According to Zaroff, why is Rainsford the ideal prey in "The Most Dangerous Game"?
Rainsford is an accomplished hunter and is internationally recognized for his hunting expertise. When Rainsford first meets the general, Zaroff mentions that he has read Rainsford's book and is familiar with him. During their first dinner, General Zaroff explains why he has resorted to hunting humans. Zaroff has become bored with hunting animals because he has superior skills, intellect, and experience. The next day, General Zaroff tells Rainsford that the man he killed the previous night lacked the ability and resources to challenge him. When Rainsford initially declines the general's offer to participate in the game, Zaroff explains how hunting Rainsford would be exciting, as he would make the ideal prey.
Unlike many of Zaroff's victims, who have no experience with hunting, Rainsford is evenly matched with the general. Rainsford understands the intricate details hunters examine while they are searching for their prey. He possesses the intellect, stamina, and resources to challenge the general in the "most dangerous game," which is why he is considered Zaroff's ideal prey.
In The Most Dangerous Game, Zaroff is an extremely competitive hunter. He has hunted wild animals for many years with great success; however, he is tired of the same experience all the time. To that end, Zaroff has decided to create his own hunt: he thinks that hunting humans is an ideal hunting experience. Rainsford is another great hunter, but he thinks Zaroff is completely crazy. Zaroff is trying to explain to Rainsford why he is the ideal prey for him:
"I wanted an ideal animal to hunt," explained the general. "So I said: 'What are the attributes of an ideal quarry?' And the answer was of course: 'It must have courage, cunning, and, above all, it must be able to reason.'"
Zaroff thinks that Rainsford is the ideal prey because of everything else, he can reason. An animal cannot reason, but a human can reason anything. Rainsford is also just as accomplished at hunting as Zaroff, so this will be the ultimate challenge for Zaroff. Zaroff, however, underestimates his prey this time.
Zaroff has grown tired of hunting animals with lower level thinking. He is interested in hunting humans for the greater challenge of matching wits, or intellectual capacity with his prey.
Rainsford is the ideal prey because he is a hunter too, so therefore, his strategies will provide Zaroff with the maximum challenge for a hunter. He is excited at the prospect of hunting someone who is his equal as a hunter.