Hunting and gathering was for modern humans the primary source of sustenance for the vast majority of our evolutionary timescale. And while the gathering part provided most of the food, hunting had the highest risk v. reward, i.e. if you killed a single boar, your family could eat for a week.
The ways you can hunt are as diverse as they come. Modern-day hunting may make you think of an orange vest and a rifle or those ridiculously overdressed guys on horses, but in reality a lot more is involved.
Just think about all the different methods you could use to catch an animal other than manually doing the killing yourself. Trapping for instance, is a huge part of hunting. Whether you set snares, dig a hole with spikes in it, or rig some rocks to fall, it's all considered trapping. Animals also play a big role. Hunting with dogs or falcons is still commonplace today. Of course, there are many more varieties and tactics used, of which tracking, driving and the use of camouflage (both visual and olfactory) are prime examples.
RuneScape's hunting seems to be little different. The skill has a wide variety of methods and tools available, including some that you won't find in the real world. Not only can you hunt in every conceivable terrain type, the prey is just as versatile, ranging from small burrowing creatures, to large game and birds. The same goes for the ways you can use your catch. Whether the animals are used as weapons, tools, food or pets, it's all there.
But hunting in the real world requires patience and skill far more than repetition. Simply setting up a box trap in the same location over and over again, KNOWING that that Chinchompa is going to spawn all but trapped inside it, seems to completely kill the definition of hunting.
The same goes for game that you'd expect to travel in herds. Normally these cover vast distances and need to be tracked down before any actual hunting can be done. In RuneScape, the only creatures that truly travel this far are some disguised penguins.
With the Herblore Habitat update, two important pieces were attempted to complete the puzzle that is Hunting. Changing the conditions and surroundings to attract the right type of game is still essential for the Aboriginals today, and varying the types of trees and flowers in the Habitat does just that. The other piece was to allow hunters to go for a more diverse set of rewards, as up to that point, only the Red Chinchompa's were truly of any use. Sadly, most of the update went to the Herblore skill.
While Hunter is yet to have truly high level (80+) material other than the odd Impling, I do feel that it has the potential to be one of the most complete skills to date, beating even Construction and Dungeoneering. The sheer diversity of it, even though some of it is not quite as rewarding, shows what the skill CAN be.
But the way RuneScape works has effectively trapped Hunter in its current form. Although it could work the way Farming works (do the work and come back a while later to reap the rewards), I doubt we'll see anything like that. I mean, would you wait an hour to collect 5 Kyatt furs? Of course not.
So, without going to much in a prediction mode, I do expect to see more of the same for high-end hunting. But if it builds on what they were attempting with the Herblore Habitat, and have the bounty of the hunt branch off into other skills (Prayer, Crafting or Cooking, for example), It might just end up as being my favorite skill.
PS: Could we change the name of the skill from Hunter to Hunting to match it with the other skills? While were at it, do the same for Prayer and Slayer.