Red Dead Redemption 2’s Master Hunter Challenge 6 — Kill five Cougars with your bow, then skin them — will probably test your patience. It certainly tested ours. We spent hours figuring out the best place to hunt cougars, and in this guide, we’ll show you how to reliably find, kill and skin cougars.
And, as a bonus, the location we recommend in our Red Dead Redemption 2 cougar guide — the western edge of Big Valley — potentially allows you to tick off several other things on your Challenge lists, which can take a bit of the sting out of the monotony. We’ll cover that in the final section below.
As far as we can tell, there is no super fast way to hunt cougars. They’re a rare spawn, which basically means you’re likely to spend a bunch of time doing other things between their appearances. But we can tell you with certainty that there is a specific spot in Red Dead Redemption 2 where cougars appear. You may have to wait for them to arrive, but you’ll be in the right place when they do.
There’s a reliable cougar spawn location northwest of Strawberry, on a road that runs north-south along the western edge of Big Valley in West Elizabeth. Make your way there, build a campfire in the area, and sleep until morning. (We can’t say for certain that cougars only appear in the morning, but that’s when we always found them.)
The cougar spawn spot doesn’t appear to be on the road, but rather just east of it. Regardless, when cougars spawn, they cross the road. We’ve seen cougars crossing at the location above enough to say with confidence that sticking to the location circled in the map above (and shown in the image in the next section below) should be your focus.
How often do cougars respawn? Not terribly often. Unless they do. We’ve waited in-game days to see one appear. We’ve also seen one spawn one day after we killed another, just by sleeping (twice in a row) until the next morning. So the presence of a dead cougar carcass doesn’t seem to have an effect on spawns.
Be patient is what we’re saying.
Hunting cougars with your minimap
It’s no more complicated than that. Keep riding north and south, looking for a cougar ( ) to cross the road. Keep an eye on your radar (or minimap) for a red dot, which indicates that an enemy (like a cougar, but also pretty often in this area a rattlesnake) is in the vicinity.
Cougars can take you by surprise, jump you and kill you with a single attack. Use your radar to be aware of your surroundings. In fact, this is a good time to use the Expanded radar (hit down on the D-pad and then Square/X) so that you have a greater sense of what’s nearby.
If you ever see a red dot appear on your minimap, hit the brakes with R1/RB to get off of your horse and equip your bow with Improved Arrows (more on these below).
How to hunt a cougar with arrows
To complete Master Hunter Challenge 6, you’ll need to kill a cougar with arrows and skin it. They’re related requirements, but if you happen to kill a cougar with anything else and skin it, you’ll still get credit for that part of the Challenge.
Use Improved Arrows (which have more damage than regular arrows) to hunt cougars. Hit a cougar in its weak spot (the head and the heart), and you can take it down with a single Improved Arrow. (We also used the Longarm Back Bow, for whatever that’s worth.)
Crafting Improved Arrows
The ingredients to craft an Improved Arrow are an Arrow and Flight Feathers. You get Flight Feathers from skinning flying birds, but keep in mind that Flight Feathers are a distinct item. You might kill a duck and get its feathers and also Flight Feathers. You’re after the latter.
Good news! In Red Dead Redemption 2, birds love to hang out by water, and there’s a river that runs parallel to the road where you’ll find the cougars. If you’re low on Improved Arrows, just walk along the riverbank, using Eagle Eye (press both of the analog sticks) looking for birds. Kill them using Arrows or the Varmint Rifle, skin them and claim your Flight Feathers.
Gather your Flight Feathers and hold Triangle/Y to Rest. You can craft Improved Arrows while you take a knee, or you can head back to your camp if you’d rather (but it’s not necessary).
Other things to do in the vicinity
This area is full of animals, plants and mushrooms. Check your Challenges to see what you need and use the downtime to hunt animals and turn them in to the nearby Trapper.
You can pick up copious ingredients here, including Hummingbird Sage, Wild Carrots, Burdock Root, Indian Tobacco and more. Herbalist Challenges require you to craft items using fungi like Mushrooms and shrubs like Sage (at your campfire), and this is a great place to find many of the ingredients that you need. Use Eagle Eye and scan the area for the telltale particle effects that signify nearby items, and get to picking.