Unlike in other games like Skyrim, where hunting is just a nice way to pass the time and collect some resources for selling or decorating your home, hunting is serious business in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Here hunting is an essential part of the game; it keeps your camp fed, allows you to create talismans that buff your stats, and keeps your health up. Most importantly, though, most of us just want to complete that elusive Master Hunter Challenge.
Of course, hunting isn’t as easy as simply pointing a gun at an animal and shooting. No, Red Dead Redemption 2 takes its hunting very seriously, meaning you’re going to have to put some serious time and effort into learning and honing the skill. Unfortunately, the hunting tutorial you’re provided within the game is brief and doesn’t really give you any idea of how to hunt efficiently.
This is exactly why you need this guide, as in no time at all; you’ll be a master hunter and envy of all your Red Dead friends:
First off, you’ve got to learn the basics
Red Dead Redemption is stuffed with animals – 178 different kinds in total – meaning that no matter where you are on the map, there’s likely an animal nearby to hunt. So, finding animals isn’t a problem; the real issue is finding the specific animal you’re looking for.
To help with this, Arthur (your character) will draw an animal on your map when you discover one in the wild. So, to get started in hunting, your best bet is to simply jump on your horse and go for a ride. The more animals you discover, the easier it will be later when looking for specific animals.
Like hunting would be in reality, you can’t simply find an animal and start shooting wildly. This will ruin the quality of the pelt. Instead, you need to stalk your prey first.
To do this, use your binoculars. These can be used to study and stalk your prey from afar without scaring them off. The game mechanic will bring up a ‘study’ prompt when you have an animal-centered for a few seconds. From there, you will be able to see information about your prey, including the quality of the animal.
You can also use your binoculars as a way to spot animals that are hidden. Scan the landscape slowly; if the ‘study’ prompt appears in the bottom right-hand corner, you can assume there’s an animal there. If you’ve seen or studied the animal previously, you’ll also be told what you’re looking at – even if you can’t see it yourself!
This also works while in Eagle Eye and in targeting mode; if you’ve studied an animal before and added it to your Compendium, you will be told what animal you’re looking at and the quality of that animal.
If you’re only looking to practice shooting or hunting, you can simply just go for any old animal you see. However, for the most gain in the game, or when you’re looking for a particular animal, you’re going to want to use your Eagle Eye ability and track your hunts.
Unlike your Dead Eye ability, which will slow time around you in a fight, the Eagle Eye mode will highlight animals that are close and show you the trails of where animals have been. So, like a real hunter, you can follow these trails and stalk your prey. Again, if you’ve studied the animal before, you’ll be told the type of animal and its pelt quality.
The importance of pelt quality
You’ve no doubt noticed that there’s been a lot of emphasis on the quality of a pelt, and that’s for a good reason. To be an efficient hunter and get the most from your kills, you need to aim for a good quality pelt.
In Red Dead Redemption 2, every animal has a quality rating, and once you’ve studied that animal, its quality will be shown along with its species at the bottom right corner. At the same time, you look through your binoculars or aim with a weapon. These will be listed as poor, good, or perfect.
Aiming for perfection is important, as this will earn you much more money than a poor carcass if you sell the meat to a butcher. When you skin your animal, a perfect pelt will provide you with more materials – such as meat or feathers – than a poorly rated animal would.
You’ll also want to aim for a perfect kill, either through the neck or as a headshot. This isn’t always easy when animals keep their heads down to graze. However, you can press square/x (depending on your console) to call out to the animal. This will cause the animal to look up, giving you the chance to get your headshot. Beware, calling out too much will spook the animal, and it will run.
Your weapon choice is important too
Weapon choice is incredibly important for your hunts. After all, if you shoot a frog with a shotgun, there’s not going to be much left. So, no matter how perfect your pelt was, to begin with, if you use the wrong weapon or shoot the animal badly/too much, the quality will soon fall.
Choosing your weapon is usually as simple as matching the animal’s size to the weapon. The game has five categories of animal size: small, moderate, medium, large and massive. You can usually eyeball what category each animal is – a bear, for example, will not be small – but if you’re unsure, you can discover the animal size by watching what Arthur does with each kill:
- A small animal will be picked up and placed into his satchel.
- A moderate animal will, rather disgustingly, be skinned without a knife or tied to the side of your saddle.
- A medium or large animal will need a knife to skin and be placed on your horse’s back.
- A massive animal cannot be lifted by Arthur and will need to be butchered on sight.
Once you’ve practiced hunting and you have a good idea of the size category of the animal you’re tracking, you can then look to choose the appropriate weapon for the job in order to get that perfect pelt:
- Small animals like squirrels will need a small weapon. Ideally, you should use a bow equipped with small game arrows. You will need to craft these yourself from an arrow, shotgun shell, and flight feather (which you will need to hunt too).
- Moderate animals like rabbits are best killed with the Varmint Rifle. You will need to buy this weapon from the gunsmith.
- Medium animals like beavers have more options than other categories of animals. Here you can use throwing knives, bows, repeaters, rifles, and sniper rifles. Of these, a repeater will give you the best shot of a perfect kill.
- Large animals also have a few options, such as rifles, bows, and sniper rifles. For added help, if you want to use a bow and arrow, you can add poison to your arrows. Overall, rifles are the easiest to kill with her.
- Massive animals are pretty hard to kill in the game. If you want that perfect kill, you will only achieve it with a sniper rifle or, at a push, an improved arrow.
You can improve your hunting chances with certain items
If you’re struggling with a perfect kill, even with the right weapon, fear not – practice definitely helps. There are a few items that you either craft or buy, though, that will help you in your hunting endeavors. This can be especially useful if you are after a particular animal for a challenge.
Three main items that can be used to help your hunting are; Herbivore Bait, Predator Bait, and Cover Scent Lotion.
The Cover Scent Lotion does exactly what you might expect – it covers up your scent! When you’re in Eagle Eye mode, you can see your scent and where that scent is wafting (such as if the wind blows it). By using this item, your scent will be masked, making it easier to track and kill your prey.
Baits are also pretty simple; they can be placed and will attract animals to them. To use them to their full potential, choose the placement wisely. You’re going to want to place your bait in a clearing with little cover for an animal to hide. It’s advantageous to have the higher ground with cover for yourself while you wait for an animal to appear.
All these items can be bought at the general store or crafted yourself. However, remember that baits aren’t for everyone, as they can be unpredictable, and you will need to wait around a lot, which can be tiresome for some.
What to do with your animal kills
There’s no point in becoming the best hunter in Red Dead Redemption 2 if you don’t know what to do with all your perfect kills. Thankfully, the game has many options for the avid hunter, which can help keep the game fresh rather than feeling like a chore. Here are all your options:
- The simplest of ideas, you can eat your kills! These can be made into provisions for your travels by cooking – or as the game calls it, crafting – them at a campfire.
- To make money, your kills can be taken to a butcher. You’ll find these shops in most of the towns in the game. The amount of cash you get will depend on many factors. For one, a carcass is worth more than just a pelt; some animals have a greater value in certain regions, perfect quality will be favored over poor, and the animal needs to be fresh. Practicing perfect kills and selling to a butcher for cash is a great way to increase your skills and riches at the same time.
- If you’re feeling charitable, you can donate your kills to the Pearson’s butcher table in camp. These skills will be turned into provisions for the camp, and the rest of the animals can be used for camp and satchel upgrades.
- One of the best ways to make use of your kills is to turn them into trinkets and talismans. These can be crafted from certain animals and will give specific stat boosts. To do this, visit fences within certain towns, but you’ll need to complete the ‘Spines of America’ mission first.
Other tips and tricks to become a master of hunting
- Be prepared! If you’re going to be on the road, even if it’s not specifically for hunting, make sure you’re equipped to take on a kill, as you never know what rare animal you might come across. Keep an all-rounder gun handy, like a repeater, and if something crosses your path, you can take a shot.
- Use your horse. Hunting on your horse gives you an elevated position from which you can shoot; just remember to keep your horse at a walking speed to prevent too much noise. If your prey does get spooked, though, by being on your horse, you’ll have the means to chase it down.
- Eagle Eye has been praised for helping track your prey, but you can also switch to Dead Eye to help get your kill too. This mode will slow time, allowing you to get a better shot in rather than ruining your pelt with multiple shots. This can also be useful if your prey is trying to run away.
- Keep track of your kills. It can be easy to go on a killing spree, thinking of the cash you’ll receive. But remember, if you’ve already got one bear on the back of your horse, you can’t add a second. What you can do, though, is switch to a weapon suitable for a small or medium animal, as these can still be transported.
- Often, you can get a shot on your prey, but it will try to run. Instead of panicking and firing off multiple shots that will ruin your clean kill, your prey will likely collapse and die nearby. Look at your minimap; a white (unaggressive prey) or red (aggressive prey) paw will show their location.
By now, you’re armed will all the basic knowledge of how to hunt effectively. All you need to do now is to get on your horse and get the practice in. And remember, the more efficient you become at shooting bears and deer, the better you’ll become at shooting all those pesky cowboys too!