Hunting is one of the two methods by which players can get meat, the other being trapping (unless you're willing to go in village and buy your meal). Hunting animals also provides a source of leather and fur, which can be made into clothing or other useful things.
The most common and successful hunting tactic is simple: sneak up to the prey (using the [H] hide command) and kill it with your weapon of choice. Often, this will be a ranged weapon of some sort, usually either a bow or javelins. Usually the head or body is targeted in order to bring down the animal as quickly as possible.
Hunting using melee weapons is possible, although difficult and usually requires patience. Animals frequently outrun even players with high Agility, but they cant keep going forever. Eventually, if you keep following the same animal and it keeps running, it will eventually get too tired to outrun you. Using the F3 key (look) will let you see if the animal is fatigued, and if it is escaping or not. Using zoom out (ctrl -) also helps, more if there are few obstacles to your line of sight (version 3.17). Don't run after it - just walk after it and use tracking to stay on its trail and don't give it a chance to rest. Then, when it becomes breathless, go in for the kill. Remember to kill it with blunt attacks - preferably to the head - if you can because this will damage the animals hide less so the skin will be more valuable or produce better clothes when you tan it. This tactic is called cursorial hunting and is practiced by many animals, including humans, in real life. The most important thing to remember when using this method of hunting is to never get distracted. If you are following a reindeer, switch over to a stag that happens to enter your vision, and then decide to follow a set of wild boar tracks, you will pass out from exhaustion long before you get close to catching anything. Stick to the first animal you singled out and keep at it; this style of hunting is all about your determination as a player.
Cursorial hunting within game mechanics works best when you alternate between running and walking, to maximise the distance covered in a given time period. For example, someone with 12 speed, carrying enough to have a 5 walking speed and 11 running speed, can run until his Running speed drops to 10 from fatigue, then walk until his fatigue is zero and start running again. If he can see the animal he is hunting and F3 indicates that it is not escaping, he can do a short sprint to prevent the animal from resting and walk agin when the animal is escaping. In game, escaping animals keep running for a while, even when they are running in circles. Snow makes this process more complex, as you no longer lose fatigue while walking, but still possible.
Sometimes the player is placed next to the animal when encountering them; a crippling leg wound can slow them down enough for the hunter to catch up. Sometimes animals are crippled using ranged weapons, then finished off with hand-to-hand combat. If the animal sustains a bleeding injury, they leave a blood trail as well as randomly fainting, eventually dying from blood loss.
Often the prey manages to run out of site when hunting. To re-encounter them, either zoom out to the wilderness map (with [ENTER] command), or run in a straight line in the direction the animal was last seen in.
Tracks in the zoomed-in map, added in v3.12b, have helped with the location of escaped prey.
When standing over one of these tracks, if you use the tracking skill ([Alt] + [T] command), you are informed of the direction of the tracks. Sometimes the animal pursued walks in circles extensively, making it very hard to find what direction it finally took.
Hunting animals is not to be confused with hunting Njerpez, which is another
sport topic entirely.
Hunting with dogs
When you are able to see any animal, you can order your dog to attack. Your dog is faster than you are by far, so it will catch up with most escaping prey. Dogs even bark in alarm sometimes when they are out of your field of vision, giving you a hint where they are. There are however two downsides to this method. The first one is that your dog can get injured of even die, as the animal will fight back sometimes. The second one is that dog attacks tend to damage the hide. Dog hunting is very useful for slow characters, because the dog will keep the animal running and tire it out even if the player character is too slow to tire the animal on his own.
Hunting in winter has a few added elements to it. First of all, you do not rest while walking in snow, both walking and running make you tired in snow. If you are wearing skis, have a ski stick equipped and have decent skill, this is an advantage, as everything will get tired a lot faster than you. Snow also affects tracking. Small animals leave clear tracks and big animals leave tracks that are visible with lower tracking skill. Note that finding prey in winter is a lot harder than in any other season. Also, remember to wear warm clothes.