And what about Persistence Hunting?

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(Jarosław Wątroba) #1

Hi everyone!

Out of curiosity, I tried to dig up some research, or any info really, concerning persistence hunting. And I have found this paper: Persistence Hunting by Modern Hunter‐Gatherers (available for free if you sign up)

In this paper, the author discusses how humans evolved for endurance running, first for the needs of scavenging and then, as their tracking ability expanded, for persistence hunting. In his field work with the !Kung of the Kalahari Desert (where the practice is still present today, or was very recently), he collected data on a decent number of attempts to run down a big mammal.

And the results may seem surprising. He concluded that this is actually not just viable, but also very effective means of makin’ meat with better yields than most bow and arrow and other types of hunts (excluding the use of dogs and guns). This assumes the hunter is able to run 20-35km at speeds varying from 7-12km/h AND not lose the trail.

So my question is… why is Persistence Hunting completely gone? Yes, it requires a great deal of physical ability, but people run marathons, don’t they? It also requires excellent tracking skills so as not to lose the trail (if the terrain is difficult). But in theory, if you don’t lose the trail and you keep moving at a decent speed, you will always catch up to your prey eventually. And it usually takes no more than a few hours (2-5h). And you get a lot of meat per successful attempt. And you only need a sharpened stick to do it, really. And you can do it all year round (at least in the Kalahari, according to the !Kung and the author)

What does everyone think? Are there any examples of this being done in the arctic/northern environments? There are more or less trustworthy accounts of persistence hunting from all over the world…

Do you think we can replicate that with enough practice? How would you set about to do it? and finally, isn’t the ability to get big game animals with just a simple spear the ultimate freedom of the human animal?


(Keith Blunt) #2

I saw a YouTube video that discussed persistence hunting about a year ago. Since then, I’ve kept it in my mind as a viable hunting strategy. I think it’s definitly worth investigating further.


I really think it’s the best strategy out there. It’s illegal to hunt with primitive weapons in the US so I’ve only practiced the stalking techniques but it’s surprising how little it really takes to get an animal to give up.

I found that in the high desert at least, running is only done for more than short stints if you’ve messed something up. I usually move slowly and as silently as possible and pop up in random places causing them to run in circles, or let them see me when there’s a dead end canyon that I know they’ll run into. I think that putting light, slightly annoying pressure on them is better than outright chase for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s lots easier to track something that trots for a few hundred yards and stops than something sprinting across the rocks. Also, it saves calorie consumption. The fear hormones have time to dissipate more slowly. The hunter also has more energy left at the end, to make a clean kill.

Using these techniques, I’ve got close enough to pet a few large animals like elk, deer, and pronghorn, and can usually get smaller animals to be totally comfortable around me as long as I stay 15-20 feet away.

A group would make things much easier on the hunt side of things but the processing part is where the group is almost necessary. I can’t wait to get more local people interested in this stuff!

(Rick) #4

No it’s not a real viable way to hunt in NA imho coming from a life time of hunting and trapping on this continent in many diffrent forms ,persistence hunting just isnt a technique that would have been utilised here imo .


It would definitely be more difficult in the woods but a well organized tribe that knows the land would have a really easy time with it anyway.

I’ve found the North American culture’s hunting techniques to be extremely inefficient. This is probably because the techniques evolved from royalty hunting on what were basically their own private game reserves. They didn’t need the food and hunted for sport so maximum efficiency wasn’t the focus. This idea of hunting for sport only was reinforced in NA by wildlife management authorities because there would be no game left if people were allowed to freely use efficient ancestral techniques.

The lack of tribalism and focus on individualism in our culture also makes us less likely to engage in activities that need a well organized tribe to work.

I know for a fact that Native Americans used persistence hunting techniques in the southwest.