Complete hunting guide - Red Dead Redemption 2

Get an in-depth look at hunting in Red Dead Redemption 2 with these tips and breakdowns of the mechanics.

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In Red Dead Redemption 2, hunting is about more than just having fun. Arthur Morgan needs to find food to survive, to feed the Van der Linde gang, and to top off his Health, Stamina, and Dead Eye. Beyond food, hunting also provides hides and animal parts that are used in crafting. In a nutshell, hunting is a huge part of Red Dead Redemption 2, and this guide will explain all concepts from basic tips to full explanations on how each hunting mechanic works.

Hunting tips and tricks

During my time in Red Dead Redemption 2, I’ve picked up several tips that I think would help new players just getting into the game. These tricks and hints focus more on best practices instead of in-depth game mechanics, which I’ll also detail shortly.

  • Stay on Your Horse - By staying on your horse you get a view from a slightly higher elevation, helping you spot animals at distance with more ease. I like to have my horse move at walking speed so that I don’t spook animals. If they do get spooked, however, I’m on horseback and can chase them down.
  • Use Your Binoculars - Open your item wheel and look for your Binoculars. You can ride around with them in your hand. Use them to spot animals, then study and reveal information on your prey. You can even track your target through the Binoculars, identifying the quality of the animal.
  • Always Be Prepared - When I’m on the road, I always keep my Carbine Repeater in my hands. This allows me to quickly get a shot off at an animal that crosses my path. I’m not exactly hunting here, but just being prepared in case opportunity presents itself.
  • Secondary Preparations - If I have a medium to large animal on the back of my horse, I switch from my Carbine Repeater to my Varmint Rifle. This is intended for small game, such as birds, squirrels, rabbits, and others. I can’t carry another deer, but I do have room for a rabbit on my horse.
  • Use Your Dead Eye - By pressing L3/LS + R3/RS while aiming, you activate Dead Eye, which will slow time and let you get a more precise shot away. Use this to hit fleeing prey, or to ensure your shot results in a clean kill and you’re not ruining the hide by firing multiple times.
  • Getting Clean Kills - If you truly land a clean kill on your target, it will often run a short distance and collapse, slowly dying. If this is something like a deer (not aggressive), it will show as a white paw icon on your mini map. If it's a predator (like a bear), it will be a red paw icon on your mini map. 

Using bait for hunting

Remember that you can craft or buy bait for hunting, as well as use a few other substances to aid you in getting the drop on your prey. The bait will lure animals to a spot where you can kill them, while the Cover Scent Lotion is used to cover your scent while you’re hunting. Access these products in your satchel by pressing and holding right on the directional pad.

  • Cover Scent Lotion
  • Herbivore Bait
  • Potent Herbivore Bait (Crafted)
  • Predator Bait
  • Potent Predator Bait (Crafted)
  • Types of Meat

Meat quality by animal type 

Each skinned animal will give you a type of meat. Each type of meat is a different quality and provides unique benefits to the player when consumed. Look through the lists below for animals that provide high quality meat or better, then try and locate an easy hunting zone for that animal.

Low quality meat includes:

  • Gritty Fish (Bluegill, Etc)
  • Gamey Birds (Small Birds)
  • Stringy Meat (Rats, Etc)
  • Herptile Meat (Reptiles)

Good quality meat types are as follows:

  • Plump Bird (Turkey, Chicken, Geese)
  • Crustacean Meat (Shellfish)
  • Gristly Mutton (Sheep, Goats)
  • Flakey Fish (Perch, Bass)

High quality meat includes:

  • Exotic Bird (Parrots, Pelicans)
  • Mature Venison (Deer)
  • Game (Rabbits, Ducks)
  • Succulent Fish (Salmon, Trout)
  • Prime Beef (Cows, Buffalo)
  • Tender Pork (Javelina, Pigs)

Best quality meats come from some of the biggest creatures:

  • Big Game (Bears, Wolves, Alligators)

Studying animals

One of the most important aspects of effective hunting in Red Dead Redemption 2 is studying the animal before attempting to kill it. This can be done primarily and most easily through your Binoculars since they allow you to stay at great range. Look at an animal through your Binoculars and when the option pops up, press R1/RB to study it. If you then bring up your Compendium, you can find the animal you studied and learn more about it, such as what type of weapon or ammunition to hunt it with. Not only this, but the Compendium will also tell you where to find the animal. 

Weapons and ammunition

As mentioned in the previous section, the Compendium is a great place to read about animals once you have studied them. This is where you can get some hints about what to use in terms of weapons and ammunition so you don’t destroy the hide when you kill your prey. For example, the Compendium tells you to hunt the American Badger with a Varmint Rifle to ensure a clean kill, which is how you preserve the quality of the hide. On the other hand, you should never use a Varmint Rifle on an American Black Bear (because you’re not trying to tickle the bear), but instead the Compendium recommends a long-scope rifle — the exact weapon I used to take down the bear I needed to earn a legendary bear pelt.

Quality of hides and preservation

When you aim at an animal, either through your Binoculars, scope, or just iron sights, you should see a quality rating between one and three stars in the bottom right. This refers to the animal’s hide. One star is poor, two is good, and three is perfect. Take note that many vendors, such as the Trapper, require perfect hides when crafting, so you must target perfect animals, and get clean kills (see Weapons and Ammunition above), to get perfect hides. Perfect hides also sell for considerably more money than poor quality hides.

Tracking Animals While Hunting

When you look at an animal through your Binoculars, scope, or iron sights, you’ll often have the option to track it. When you do this, you’ll see telltale signs of your prey on the ground in front of you, whether that’s its scent or blood from a wound. However, you can also track an animal by activating Eagle Eye (L3/LS + R3/RS), looking at a scent or blood trail on the ground, then pressing R1/RB to track it. Once you are tracking an animal, keep checking the tracks using Eagle Eye every few seconds. Truthfully, I mostly hunt without tracking, but it can be very useful with small game and snakes. Generally, you don’t lose sight of larger animals, though.

Hunting with Dead Eye

Dead Eye is the time-slowing ability that allows you to land accurate shots in tough situations. This alone is useful, but as you upgrade Dead Eye you’ll gain the ability to see a target’s weak points while activated. This is incredibly useful while hunting, as it lets you know where to shoot your prey for a clean kill, which will help you preserve the hide. Don’t expect Dead Eye to reach this level until late in the game, though.

We’ll be sure to add more to this guide as we continue to hunt. For help with your journey, be it the story or open-world explanation, visit the Red Dead Redemption walkthrough and guide.

Managing Editor

Bill, who is also known as Rumpo, is a lifelong gamer and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He is known for his guide writing and, unsettlingly enough, enjoys grinding out in-depth collectible articles. Tweet him @RumpoPlays if you have a question or comment about one of his guides.