|This article is about the current 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, the higher the character skill, the closer they can get. 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. The skill is also used by enemy thieves and ambushers raiding your fortress or when you return the favor raiding their sites.
Of note, players need a crossbow, a quiver, and bolts to successfully hunt. The standard load for embarking includes 3 quivers, and any immigrating hunters arrive with a full set of proper equipment: a metal crossbow, a quiver, and some bolts. A hunter armed with a crossbow will increase their marksdwarf, ambusher, and archery skills.
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 conveniently, to stop, too - one must remove the hunting labor from a 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 them off the job in time.
Animals suitable to the biome will appear randomly on the edge of a map on each layer. By default, the layers are the surface and each cavern layer; dwarves can hunt wild animals on each of these layers. Only one group of animals will appear at any given time, and as soon as one group leaves another will take its place. This can result in your marmot hunter suddenly having an unpleasant chitchat with an elephant, giant eagle, or worse. However, 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.
An unskilled hunter will crawl in ambush mode, making the hunter unable to reach fast animals like badgers. Fortunately, 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.
A hunter picks a mark at random, which they then pursue. Hunters seem to switch marks under certain circumstances. As an ambusher gets closer to their prey, there is a greater and greater chance they 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.
You can assign animals trained for hunting, like dogs, to your hunters, which can sneak alongside their masters and attack the hunter's prey. You can also assign war beasts, which are much stronger and can help take down bigger game, but cannot sneak and may rush into combat early.
Upon killing the prey, a hunter will usually carry it home to the butcher's shop. A butcher will then take over and process the game animal to create many byproducts. A hunter may kill other creatures that are closer to them than the fleeing mark they are intent on catching. 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.
Hunters will shoot bolts at carp and other water creatures in a river. They won't recover the dead fish, though.
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.
Necromancer hunters will sometimes raise the corpses of their prey, only to get attacked by those.
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 them, 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, which will cause them to run away from their target as fast as they can. Without bolts assigned, they may fight with the butt of the crossbow, which functions similarly to a war 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. Military dwarves will typically be much better protected thanks to their armor, and using them comes with the benefit of training their combat skills when they fight their mark.
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.
In adventurer mode, ambusher skill is gained by moving around while Sneaking is toggled on in peed options. Sneak mode will automatically toggle off during sleep/wait and on the first move from fast travel, so in order to ambush random encounters, you should remember to toggle it back on before continuing.
A sneaking character can remain undetected by others so long as they remain out of the other creatures' scope of perception, which varies by sensory organs and observer skill. Until the character is detected, no level of conflict is generated between the character and an enemy or timid creature. Entering a friendly creature's scope of perception will generate some social discomfort toward your character. You will be unable to conceal yourself from any creature who detects you, but you will not automatically be revealed to others.
Movement rates at normal or slower gait are unmodified by stealth, but reduced at gaits faster than walk. Ambushing success is also sharply reduced by quicker gaits. Ambushing skill offsets the sneak penalty for faster gaits, but not the movement rate penalty.
When sending your dwarves on raid missions (not pillaging or razing), the ambusher skill will affect their chances of success in relation to being spotted.v0.44.01 Additionally, raiders may gain ambusher experience.v0.44.06
- Weapons of hunters might not be assigned properly. Even if a hunter has a quiver and bow and assigned ammo, they may not have the right bow. Disable their hunting skill so they stockpile their equipment, then re-enable hunting when they're done.
- Having the Hunter labor toggled on will stop the dwarf from sleeping in their bedroom, making them accumulate negative thoughts from having to sleep on the floor (if unsmoothed, apparently). Toggling the Hunter labor off allows them to use their bedrooms properly.