The Hirogen are a nomadic species of hunters who have been found across the Delta Quadrant, with some factions separated by thousands of light-years. They view other lifeforms as prey and treat them as such, with little distinction between sapient or non-sapient species.
The only Hirogen met by Starfleet have been part of hunting groups or packs, often of just one ship and sometimes with crews as small as two. When hunting a particularly challenging prey, multiple ships may come together to form a bigger pack. The leader of these groups is referred to as the 'Alpha', who has absolute authority and is supported by the second-in-command, the Beta. It is unclear on what basis the Alpha and Beta are chosen, but likely force of personality and a demonstrated talent in the hunt are as important as experience. This will also affect how long a larger pack will stay together after a hunt for this challenging prey is concluded.
Nothing is known of any hierarchy or authority beyond these individual groups. It would be a mistake, however, to assume they have no sense of cooperation or larger infrastructure, as the USS Voyager encountered a sensor network that reached from the Delta Quadrant to the outer edges of the Alpha Quadrant the Hirogen operated and controlled. This requires those Hirogen to dedicate significant time and resources to something that benefits the whole of their people and aids their cooperation, while denying those individuals the chance to pursue hunts of their own.
All contemporary Hirogen society yet encountered is centered around the hunt. Social status and personal meaning are derived from the life-long pursuit of prey - the more challenging, the better. Hirogen have travelled vast distances to seek out the most challenging and rare targets, as being the first to hunt a certain prey is an impressive feat. It drives the shape of their communities as Hirogen come together in packs and then separate according to the needs of the hunt. It drives their social rituals, their art, and their religious beliefs, from the face-paint they wear during the hunt to the trophies they keep of their slain targets.
They commit to studying their prey in order to understand them, from knowing how to best pursue them to knowing how to best kill them. This engagement with their prey's perspective or culture is off-set by the belief a Hirogen should never sympathise with their target. They do, however, demonstrate a compassion of their own kind, thinking that their prey should never suffer - their hunt is often without personal malice, and a lingering death is often an indication of an inefficient or incompetent kill.
Ancient Hirogen civilization was once expansive and sophisticated, possessing highly advanced technology; it is possible the sensor network dates back to these times, and it remains highly prized and jealously guarded by Hirogen. But there is no evidence in the 24th century of them claiming a homeworld, and some Hirogen have stated their way of life has not changed for a thousand years.
The Hirogen have no formal infrastructure and any encountered in the Delta Quadrant have been packs of hunters; all encounters with Hirogen are potential 'military' engagements. The Hirogen use ships designed or optimised for the hunt, such as sensors utilising a subnucleonic beam to perform rapid scans of other vessels and their crew. These beams can also disable other ships by disrupting their propulsion systems and navigational sensors. They boast powerful tractor beam technology to further pin their prey, and have multiple means of masking their engines and engaging in a stealth mode. Their armaments include torpedo launchers and the ships are protected with shield emitters and monotanium armour plating. They are not large ships, often with crews as small as two, and it usually would take a group to overcome a Starfleet ship.
Their personal weapons are more distinctive and specialised. A standard firearm is a tetryon rifle, and most of these armaments are equipped with sophisticated personal sensors to track prey and reveal bio-data about them. As the Hirogen prize an efficient kill, they may use different weapons depending on their prey.
- The Hirogen are motivated by the hunt; if they are in pursuit of a specific prey, they will brook no obstacle or distraction from their search. While they may seize an opportunity for additional prey, there must be the prospect of a swift kill or the belief this new prey is more 'worthy.'
- Starfleet are rare enough to the Hirogen that they would often be considered worthy prey, especially with the resourcefulness of Starfleet officers and crews.
- The Hirogen are cunning hunters. They will not attack head-on unless they think they will win. Otherwise they study their targets and wait for or create the optimum time to strike.
- While some Hirogen wish to kill their prey personally and perhaps up-close, others may prize success by any means, or accept killing from a distance if it is a result of cunning. The only consistency is that they will seek a trophy from their prey, and only once they are killed.
- Hirogen at Memory Alpha