The Venarius: How to Be a Paintball Hunter + Tactical Manual
Recently, I went to provide a link to an old article by Dirty Dan (one of the premier Paintball info sites before the turn of the millennium) entitled “Venarius – The Dark Arts of the Paintball Predator" but unfortunately this article was no longer available from Dan’s archived site… The article was so good, I ended up taking my User Handle from it way back in the day.
There was another article that basically copied the gist of it…
Become a Paintball Predator
But I wanted to sit down and create a more extensive version written and updated by myself (with my own experiences) for the paintball community at large, as I believe this info should be passed down to the next generation of Paintballers.
So, without further adieu, I give you my own article on the subject…
The Venarius – How to be a Paintball Hunter!
First, it should be noted that although some of these tactics can be utilized in small fields, they are more for games in which you cannot see your opponent at the start… Most now-a-days call this ‘woods-ball’.
Paintball is like a mental chess game, the larger the field, the more variables; the more to the equation. A successful Venarius, or paintball ‘Hunter’ utilizes these small variables to their advantage. “Venarius” is a conjugation of “Hunter” in Latin. To be a Paintball Venarius requires skill, cunning, stealth, and patience. Few choose to learn the art, but those who do can often turn the tide of a game.
A Venarius is not a sniper, or one who waits for enemies to walk into their previously set lines of sight, no, a Venarius is actively on the hunt, always trying to stealthily move to gain the upper advantage in a firefight, always trying to inflict maximum damage to the other team with a minimal footprint…
This article will be broken down into 4 basic sections:
Many people introduced to the sport in the last decade consider Camouflage to be unneeded. They tend to ‘spray and pray’ behind bunkers while wearing brightly colored attire, almost a ‘tease’ to the other team who can so easily spot them. And while this works under those circumstances (if you’re behind a bunker the whole game, people won’t see that brightly colored jersey anyway), but when they move to another bunker, they will stick out like a sore thumb.
If you are skilled enough, you can in-fact overcome this self-handicap. Back in my tourney days (~2002), I would wear my bright orange PB jersey to the woodsball field to ‘represent’… and it was fun to ‘tag’ someone and then have them kick themselves for not seeing the bright jersey guy…
But wearing a bright jersey is, as I mentioned, a self-imposed handicap. Why? Because Camouflage works – the caveat here being ‘if you know how to use it’. If you plan on running around the field, and shooting up a storm – Camo will be pretty useless for you (or at least its benefits will be lessened a large amount).
Camouflage works because the human eye notices contrasting/familiar shapes (like a human body), and contrasting colors to the background as it scans (the eyes scan in a sideways direction, more on this later). If you can help break-up that solid body shape and match the background colors, you will be harder to detect.
To talk about camo, let’s first break-down the two types of camouflage – Active and Passive.
Passive Camouflage (most types of military camouflage) is meant to simply break-up the human body-shape… and usually involves different shaped/sized blobs of colors seen in the environment. This is the camo a Venarius would utilize, as it helps break up your body-shape when you are on the constant move. You want something that matches the colors of the environment, while allowing you to move more readily. Passive Camo is more versatile and effective if you are on the move.
Active Camouflage acts to blend the person into their surroundings to a more complete degree than passive camo. Think Ghillie suit (or to a lesser extent - hunter camo that looks like a picture of needles + leafs + twigs). This type of camo is excellent for ‘campers’ (the ‘snipers’ out there) that stay very still and don’t move. This is because this camo is designed to make you PART OF the background… but ONLY if you are still. If you are moving around, Active camo patterns are easier to detect then passive camo patterns! Active camo is better if stationary, but worse if on the move!
And I must at least mention Ghillie Suits; traditionally sniper attire personally made to suit each environment using burlap strips dyed + whatever twigs + leafs the person could get… Today on the paintball field you will see more production based ‘net + light fabric’ versions. These better break-up the human silhouette when still, but if you do move, your giant dangling suit will draw more attention than a neon sign (“Why’s that bush running?!”).
Now back to [passive] camouflage and its applications… Recently, there was a fiasco in the US regarding military Camouflage. Congress, in their infinite wisdom, thought they could make a ‘universal camo’ to be useful in ALL terrains. Turns out, their creation, the pixilated “ACU” worked horribly, not functioning quite right in any environment. It was too gray for forest environments, and too green for urban environments. Add to that, pixilation draws attention (nature almost never uses right angles)
The failed ACU camo pattern…
We can learn from their [expensive] mistake… tailor your camouflage to your environment!
There are a plethora of options, I myself use Multi-cam (more shades of brown) in the Spring/Fall…
And then Woodland BDU camo (built for European woods, very similar to New England) in the Summer…
My next set of Camo will be the new Air-force camo, which looks to be a somewhat revised Tiger-Stripe that was so successfully used by British commando’s in Vietnam. This type of camo works extra well because the ‘blobs’ of color are mostly on a left-to-right axis. The human eye scans in a left-right fashion, not up-down, so this type of camo works extra well to break-up your body shape.
Here is the Air force ABU…
And the ‘original’ tigerstripe pattern…
Vs the more common ‘fake’ tigerstripe pattern that you’re more likely to see…
The difference is subtle, but the original Tiger-stripe pattern is one of the ‘holy grails’ of successful camouflage… the knock off… not so much… the devil is in the details!
Some newer cutting edge stuff is pretty sweet as well, check out the new ‘organic-pixel’ Atacs!
Use whatever camo works for you, and as long as it matches the environment relatively well, and you follow some guidelines for movement, you should be fine.
We cannot talk about camouflage without also discussing movement. Here I should mention that movement is the first thing the eye notices. That’s why the guy running across the field grabs your attention more than the guy slowly stalking through. The thing to take-away here, is that fast movement often gets you caught.
This can be counter-intuitive. You want to be a Paintball Hunter, and you have to get yourself into position of advantage, so faster should be better right? Not always.
When at all possible, if you haven’t been spotted yet, you want to remain low + slow. Slow movement attracts less attention, and allows you to ‘stalk’ your prey/target. When I am in a situation where I have not yet been seen, I will be crouch-walking slowly through the field.
Let’s also mention another counter-intuitive to go along with slow movement… Freezing in place. As mentioned, human eye notices movement very well. And if you are relatively well camouflaged, you would be surprised how far ‘freezing in place’ can get you. If I am sneaking up on someone (who doesn’t know I’m there) and the target turns their head and scans my area… I will freeze in position. You would be astonished how often the other person (doing a quick scan, not intending to find a target) will ‘look right past you’.
One recent (more embarrassing) moment, I was already 90 degrees to an opponent, but was flanking further/closer before I attacked. I choose my next bunker and started my move, tripping over a *$#! Branch and falling on my face along the way [even the author makes mistakes!]. Hearing a noise, the target turns and scans the area (me on the ground prone ~40 ft away). I lay perfectly still/silent…
He actually scanned right over me and then turned his attention back to the ‘front’! Only then aiming my weapon, did I take him out…
Try to approach your opponent from their ‘weak side’ ie. Their right side. This approach will increase your odds as [typically] righties aren’t as good turning + aiming to their right as they are to their left… Likewise, if all other variables are equal, you would want to flank to your left + their right.
Of course, if you think they detected you (they are staring/pointing/raising their weapon in your direction) assume you have been spotted and get to safety as quickly as possible! When under fire, move quickly! The ‘stealth’ goes out the window when they know where you are!
Speaking of, let’s talk about that. ‘If they know where you are’ means a lot. One of the keys to successful engagements when you are outnumbered/outgunned involves the element of surprise. One must constantly shift positions if seen, to keep the targets unsure of your exact location. If hankered down in a firefight – just keep moving to keep them guessing! Use a ‘tactical retreat’ whereabouts you can ‘clover’ your way around the opponents if possible…
The Cloverleaf maneuver is designed to consistently throw off your attackers if outgunned. Imagine running in the shape of a clover, and firing at each intersection before the next move…
And here’s how that might look on the field…
Not exactly art but you can see the rough ‘three pronged’ Retreat / Reposition / Attack cycle.
A Venarius is constantly on the move, and rarely hunkers down in a bunker for long. Once your position is known, the element of surprise goes out the window, and when you are outnumbered+outgunned (as the Paintball Hunter tends to be when behind enemy lines), movement is one of your greatest ally’s…
Now we will talk about ‘lines of sight’. When at all possible, you want to mask your movements until it is too late for your target to do anything about it. Once you acquire your target, do this by keeping something (bush, tree, bunker) in between you and your target’s line of sight while you approach. This way, if they haven’t seen you, they won’t until it’s too late! Most people would advance more or less straight at the enemy, instead of taking other avenues that keep their approach hidden.
Examples below. (X = Target, O = Player, orange = player movement, yellow = target sight lines/firing angles)
Most people would take a direct approach, but if you notice X’s line of sight hardly can see O’s movement… especially upon final approach. Most X players will assume O stayed behind initial bunker. The key is to keep other things in your target’s ‘line of sight’ to mask your approach until too late.
Another part of movement to talk about is body-position and ‘surface area’ exposed. The more surface area you present to your enemy, the more ‘target area’ they have to shoot at. When at all possible, minimize your surface area facing your opponent. Most people know about tucking tight into a bunker – and this is the same idea. Which target gives you more surface area (and a better chance) to shoot someone standing or prone?
Here you see the reduced ‘target area’ of differing positions…
[image from dslyecxi.com/]
Staying low has other advantages as well, remember how we said the human eye is used to scanning in a sideways direction, and is not as good at scanning up-down? If you are crouching/prone, there is a chance they will scan right over you, not expecting someone to be so low.
Likewise, new avenues of approach open to you when staying low. While you would have been seen running from one short bunker to another, those same bunkers may block your ‘line of sight’ to your opponent when you remain low (crawling or prone). I cannot tell you how un-utilized the prone-crawl is on the paintball field. I have snuck up on people who thought it impossible to get that close, purely by using low objects to block my line of sight as I crawl up to the opponent. They would have seen me crouch-crawl, but that ‘overturned barrel’ blocks their line of sight when I prone-crawl!
Next, moving while under fire. If you are taking fire, there are some things you can do to increase your odds. First, never take the ‘direct approach’ running straight toward/away from enemy… instead use angles. You want to run perpendicular to your opponent; forcing them to try to ‘lead’ their shots to you… giving them more chances to miss! If someone is running straight at you, it’s easy to aim and fire… if they are running at an angle from you, it forces you to constantly adjust your aim/trajectory. Use this principle to your advantage, and always try to advance/retreat ‘sideways’ angles if under fire!
Next, Fire or Move, Not Both. If you fire on the move, you're slow + inaccurate. You either want to be fast, or accurate. If you're making a move… just move like there’s no tomorrow! If you’re going to shoot, take your time and actually shoot.
When you retreat (grab the flag to bring back, or need to fall back to gain tactical advantage again), move back the same way you came, as you know it was just clear. Logically, this is your best course to withdrawal. Retreat + reposition is always preferred over getting pinned down.
Always keep and eye for potential bunkers… don’t run to a ‘perfect bunker’ if there is nothing near it to advance/retreat to. This keeps your options of movement open, and keeps the other team guessing as to your next move.
A Venarius is typically behind enemy lines, or trying to get there through the fore-front of the battle-lines. As such, your mission should be to breach enemy lines/flank the opponent. The Paintball Hunter is uneasy being pinned down in a firefight for long on the front lines… His native environment is the element of surprise + tactical advantage.
To do this, you should plan to be very light/quick. I rarely bring more than hopper+ 1 pod with me onto field (although I do also carry a backup TPX + 6 clips when needed). You don’t want to carry a full pack of pods onto the field… The flip side of this is that a Paintball Hunter must have PATIENCE when it comes to the trigger! The goal here is to take your opponent out with the fewest shots possible.
Think you have a shot? Have they seen you yet [no.]? Then keep moving/flanking closer until you’re SURE you have a clean shot!
IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN SEEN, KEEP MOVING before you hunker down and take aim. My goal is to be about 120 degrees to my target before I open fire…
This way you will be completely behind their ‘safety zone’ of 90 degrees, and they won’t even know what to think / where it came from!
EVERY SHOT GIVES AWAY YOUR POSITION. If you hope to use the element of surprise, you shall not give away your position until you are behind their lines and can do maximum damage (or you have a guaranteed ‘tag’). If you do otherwise you risk detection and inability to move past their front lines.
One recent game behind enemy lines, I took out 5 people with 35 shots (using a one-handed Spyder pistol w/50 round hopper + 12g CO2)… You don’t want to give away your position unless you’re ensured a ‘tag’.
A quiet marker also helps – but even a quiet shot will still give away your position.
CHECK YOUR TARGETS!!
I have seen newbies empty entire hoppers at a big rock because they ‘thought they saw something’ (no-one there…). The rule about shooting only when you actually have a shot INCLUDES making sure that your aim is true!
There’s nothing more I hate than being shot by my own team behind enemy lines as I approach from behind the enemy for a ‘tag’… If only they took the time to look and see my taped arm before firing!!!!
Now on to ACCURACY – as a Paintball Hunter, the Venarius strives for ‘stealth + sure tag’ not ‘spray + pray’ so accuracy is a must. I’ve been 25 feet away from someone (inch opening) and not fired as I knew it would’ve taken 3-5 shots to hit that inch opening and that would’ve given away my position… Instead I got 10 ft from target and made it in one shot…
Accuracy is partly about muscle memory. Take lots of time at the firing range (or play lots of games!) and spend lots of time with your weapon! It will be time well spent.
If you are in a firefight, it’s typically pop up- fire/duck, opponent pops up-fires/ducks. When you pop out, stay out – and stay aimed at their spot. The second you see movement; FIRE!
Likewise, if you are under fire, pop out, take 1-2 quick shots (to make them duck) before immediately popping out to ‘take position’ and aim at their spot.
Try to NEVER pop out of the same spot of your bunker twice if you can. Predictability will get you tagged. If you’ve been popping out the right side of the bunker for a few times, pop straight up over the bunker once to throw them off.
If you must lead a target (someone running sideways from you), don't try to constantly move your gun + fire at or ahead of him, instead, look where he is going, pick a spot 15-20 feet ahead, and put a straight line of shots in that area that he will have to run through. This is how you properly lead targets more successfully.
Next, a note of Safety;
Never rest your finger on the trigger, only put your finger on the trigger when you are expecting to fire. This keeps accidental shots from occurring.
Never point your gun at someone unless you intend to fire.
Always keep your barrel pointed at the ground unless raising to aim + fire.
Never EVER look down your barrel (even with mask on), it’s a horrible habit that I shouldn’t even have to mention.
A true Paintball Hunter, the Venarius relies upon his skills and tactical advantages to play the game. This means that you will most likely be outnumbered + outgunned. This is not a style of play for those who would whine about ‘cheap shots’ or for those who would dare wipe (the scourge of the sport!).
You are often willfully putting yourself initially into a dis-advantaged position to then gain the upper hand. If you get shot out during this phase; Take it like a man, and walk out with your honor intact. I always even complement my enemy on their shot. You will typically be on the front lines/flanks trying to ‘break-through’, and often this aggressiveness will get you shot… this just comes from this style of play.
As it typically turns out, either I am one of the first out in the game (during my initial movements on the front) or I run through their back lines raking up 5-10 or more tags. But to cheat your way into those tags
A) Robs you of your supposed glory.
B) Keeps you from LEARNING FROM YOUR MISTAKES!
If you wipe, you will never learn to improve your game. And people that find out will spread the word – and your Rambo like tag-count will be worthless.
Becoming a Paintball Hunter, a Venarius, means acting with a code of Honor that includes never cheating. Also, it means never over-shooting an opponent. I shoot [when I have a clear shot] and until I see a break. When I do, I stop firing [even if they keep firing] and yell for them to check the spot (even if it gives my position away). People don’t like to get over-shot, and we want people to have fun so they come back!
Once I encountered a wiper where I saw the ball burst, and saw the wipe. I called myself out of the game, walked up to him, pointed my gun at him point blank and said “I saw the brake, I saw you wipe, I even called myself out of the game… now you’re walking out with me, or getting shot a bit more…”
True I had to leave the game, but I brought out a cheater who was duly embarrassed, hopefully enough to never do it again.
A good Paintball Hunter carries around a positive attitude. He does not boast or brag before the game, or make threats or accusations to the enemy. He lets his tag-count do the talking for him. Don’t engage in verbal arguments. Never swear at people. If you tag someone and they start talking about how they will gun for you, say something like “you gotta find me first” or just smile…
To be a true Paintball Venarius commands respect on and off field, and those that best command respect do so without ego.
And there you have it – how to become a Paintball Predator, a Hunter, a Venarius. This project came out much more detailed and in-depth than I initially anticipated, and much more detailed than the original article even. I hope you enjoyed this read, and can put some of these strategies to good use. And to people that wonder why I give away all my ‘secrets’, it’s for the betterment of players everywhere. Add to that, if I make a few more people better, that mean’s I have to up my own game that much more… and that is the fun of paintball!
See you on the field!
The problem with this "hunter" attitude is the people who love it most wind up being dead weight to their team when there is no opening for such maneuvers. And sometimes you have to create your own opening, which means being a decent, direct, upfront player first and foremost. (1) Let's be honest -- most people who default to "hunter" do so because they simply cannot handle direct engagements. Most of the time, it's a physical fitness issue.
And even if there is an opening, by the numbers, if you're not engaged with an opponent, then you just put your team down by 1 player for that duration. In some instances, that's enough to lose the game. And sadly, most of the time, "hunter" types don't care about their team. They fancy themselves hunters and just like hunting for the sake of hunting.
Nevertheless, step 1 for successful hunting is to pick a team good enough to tolerate you hanging them out to dry for possibly a large portion of the game.
But if you could do that, then why not just join your team in the direct engagement and outright stomp the other team?
Return to point 1: a hunter is born.
Mabye for a big game/scenario
I would argue the other way around, that one needs be more fit than average to truly move in this style.
The majority of players that I face rely on volume of fire to get an elimination. The ones you have to watch are the guys that are very good with their paintball guns, and will fire only a few shots and put paint on you with their first shot typically. Those are the guys you need to hunt... while you can easily take out the sprayers as you encounter them.
I often hunt players on the other team at my field. Especially if they have gotten my flag in previous games. So I find them and shut them down. Then go after their flag...
One of my favorite things to do is to pay attention to where other players go, and then put myself into a position where they will walk right towards me. So I get their first and wait for them to approach me. Very fun to see just how close they will get to you before you pull the trigger and take them out. I've had guys get 15 feet away from me before they saw me! And they would have walked right into me if they hadn't seen me! lol! Watching their eyes and the shock when they realized they were staring at the end of my barrel is one of the best parts of paintball! Especially when they see the paint head right for their face and there is nothing they can do but raise their hand!
1. Have good enough basic physical fitness so he's not locked into being a hunter and be a good player otherwise
2. Know when it's appropriate in the first place
No excuses: you must be adaptable or you are a liability.
Crawling and crouch walking are more for stealth usually and not speed (particularly in this context), and will exercise your core muscles if you're observing proper form. So if those tire you out faster than an all out run, you have a significant weakness in your core.
It's so strange that core muscles are so rarely mentioned in this sport. They are vital to a lot of critical functions.
And a direct firefight does not necessarily imply spray and pray. If that's what direct firefighting means to you... that's an error. You control the amount of ammo you expend, not your opponent (unless he's wiping). Uh oh, does that fall under the category of 'mental chess'?
I assure you it takes more effort and energy to leopard crawl a distance than to run it. There is a reason we bipeds shift to walking and running instead of crawling our whole lives... it expends less energy for distance travelled.
Again,I suggest you go out and try to run 30 ft and then leopard crawl 30 feet yourself...
Past that I'm done arguing the semantics of calorie burning.
But I agree with your statement about the importance of adaptablity.
Unless your team has money on the line, how bout everybody play the game the way that works best for them and stop worrying about semantics? Paintball is fun.
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