The tighter pattern such a firearm produces must be better than others, especially at longer ranges. Which brings us to …

3. Shoot at every bird you can see. Commonly called “sky busting,” this is the way to become a legend, at least in your own mind. So what if you cripple or totally miss a bunch of doves? If you manage to knock down an occasional high flyer your buds will hoist you on their shoulders and carry you out of the stadium (at least that’s the way it seems in your mind’s eye). Also, so what if you manage to run all of the birds out of the area you’re hunting and ruin it for coming days?

Who cares?

4. Don’t bother using natural cover to hide from incoming birds. Motorized decoys eliminate the need for camouflage and stealth.

5. When you do spot a dove, bring your gun up immediately rather than waiting till your target’s in range and then swinging through smoothly. After all, such a thing may result in you hitting the bird and that’s not what you want is it?

6. When a flock of doves passes over, don’t pick out just one and follow it until it’s on the ground. Instead, blast away at the middle of the bunch and hope for the best.

7. If a lot of doves come within range (whatever that is), try your best to shoot as many as possible. If you can get two, that’s good. If three, that’s great. The important thing is to just keep pulling the trigger until it goes “click.”

8. On the outside chance that you do happen to knock down a dove, don’t mark where it fell. Just figure you’ll find it when the shooting’s over. After all, it’s not going anywhere is it?

9. When buying ammunition for opening day, select the heaviest loads you can find. Nothing says “Macho Man” like high-brass shells loaded with 1 1/4 ounces of no. 6 shot. Lighter shells are for girls and others without chest hair.

10. Don’t bother with sun screen, eye and ear protection, insect repellent or cold water if opening day is sunny and hot – as it usually is in these parts. Those things are for wimps and liberals.

If you follow those guidelines, you should be able to miss a whole lot more doves than you hit on opening day. Bird lovers and ammunition manufacturers will thank you for it. If the latter should want to reward me for providing these suggestions, I’m not implying I can be bought but they know where to reach me.

Ed Wall can be reached at edwall@embarqmail.com or 252-671-3207. His web site is www.edwalloutdoors.com