|This article is about an older version of DF.|
Dwarves with the hunting labor enabled automatically use the ambusher skill while hunting outside of the fortress, which allows them to sneak up on their prey. Dwarves using the ambush skill move more slowly, but cannot be seen by enemies. Once close enough, the ambusher skill is no longer relevant, and the hunter will engage in standard combat with their prey using whatever weapon they are carrying. If a hunter carries no weapon, they will wrestle their prey.
A dwarf with the hunting labor enabled will sleep outside and drink water, causing unhappy thoughts. It may thus be necessary to watch the mood of a full-time hunter and take him off the job in time. Make sure he drops the waterskin or don't produce any in the first place.
Animals will appear randomly on the edge of a map, especially once the map is cleared of all wildlife. This can result in your rabbit hunter suddenly having an unpleasant chitchat with an elephant, sasquatch or worse.
In adventurer mode, ambusher skill is gained by moving around while neaking. This will greatly reduce your speed just as it does in dwarf mode, but will cause hostile creatures to not attack you. Until you unneak or someone spots you, you will gain a small amount of experience in ambushing with every step. Presently, smashing a creature's skull in with your bare hands does not count as being spotted, so the best way to tell if you're still sneaking is to check your speed in the bottom right of the screen. Ambusher also helps prevent encounters from enemies while traveling on the world map.
A hunter picks a mark at random, which he then pursues, ignoring other animals and enemies. As an ambusher gets closer to his prey, there is a greater and greater chance he or she will be spotted by the animal and stop ambushing. Higher skill allows dwarves to get closer before being spotted, and also increases the speed at which a dwarf can move while sneaking.
When the dwarf is close enough (or once spotted), they will move to engage, or to within shooting range if they are using a crossbow. From there, the ambusher skill has no effect, and only combat skills are used.
Upon killing the prey, a hunter will carry it home to the butcher's shop. A hunter may kill other creatures that are closer to them than the fleeing mark he is intent on catching. This happens frequently with crossbows due to their range. They will ignore the accidental carcass and only bring home a carcass they have marked beforehand. This means that sometimes multiple dead critters per hunt will be lying about and start rotting around the map if you do not set the refuse orders to 'gather refuse from outside' (corpses count as refuse). If you do this and have a good system of stockpiles, available dwarf haulers and a map free of menacing critters (like with calm surroundings), then you should have the outside of your fort just as tidy as the inside, and will be able to salvage the corpses. If you do that on the wrong map, you will see some dwarf carcasses added instead.
The same caution is advised to the slaughtering process. Hunters will drop carcasses directly into the butchery, which will make it cluttered very fast. Animals upon being butchered explode into chunks, meat, skin, bones, fat and skull, and the clutter will make the butcher work many times slower. Stockpiles and haulers are required, or your animal corpses will rot even while in the butchery and you will lose the skin, the meat and the fat (food). Bones and skulls can be salvaged even from rotting corpses. It can also happen that your butcher is not fast enough and some hauler takes a corpse from the butchery and puts it on a refuse pile. Usually this shouldn't be a problem as your butcher will pick it up from there - if the refuse pile is close by.
If you don't have a good stocking and hauling system, you will not get all of the kill, and the craftsdwarf unfortunate enough to need the bones from the rotted critters will have to go out alone several times to get them every time which places a huge strain on production speed and safety.
You can assign hunting dogs to hunters, as they will sneak just as the hunter. War dogs die more often for hunters even if they are stronger, since the dogs outrun the sneaking hunter and thus the hunter never gets the first shot and sometimes never even has time to arrive at the combat before the dog is either dead or wounded.[Verify] Actual hunting dogs seem to be even less effective, arriving a minute late with your dwarf laying down in a coma.[Verify]
Weapons and Tactics
You should consider training hunters in wrestling in order for them to defend themselves. Wrestling will help him to break the jaw-grips that the enemy critter places on him, and will help the dwarf wrestle on his own and even place his own jaw grips if both of his hands are incapacitated, and is the only option if a weapon is dropped or stuck in the animal. If your hunters use crossbows (as is recommended), you should also consider training them in hammerdwarf skill, as a crossbow is used with this skill if an animal engages in melee against a marksdwarf, and hunters will fight to the death even if they run out of bolts. Without bolts, he must fight with the butt of the crossbow which is counted as a weak hammer.
Using your military to hunt (with the "chase dangerous animals" setting) can be safer and more efficient than using hunters, particularly if they are agile enough to simply outrun the creatures. However, you may find that they maim an animal so badly that they refuse to fight it any more, as they no longer consider it a threat. If there are no other huntable animals on the map, it is generally safe to send an otherwise untrained dwarf with high statistics and a melee weapon (e.g. a woodcutter or miner) out to hunt it. However, be warned that hunters will not stop their current hunt if you disable their hunting labor; hence, your dwarf may end up hunting whatever creatures spawn next, with potentially suicidal results. This may be avoidable by disabling the labor while hunting or returning the kill, or drafting the dwarf in question after the kill has been returned.
Any dwarf given ambusher skill at Novice level or better before embarking will get a free set of leather armor (leather armor, leather leggings, leather low or high boots, and leather helm or steel cap); a crossbow (made of copper, bronze, bismuth bronze, iron, or steel); and a quiver with 30-40 steel bolts. All of these items will be of ordinary quality.
This equipment will only be given if ambusher is the dwarf's highest skill; a Proficient Ambusher/Proficient Cook will have farmer as a profession, and will not receive any equipment. However, ambushers with other ranger skills, even ones higher than their ambusher skill, will still receive this equipment, as will ambushers with military skills at any level. (Separately, military skills will not influence what equipment is given: speardwarves will arrive at the site carrying nothing, and speardwarf/ambushers will arrive with the crossbow given to all ambushers. Armor user and shield user have no effect either.)
You can also get the freebies by giving a social/administration skilled dwarf a point in ambusher.
Any immigrating rangers with ambusher skill will also receive this equipment.