Red Dead Redemption 2 guide: Hunting (2024)

Hunting is a lot more than just a way to pass the time in Red Dead Redemption 2. You’ll use the meat you gather to keep your cores full and your camp fed, and to craft some stat-buffing talismans. And you’ll need to do a lot of hunting to complete the Master Hunter Challenges (obviously).

Like a lot of Red Dead Redemption 2, though, hunting is only briefly explained in the game. There’s a lot of nuance, and many things to keep track of, if you want to be an efficient hunter. This guide will walk through hunting starting with the basics, then moving on to animal quality and using the right weapon, and then we’ll talk about what to do with animals once you’ve killed them. We’ll wrap it up with a case study of hunting to earn the Master Hunter Challenge 2.

Hunting basics — finding, studying and tracking animals

We’re going to break everything down in much more detail below, but you already know the basics of hunting: Shoot an animal until it stops running away. Not understanding the nuances of the hunting mechanic can make it a frustrating, low-yield endeavor, so it’s worth some time to talk about it.

Finding animals

Red Dead Redemption 2’s America is full of animals. There are 178 kinds to discover, in fact (though this number includes males and females of some species), so you’re almost always near something. The problem is how they all seem to disappear when you’re after something specific.

Red Dead Redemption 2 guide: Hunting (1) Rockstar Games via Polygon

The easiest way to find animals is to just ride your horse or walk around, and look for them. That may sound overly simple, but it’s a good way to start any hunt and, we’ve found, it’s as (or more) effective than some of the other ways to find animals. Arthur will also draw a picture of animals on his (your) map when he encounters them, and you can use those as general starting points for a hunt.

Red Dead Redemption 2 guide: Hunting (2) Rockstar Games via Polygon

Next come your binoculars. These do two things for you on a hunt:

  1. They’re a good way to study an animal without getting too close — you just have to have a good line of sight on it, and have to keep it centered in view for a few seconds.
  2. You can also trick your binoculars into pointing out animals you can’t quite see. As you scan the landscape, watch for the “study” prompt to appear in the bottom right of your screen. This means you’re looking at an animal (whether or not you can see it is a different question). If you’ve studied the animal, you’ll even be able to tell what you’re (not) looking at.

The most powerful tool you have to find animals is your Eagle Eye ability. There’s a lot going on here (that we’ll discuss more below), but the biggest help is that it brightly highlights any animals you can see.

Studying animals

Studying animals adds them — and more importantly, information about them — to your Compendium. When you study an animal, you’ll get a blurb of information about it, including the best weapon to use (even if that’s not always perfect — see below).

Red Dead Redemption 2 guide: Hunting (3) Rockstar Games via Polygon

There are three ways to study an animal:

  1. For domesticated, docile or just slow animals, you can simply walk up and hold down L2/LT to focus on it, then hold down R1/RB.
  2. For animals that you can’t or don’t want to approach, you can study them through your binoculars with R1/RB — or pull out a gun, and use lock-on targeting to keep a creature in your sights long enough to study it.
  3. Finally, there’s the nuclear option: shoot it and skin it. If you shoot and skin (or just collect) an animal, it’ll get added to your Compendium as if you studied it.

Once an animal has been added to your Compendium, you’ll be able to identify it (and its pelt quality — more on this below) through your binoculars, while targeting with or without a weapon equipped, and while in Eagle Eye.

Tracking animals

While using Eagle Eye, you’ll not only see animals highlighted if you’re close enough, but you’ll also see trails of where animals have been. If you’ve studied the animals, you’ll be able to see what kind of animal it is and its pelt quality.

Red Dead Redemption 2 guide: Hunting (4) Rockstar Games via Polygon

If you’re looking for just any old animal to put a bullet into, you can pick whatever track you want and start following. If you’re looking to be efficient (find a perfect-quality animal) or looking for a particular animal, this is your opportunity to improve your chances.

Shooting animals

Very broadly speaking, this is the easiest to understand: You pull out a weapon, and you shoot until the animal you’re shooting at is dead. There are a couple of nuances, and we’ll talk about why you should use specific guns for specific animals below.

As you probably expect, headshots (or neckshots) deal more damage than body shots. Whenever possible, aim for the head.

Sometimes, your prey is facing away from you or has its head down in the grass, and you just can’t get a good shot. While aiming at an animal, press square/X to call out to it. Most of the time, it will lift its head momentarily, giving you a great chance for a headshot. Just don’t call out too often, or you’ll scare it off.

Performance-enhancing substances (baits and lotion)

There are three things you can buy or craft that will help you in hunting: Herbivore Bait, Predator Bait and Cover Scent Lotion.

The baits work as you’d expect: They draw nearby animals to a location of your choosing. Ideally, you’ll put them somewhere with not much ground cover and some high ground nearby that you can watch from. In our experience, though, baits (specifically Herbivore Bait) just aren’t worth the time. You don’t have control over what comes to check it out — it could be the buck you’ve been stalking, or it could be a chipmunk — and it’s just a lot of waiting.

Red Dead Redemption 2 guide: Hunting (5) Rockstar Games via Polygon

Cover Scent Lotion masks your scent from animals. You can see your scent (and which direction it’s blowing in) while you’re in Eagle Eye. The blueish stink lines coming off Arthur are your scent, and the direction they’re blowing indicates wind direction.

You’ll buy these items in General Stores, or you can craft them on your own at a campfire.

Animal (and pelt) quality

Once you’ve studied an animal, you’ll be able to see its quality when you’re looking at it through your binoculars or aiming at it with a weapon. The quality that you see next to the animal’s name in the lower right corner is the animal’s base quality. It’ll never get better than that, no matter how well you shoot it. Animals (and pelts) have three possible qualities: ★ (poor), ★★ (good) or ★★★ (perfect).

Red Dead Redemption 2 guide: Hunting (6) Rockstar Games via Polygon

Quality matters for a few reasons:

  • Perfect carcasses and pelts earn you a lot more money than poor ones do when you turn them in at a butcher.
  • If you’re butchering (skinning) the animal instead, perfect-quality animals earn you more items (like meat or feathers) than poor ones.

This means that if you want to be efficient, you want to go for perfect animals and perfect kills every (or most of the) time.

Pick the best weapon for each animal

The base quality of the animal is where its carcass and pelt quality starts, but it can go down depending on how you kill it. It makes sense: If you shoot a squirrel with a shotgun, the pelt isn’t exactly going to be pristine.

To make sure you get perfect pelts, you have to use the right weapon. And the right weapon depends on the size of the animal. There are five sizes of animal in Red Dead Redemption 2: small, moderate, medium, large and massive. The quick way to know which animals are in which category is by what Arthur does with them when he picks up or stows their carcass. Small animals go straight into his satchel, moderate animals get skinned without a knife (ew) or tied to his saddle on the sides, medium and large animals require a knife to skin and get stowed on the back of his horse, and massive animals can only be butchered — Arthur can’t even carry them to his horse.

Once you know what size animal you’re dealing with, you can choose the right weapon to get your perfect kill. Bear (heh) in mind that your prey will only remain perfect if you get a fatal shot (like a headshot). Each animal size category has (at least) one weapon you need to use if you’re trying to get a perfect pelt:

  • For small animals like squirrels and frogs, you’ll need a bow with small game arrows. You can craft these arrows from a flight feather, an arrow and a shotgun shell. (You can harvest flight feathers from birds you shoot.)
  • Moderate animals, like rabbits and geese, need to be killed with the varmint rifle, which you can buy at a gunsmith.
  • Medium animals, like coyotes and beavers, have a few options. Bows, throwing knives, repeaters, rifles and sniper rifles will all give you perfect kills, but a repeater is your best bet.
  • As you’d expect, large animals are a little harder to kill. You can take them down with bows (especially with poison arrows), rifles and sniper rifles. For these, a rifle is the easiest.
  • Massive animals are the hardest to kill. The only ways to get perfect kills are with sniper rifles, or bows equipped with improved arrows.
Red Dead Redemption 2 guide: Hunting (7) Rockstar Games via Polygon

For medium and large animals, you have one other option: your lasso. Select it out of your weapon wheel, target the animal normally, then hold down R2/RT while you subdue the animal. Keep the trigger held down while you get off your horse and approach, then you’ll get a prompt to kill the animal cleanly.

What to do with your kills

So: You’ve found, tracked, killed, carried and skinned (or some combination thereof) an animal. Now what? You’ve got a few options for what to do with the animals you’ve killed — or, more specifically, their parts.

  • Eat. You can turn the animals you’ve killed into provisions by cooking (crafting) them at a campfire.
  • Sell. If you take your kills to a butcher (which you can find in most towns), you can turn your kills into cash. Several things factor into the payout. Carcasses are worth more than pelts, perfect quality is worth more than poor quality, and animals that are rare in the region are worth more (e.g., moose in Saint Denis).
  • Donate. You can also donate all of your animal parts to Pearson’s butcher table in camp. The meats get turned into provisions to feed the camp, while you can use the pelts and other parts for various camp and satchel upgrades.
  • Trinkets and talismans. After you complete Hosea’s “The Spines of America” mission during Chapter 2, you’ll be able to visit fences in certain towns. These less-than-reputable shopkeepers will craft you various trinkets and talismans out of animal parts. These items give a boost to one of your stats.

Case study: Master Hunter Challenge 2

After you’ve killed and skinned three deer (which is easy enough, since you don’t have to worry about their quality) and completed Master Hunter Challenge 1, you’ll move on to the second one. You might expect that the second level wouldn’t be too difficult (and it’s ultimately not), but we sure struggled with it.

The second Master Hunter Challenge asks you to collect three perfect-quality rabbit pelts. As you can see from all that we wrote above, a lot goes into such a simple task.

Start with the right gun

Despite the game and your Compendium telling you to use your bow on rabbits, the only way to get a perfect rabbit pelt is to use a varmint rifle. One can be picked up at any gunsmith — and make sure you’ve got ammo for it while you’re there.

Finding rabbits

You can find rabbits pretty much anywhere in the game world (except, it may seem, when you’re looking for them). Use the icons Arthur draws on his map to get you to places you’ve seen them before or, if you have a good memory, just go to one of those places. We had a lot of luck south of Valentine, just northeast of the Horseshoe Overlook campsite.

Getting perfect pelts

First, make sure you’re using your varmint rifle. Next, using your binoculars and Eagle Eye, make sure you’re looking at or tracking only perfect (three-star) rabbits. Finally, make sure you’re stocked up on Dead Eye tonics (like chewing tobacco).

Red Dead Redemption 2 guide: Hunting (8) Rockstar Games via Polygon

Wander around the likely area on foot, checking with both Eagle Eye and your binoculars often. Once you find a trail, use your Eagle Eye and start following it. Move slowly — don’t crawl, but don’t sprint either — along the path and check your surroundings often. Once you get close, line up your shot, call to the rabbit to make it lift its head, then enter Dead Eye to give you all the time you need for a perfect headshot.

Red Dead Redemption 2 guide: Hunting (2024)
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