hunting phrases and idioms

Complete list of Hunting Phrases and Idioms

Hunting is the human practice of seeking, pursuing, capturing, or killing wild animals. Following I have provided for you a complete list of hunting phrases and idioms together with their meanings and examples.

Many of these idioms and phrases have originated from hunting but have taken figurative meanings over time.


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Complete List of “Hunting” Phrases and Idioms

call off the dogs

Meaning: stop someone behaving aggressively towards another person
Example: Call off the dogs Harry. He’s apologized, let that be the end of it.


Meaning: an important/skillful/capable/successful person
Example: He’s a hotshot stockbroker. I trust him with my money.

bark up the wrong tree

Meaning: pursue the wrong thing
Example: I think you’re barking up the wrong tree, James is definitely gay.

hound someone

Meaning: harass, bother, annoy
Example: The paparazzi continuously hound celebrities.

long shot

Meaning: a guess/bet/suggestion with little chance of success
Example: I’ve put £10 on Tottenham to win the league. It’s a long shot, but they’re my team.

not by a long shot

Meaning: not at all
Example: I haven’t finished decorating my house yet. Not by a long shot.

keep at bay

Meaning: keep at a distance
Example: The ewe kept the wolf at bay whilst her lambs escaped.

sitting duck

Meaning: an easy target
Example: The soldiers ran out of bullets; they were sitting ducks for the enemy.

be in the hunt

Meaning: to be in a group of people who are all in pursuit of specific achievement, award, or goal.
Example: Lots of excellent players are in the hunt.

run rings around

Meaning: outclass/a lot better than someone at particular activity
Example: Grandad is old now, we run rings around him.

have a dog in the hunt

Meaning: To have some vested interest in or something to gain by a given situation. Often used in negative constructions.
Example: A: “Are you going to watch the big game tonight?” B: “Nah, my team’s not playing, so I don’t have a dog in the hunt.”

hunt for (someone or something)

Meaning 1: To engage in the sport of hunting.
Example: Last I heard, they were going out to hunt for quail.

Meaning 2: to search for someone or something.
Example: I’m hunting for an extra cookie pan, but I can’t find a thing in all this mess!

hunt after (someone or something)

Meaning: to search or look for someone or something.
Example: Please try not to worry too much; the police are hunting after the suspect right now.

hunt high and low (for someone or something)

Meaning: to look absolutely everywhere for someone or something.
Example: I hunted high and low, but I couldn’t find my passport anywhere.

hunt through (something) (for something)

Meaning: to dig or search aimlessly in or through some cluttered place or collection of things in order to find something.
Example: I caught my brother hunting through my purse again.

hunting and pecking

Meaning: a method of typing in which one seeks out and presses each letter on the keyboard individually, especially using only one’s index fingers to do so.Example: Hunting and pecking was the only way my grandmother knew, because she just couldn’t develop the muscle memory to remember where each letter was on the keyboard.

hunt the gowk

Meaning: to play a prank on someone on April 1 (April Fool’s Day). A “gowk” is a fool. Primarily heard in Scotland.
Example: Watch out, John always hunts the gowk on April 1.

run with the hare and hunt with the hounds

Meaning: to try to support both sides in an argument or fight.
Example: They want to keep the peace and have everybody happy. For this reason, they learn very quickly to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. Note: A hound is a dog that has been bred for hunting.

hunt someone or something down

Meaning 1: to chase and catch someone or something.
Example: I don’t know where Amy is, but I’ll hunt her down.

Meaning 2: to locate someone or something.
Example: I have to hunt down a good dentist.

hunt someone or something out

Meaning: to find someone or something even if concealed.
Example: We will hunt them all out and find every last one of those guys. We will hunt out all of them.

the/(one’s) old hunting grounds

Meaning: a location where one used to frequently hunt.
Example: It’s good to be back in the old hunting grounds after so many years. This is where my pa taught me how to shoot.

happy hunting ground

Meaning: a place where one can find or do what one wishes without restriction.
Example: The North Shore is a happy hunting ground for antique collectors.
Note: This term refers to the Native American idea of an afterlife where hunters find unlimited game. [Early 1800s]

be on a witch hunt

Meaning: to seek to blame and punish people who hold unpopular views and opinions, often under the guise of some other investigation.
Example: These baseless claims are part of an organized smear campaign by disgruntled fans who are on a witch hunt against members of the cast they don’t like!

that old dog won’t hunt (old-fashioned Primarily heard in US)

Meaning 1: that claim, argument, or explanation is inaccurate or baseless.
Example: A: “Our company could have really been successful if you hadn’t held us back like that!”

B: “Come off it, Jack, that old dog won’t hunt. I’ve done all I could to make this company a success, and you know it.”

Meaning 2: that idea or proposal is not viable or has no chance of succeeding; that won’t work.
Example: A: “Why don’t we try lowering the price?”

B: “Nah, that old dog won’t hunt. We need something that grabs people’s attention, not just a cheaper product.”

hunt where the ducks are

Meaning: to pursue or look for one’s objectives, results, or goals in the place where one is most likely to find them.
Example: If you’re looking to expand your customer base, you need to identify who would benefit from your business the most and then hunt where the ducks are.

snipe hunt

Meaning 1: A practical joke in which the victim is sent on a hunt for a fictitious animal called a snipe.
Example: When I was in the Cub Scouts, the youngest members were always sent out on a snipe hunt by the counselors on the night of our first big campout.

Meaning 2: by extension, any hunt, search, or quest for something that is fictitious, non-existent, elusive, or misleading.
Example: The president has pledged to make universal healthcare a reality, but I think he’s really just on a snipe hunt.

grinning like a shot fox

Meaning: smiling uninterestedly or smugly, looking stupid while smiling, showing that they don’t really understand what’s going on, like the exposed teeth on the corpse of a fox.
Example: she was greening like a shot fox when she heard the news.

tall enough to hunt geese with a rake

Meaning: much taller than a person of average height.
Example: She’s so tall she could hunt geese with a rake

Fair game

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Meaning: acceptable to target, criticize or attack
Example: “when it came to practical jokes, he regarded anybody as fair game”.


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Additional notes

It is worthwhile here to mention some important points about the action of hunting. Humans have been hunting for millions of years mainly for food and useful animal products (fur/hide, bone/tusks, horn/antler, etc.).

However, in recent years hunting has been forbidden for specific animals, mainly the ones who are in danger of extinction. That is because environmentalists have warned that extinction of any kind of animal anywhere in the world has proven to be destructive to the nature.

Therefore, ethics of hunting have been determined to decrease the danger of extinction. Ethical hunting means that a person knows and respects the game hunted, follows the law and behaves in a way that will satisfy what society expects of a hunter.

Ethical hunters are familiar with the places they hunt, the wildlife that live there and the way they should behave when hunting.
Grammatical points

I would also like to tell you important points about the word “hunt”. This word can be used as a noun and as a verb. The definition of each part of speech of this word is provided here together with examples.

Hunt (verb)

Meaning: to chase and try to catch and kill an animal or bird for food, sport, or profit
Example 1: Jack and Charlie like to hunt/go hunting (= chase and kill animals for sport) on the weekend.
Example 2: Cats like to hunt mice and birds.

Hunt (noun)

Meaning: a search for something or someone:
Example 1: After a long hunt we finally found a house we liked.
Example 2: Police are on the hunt (= searching) for the kidnappers.
Essential “hunting” vocabulary

Here I have provided for you the essential hunting vocabulary in the form of 4 notes:

Note 1: The animal that is being hunted is called the “game”and usually includes mammals and birds.

Note 2: A person participating in a hunt is called a “hunter” or (less commonly) “huntsman”.

Note 3:The natural area used for hunting is called a game reserve.

Note 4: The experienced hunter who helps organize a hunt and/or manage the game reserve is known as a gamekeeper.

Concluding note

In today’s lesson, I provided for you a complete list of “hunting” phrases and idioms. I mentioned some important points about the action of hunting as well because I thought it was necessary for you know about them.

At the end, I mentioned some grammatical points about the word “hunt” and I provided the essential “hunting” vocabulary that you need to know when talking or writing about this issue.

I hope this lesson was useful and practical to you. Visit my page for more interesting English lessons!


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