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predator vs prey

Understanding the age-old notion of predator vs. prey helps us become better hunters. Here are 20 predators and tips we can take from their efforts.

Two animals run for their lives. The prey must evade death. The predator must capture life. And just when it’s unsure of which way the outcome will land, the chase nears its end. Hope fades for one, surging for another. Then, the inevitable — teeth sink into blood-rich flesh. One animal dies so another can live. And so, the cycle continues — it’s a graphic depiction of life and death in the real world. But we can’t ignore it.

The hunter-prey relationship transcends the animal kingdom.

Fortunately, as hunters, we strive to dispatch game in a quick, ethical manner. And understanding how nature’s most effective hunters pursue their food can make us more efficient hunters, too.

Here are 20 different animals, how they hunt, and why it applies to us as hunters.

Predator vs. Prey: How 20 Different Wild Animals Hunt


One of the most interesting marine animals, archerfish commonly use a fountain of spit to knock insects off leaves above the surface. Then, they can retrieve their prey.

Takeaway: Squirrels commonly hide behind limbs, leaves, etc. For shotgun hunters, an off-target shot — or a shot to the base of the limb a squirrel is hiding on — can shake them loose for a follow-up trigger pull.

Ant-Mimicking Spiders

One of the cleverer tactics is found with the ant-mimicking spider. They have large color patches around their eyes to make it seem as if they have two eyes, like ants. Furthermore, it has eight legs, but pretends to have only six — again, like ants — by raising the front two into the air to serve as false antennas.

Takeaway: Stalk behind a two-dimensional decoy that mimics the game animal.

Birds of Prey

predator vs prey
Photo: Peter K Burian

Virtually every bird of prey hunts from above. These avian predators use height to their advantage. This helps them to see better, and makes it more difficult for prey to see them.

Takeaway: Take a page from the bird of prey playbook and (safely) hunt from an elevated position.


Bobcats are among the most agile predators on the continent. Interestingly, while they do target animals on the ground, one of their preferred methods is to climb trees and snatch squirrels right out of the nest.

Takeaway: If legal, target game animals where they sleep. This can catch them off guard and maximize the odds of success. 

Brown Bear

The brown bear is one of the largest land predators. It also targets one of the smallest prey animals — fish. That said, it waits until the annual salmon run to spend the bulk of its time hunting these creatures. They know when the odds are the highest for this high-protein food source.

Takeaway: Most hunting seasons coincide with the breeding season. Game animals are more distracted during this period and are more susceptible to harvest.


It was once believed that cheetahs used their sheer speed to run down prey. That isn’t true. Through learning, they can retain prey escape tendencies to anticipate how animals will react during the chase. Essentially, they tailor their approach to the specific animal they hunt. This gives them another big advantage.

Takeaway: Truly understand the target. Understand what it does and why it does so. Then, tailor a hunt plan that takes advantage of this knowledge.


While chimpanzees largely live off plant-based foods, they also eat meat. Generally, this entails hunting in a group, of which is led by a member that is more advanced in stalking and catching prey. Each member in the group has a different role during the pursuit.

Takeaway: Those who choose to hunt in a group can sometimes benefit from numbers. Party hunts are still popular in some states. Safely ensure everyone has a specific purpose.


The largest cat in North America, cougars are lethal predators. They have very large home ranges and cover great distances in search of prey. Then, when they lock onto a target, they slowly creep into striking distance before making the final plunge.

Takeaway: Those who still hunt over long spot-and-stalk-type distances are channeling their inner cougar.


The most common mammalian predator in North America, the wily coyote uses numerous hunting tactics. One is to hunt solo, which can prove helpful when attempting to stay off their target’s radar. Then, it’s most common tactic is to pounce and grab the animal it’s after. That said, it waits until the animal is at its most vulnerable before doing so.

Takeaway: Being very smart and knowing exactly when to strike is something every highly successful hunter must learn to do.


One of the most intelligent predators in the sea or on land, dolphins use both herding and schooling to feed. They drive prey toward the surface where there is less escape. They also swim circles around them to corral them into tight spaces. Dolphins even stir up sand where prey might be located by carrying marine sponges in their mouths.

Takeaway: Those who hunt rabbits often have kicked a bush or two. The same holds true for hunting quail, grouse, pheasants, and other ground-dwelling small game. Flushing works.


One of the more lethal predator fish in the sea, the dragonfish sees in red thanks to an organ that emits this color wavelength. This version of infrared allows it to see under very dark conditions.

Takeaway: Where legal, this can be a direct parallel with hunting coyotes at night with the help of infrared equipment.

Great White Sharks

Once thought to be colossal but brainless predators, sharks are much more intelligent than previously believed. Interestingly, on sunny mornings and afternoons, sharks circle around their prey and approach with the sun at their rear. This accomplishes two things. First, it helps them see prey better. Secondly, glare makes it more difficult for prey to see them. Then, with this advantage, they stalk within striking distance.

Takeaway: When the wind allows, it’s very beneficial to hunt with the sun at the rear.


predator vs prey
Photo: Frank Miles/USFWS

Some herons, specifically the black heron, raises and cups its wings to shade the water below it. This shades the water, which attracts fish. That said, it also makes it easier to see below the water’s surface.

Takeaway: Depending on the situation, wearing sunglasses can truly help, especially when hunting during cloudless days, and when the sun is low in the sky. Or, on warmer days, hunt where it’s shaded.

Humpback Whales

One of the most intelligent predators in the world, humpback whales circle schools of krill from below while releasing bubbles that jet to the surface. The krill refuse to pass through these bubbles, which serve as a blockade they could get through, but don’t. They effectively become trapped by something they could otherwise pass through.

Takeaway: Deer drives oftentimes require walls of people (who aren’t shooting) in strategic locations to prevent deer from going that way. Fleeing deer could run in these directions if they wanted to, but generally don’t run toward what they perceive as danger. Another parallel is using traps to snare predators and other fur bearers.

Mantis Shrimp

Muhammad Ali had a mean punch, but it was nothing compared to the mantis shrimp. This guy’s punch can reach speeds of 50 mph. Basically, it pummels prey to death, or at least unconsciousness, before consuming it.

Takeaway: While I don’t expect hunters to punch out their targeted animal, this was too cool not to include. Take inspiration in its abilities and when you strike, make it a knockout punch.

Margay Cats

predator vs prey
Photo: Malene Thyssen

Margays live in the jungle, and they attract prey by mimicking the sound of a baby monkeys in distress. This draws unsuspecting animals out of the shadows and closer to their position where they lie in wait.

Takeaway: One of the most common tactics is using calls to attract game. Hunters can use a long list of calls for a lot of different game animals.


Some snakes use specialty tactics, and venomous snakes deploy venom to dispatch prey. But all snakes express a commonality — striking once prey is within range. They patiently wait until the target is within a reachable distance.

Takeaway: Bowhunters are very adept at getting within close striking distance of game. This is no different than snakes that do the same.

Tentacled Water Snake

Most fish are very in tune with their senses. If they sense a disturbance nearby, they instinctively react and swim in the opposite direction. The tentacled water snake takes advantage of this and uses a tentacle to spook fish into swimming directly toward its mouth.

Takeaway: Another similarity to deer drives, this tactic is commonly used to push unsuspecting deer toward hunters who lie in wait. Hunters should set up along known escape routes.

Trap-Door Spider

The trap-door spider hides in a tunnel that it burrows into. Then, it covers the entrance with leaves, twigs, and other debris. When prey walks by it, the spider emerges and pulls the unlucky critter to its doom.

Takeaway: Just as with the trap-door spider’s burrow, ground blinds are very effective for hunting purposes.


Considered one of the most feared animals in the world, wolves are very skilled predators. They have great tracking skills. They also hunt in groups. Still, it’s their endurance that makes them so lethal. Most of the time, they use long chases to wear down their prey over lengthy distances. 

Takeaway: Tracking game is a great hunting method. So is hunting in groups, where allowed. Even more, where permitted, hunting with dogs can tire down legal game animals.

Predator vs. Prey Bonus: Camo Matters

While not every predator uses it, most benefit from some level of camouflaging. The same holds true for those of us who hunt wild game. Quality camouflage can make the difference in being successful in the game of predator vs. prey.

Final Thoughts

In retrospect, many of the hunting tactics we use today were inspired by hunting tactics used by members of the animal kingdom. Understanding how they hunt, and what it means for hunting, can make us more efficient. Never forget that, and never stop learning.

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