So much goes into a hunt — far more than merely pulling the trigger.

The outsider may mistakenly view it as rather simplistic. One merely hefts a weapon, heads afield and upon encountering the quarry, launches a projectile, thereupon reducing the beast to possession.

Those of us more familiar with the endeavor know it is rarely that easy and never that simple. Hunting is a process involving many steps and aspects.

The first phase is preparation, and depending on the hunter and the hunted, this can be a very prolonged exercise. It involves planning and proficiency. One does not simply strike out into the great woods with no plan or direction. (Okay, maybe a few do. But more often than not they return empty-handed, or in the company of the search-and-rescue squad.)

The serious hunter scouts his or her quarry, learning its habits and habitats. A trip to the local woodlot gives us an idea of the whereabouts of the woodland denizens. Multiple trips give us greater insight into not only where they travel, but when.

Couple that with what we’ve learned from years afield or hours of poring through instructive literature on the subject, and we begin to piece together a profile of our preferred prey.

Meanwhile, to be successful, hunters must become familiar, then proficient with their weapons of choice. Practice makes perfect and though we seldom, if ever, reach that ultimate conclusion, the more we practice, the closer we get to ensuring the fundamental goal of a quick, clean kill, and organic protein on the table.

It may involve flinging arrows at a target butt, firing rifles at the range or busting a round of clays with a smoothbore. We do it for fun, but also to make us better, more successful hunters.

Then we plot out a plan, deciding which tree stand, duck blind, aspen ridge or alder swale we think will give us the best odds of success. We check the weather, compare notes with others in our clan and perhaps make one last field check.

For the waterfowler, it may be a trip to the local marsh to watch from a distance as duck after duck drops cup-winged into what will be a spread of decoys the next dawn.

For the deer hunter, it may be one last drive-by to glass the open fields, one last view of trail camera photos or perhaps the viewing of a favorite hunting video.

The upland gunner may take a round of clays on Sunday morning or one last run for the dogs.

Next comes the pre-hunt ritual. The ancient ones adorned themselves with fur, fang and face paint and danced by firelight while elders narrated tales of past hunts, illustrated in pictographs on cave walls. Nowadays we take a slightly more civilized approach.

The open fire is replaced by an open hearth or a woodstove, but tales of past hunts are recounted for the enjoyment of those who remember them and the edification of the next generation of nimrods.

As the evening’s revelries draw to a close, gear is rechecked, trucks loaded, then we settle in for an often fitful and restless night’s sleep before the long-awaited arrival of another opening day.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]