|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. The ambusher skill is listed among the 'misc' skills. Dwarves using the ambush skill move more slowly, but, if successful, 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 their crossbow.
Since hunting is employed by players with varying success and your military will go after any game that looks at them funny anyway, you might be better off doing the good old 'hunt with your military'. After all, your military can be told to pick a specific target, and, more convenient, to stop, too. One must remove the hunting labor from the hunter to get them to stop.
A dwarf with the hunting labor enabled will sleep outside, 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.
Animals will appear randomly on the edge of a map, especially once the map is cleared of all wildlife. This can result in your marmot hunter suddenly having an unpleasant chitchat with an elephant, giant eagle, or worse. That said, a seasoned and well-equipped hunter is more than a match for a giant eagle, and can be a good preemptive defense for your above-ground workers.
Hunters using crossbows must have a quiver to hold their bolts. Due to this change of behavior in version 0.31.x, the standard load for embarking now includes 3 quivers.
Unskilled hunter will crawl in ambush mode unable to reach fast animals like badgers. Fortunatelly an experienced one will be able to rapidly bring down even swift prey.
Ten novice hunters working together can take down even very large, very fast animals.
A highly skilled and agile hunter will be able to single handedly take down nearly anything.
In adventurer mode, ambusher skill is gained by moving around while neaking, during which hostile creatures will not target you. Sneak mode remains active until toggled off, until detected by an enemy, or during sleep. At lower skill levels, speed is greatly reduced, but the penalty gradually reduces until negated at Legendary skill, and it's possible to sneak at full movement rate. Chance of detection is also reduced, and a more skilled ambusher can remain in close combat for longer without being detected. The yellow announcement text "You have been spotted!" indicates that sneak mode is no longer active against any hostiles in range.
A hunter picks a mark at random, which he then pursues, ignoring other animals and enemiesVerify. Hunters seem to switch marks under certain circumstances. 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.
Generally, when the dwarf is within shooting range the dwarf will move to engage. From there, the ambusher skill has no effect, and only combat skills are used.
Upon killing the prey, a hunter will usually 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 catchingVerify. 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.
After a period of time, most hunters will eventually cause the extinction of the wild animals in the biomes where your fort is located. There are two ways to prevent this. The first is to ensure that some animals always escape; many animals spawn on the map in groups or herds, and as long as at least one member of this group survives to leave the map later, the population of that creature will not decrease. Another method is to capture the wild animals, breed them, and then either release them back into the biome or hunt the offspring.
Caution is advised in the slaughtering process. Hunters will drop carcasses directly into the butchery, which will make it cluttered very fast. Animals upon being butchered explode into many many parts, and the clutter will make the butcher work many times slower. Stockpiles and haulers are suggested, or your animal corpses will rot even while in the butchery and you will lose the valuable byproducts: skin, meat, and (food). Bones and skulls can be salvaged from non-sentient skeletons once processed by a butcher. (doesn't work?). It can also happen that your butcher is not fast enough and a hauler takes a corpse from the butchery and puts it on a refuse pile. This shouldn't be a problem as your butcher will pick it up from there.
If you don't have a good stocking and hauling system, some of the food will rot. Also, the craftsdwarf unfortunate enough to need the bones, hooves, etc, from the rotted critters will have to endure the miasma of rotting corpse. All these things can place a strain on production speed and safety. Corpses stored outside do not produce miasma so placing refuse stockpiles either outside or in rooms with a skylight will remove the risks miasma would normally present.
You can assign hunting dogs to your hunters, which can sneak alongside their masters and attack the hunter's prey. You can also assign War dogs, which are much stronger and can help take down bigger game, but cannot sneak and may rush into combat early.
Weapons and Tactics
You should consider training hunters in wrestling in order for them to defend themselves. Wrestling will help them 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. You should also consider training them in the hammerdwarf skill, as a crossbow is used with this skill if an animal engages in melee against a marksdwarf. Hunters will fight to the death if engaged, but get a job cancellation if they run out of bolts. Without bolts assigned, he must fight with the butt of the crossbow, which functions similarly to a hammer.
Using your military to hunt can be safer and more efficient than using hunters, particularly if they are agile enough to simply outrun the creatures.
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.
Any dwarf with ambusher as their highest skill when embarking will get a metal crossbow, a quiver with 30-40 metal bolts, and one or more pieces of leather armor - potentially leather body armor, leather leggings, leather low or high boots, and a leather helm or steel cap. All of these items will be of ordinary quality. Several caveats apply:
- 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.
- You can combine the ambusher skill with other ranger skills (except animal caretaker), even ones equal to their ambusher skill, will still receive this equipment.
- Most military skills (sorry fighter and biter), like macedwarf, can be combined at any level with the ambusher skill and still receive the equipment. (Separately, dwarfs whose highest skill is a military skill 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 skilled dwarf a point in ambusher.
- Any immigrating hunters will receive a full set of proper equipment.
- Migrant hunters sometimes arrive with the hunting labor turned off, causing them to drop their equipment at the edge of the map  Fixed in 0.31.22?
- Weapons of hunters might not be assigned properly. Even if a hunter has a quiver and bow, and assigned ammo, he may not have the right bow. Disable his hunting skill so he stockpiles his equipment, then re-enable hunting when he's done.