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Red Dead Redemption 2 hunting guide

Master your prey

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 After seven years of waiting, Red Dead Redemption 2 is finally here. If you've already sank your calipers into the biggest release of 2018 then you know any self-respecting outlaw needs to make money for the camp tithing box so the gang can eat, sleep and be merry. One of the most reliable, moral ways to manage this is through hunting out in the immense wilderness of the Old West.

So we've rounded up a series of essential tips that cover every base to ensure you’re operating at maximum hunting capacity.

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Know your enemy

The first and easily most important tip. If you don’t do this, you may as well hang up your hat. Always study your prey. 

When you come across any animal in the wilderness, you want to focus on it with L2 and hold R1 to study the animal. Similar to the way you can inspect potential horses for their stats, the study mechanic will let you know exactly what weapon and ammo you need to acquire a perfect pelt from the animal in your cross-hairs.

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Raise your weapon

Now that you know how to kill your prey properly, you now need the proper tools to go about it. The required weapons for animals vary quite drastically and it can be frustrating when you find the beast you want and you don’t have the required kit to master it.

Go to the Gunsmith in any of the game’s towns and pick up a gun from every category, and, most importantly, purchase a set of rifles with varying scopes. Some animals require a long or short-scope when studied, so it’s good to have every base covered.

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Line your pockets

If you plan on hunting for an extended amount of time, you want to make sure you’re not running back to the Trapper every 20 minutes when you run out of space. To solve this, first of all, upgrade your Saddlebags at any self-respecting stable to increases the number of varmints you can lug around once you shuffle them off their mortal coil. Upgrading your satchels is also highly useful so that you can hold more ammunition, tonics and provisions to keep you and your horse healthy during a conflict and your weapons primed. 

I did a lot of my hunting in the later stages of the game, and fortunately, once you reach a certain point in the story you can just buy every satchel (including the final ‘Legend of the East’ variant that lets you hold 99 of most items) at the Fence without having to spend a ridiculous amount of time hunting for the materials. I’d say wait until this point to save you a lot of extra hassle.

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Watch the stars

As well as studying your prey the star system is something you definitely need to pay attention to. Holding L2 on an animal will let you know if it’s worth hunting or not by how many stars it is ranked by. The stars denote how good the pelt will be once you pull the trigger, with three stars providing a ‘pristine’ pelt that yields more meat and crucially, extra dollars when you go to sell it.

I wouldn't bother hunting an animal with less than three stars unless you’re desperate to eat it, as most quests and crafting recipes require a perfect pelt, which is only achieved via a clean shot to a three star animal in its vital organs, usually the heart or the brain. As your Dead Eye upgrades throughout the course of the narrative, organs will be highlighted, which helps a great deal with this particular aspect of hunting.

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Don't horse around

The last tip is optional but totally recommended to ensure that you’re hunting with maximum efficiency. There are two types of hunters in Red Dead 2: silent hunters who use bait to attract prey and tonic to mask their scent before going in for the kill, and the more rugged-types who go in guns-blazing and send animals booking through forests, using Dead Eye to pick them off. Either option is viable, but if you’re looking to peel through the compendium as fast as possible, the second option is more efficient. 

In this case, you’re going to do a lot of your hunting on horseback, and the faster the hunter, the easier is to catch up to the more speedy non-combatant prey who aren’t trying to maul you. You want to head to the stable and pick up an Arabian, the most expensive horse money can buy to my knowledge. It has Elite handling and is incredibly fast and relatively sturdy. 

Ride it hard around the wilderness to increase your bonding level so you can drift and turn on a dime with R1 + X when animals attempt to make a quick escape. At certain points in the narrative, you will be given a lump-sum of cash, and this is definitely the first thing you should drop a lot of dollars on, as it is your only reliable means of transport and will save so much time the quicker you saddle it up and start traversing the map in chase of big game. 

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Bolster your munitions

Weapons primed, but you can’t kill a varmint with a shotgun slug, else you’re just left with grisly viscera. To avoid this unfortunate situation, make sure you pick up Varmint rounds for your rifles. Ammunition is quite cheap in this game, meaning you should pick up everything that you can at the Gunsmith before you head out into the wilderness, as well as cleaning all of your guns to ensure maximum efficiency. 

Other special ammunition like Improved and Small Game Arrows as well as similar ammo for Throwing Knives and Tomahawks are tougher to craft, requiring special bird feathers and plants that you have to hunt for. Spend some time stocking up on these ingredients pre-hunt so you can craft on the spot when you come across worthy prey. 

Jordan Oloman

Jordan Oloman is a journalist and documentarian with experience across the pop culture/tech spectrum writing reported features, reviews. news, guides, op-eds and more for a wide variety of outlets. He is also an affiliate streamer on Twitch and have previous experience in scriptwriting, podcasting, game consultation and creating video content.