What elements of "Hunters in the Snow" suggest a serious, literary work rather than an entertaining yarn about three hapless hunters?
"Hunters in the Snow" is designed to evoke a traditional male-bonding adventure story, but alters the narrative to show human failure and selfishness. The three hunters have little care for each other, instead focusing on their personal issues, and when Tub and Frank bond at the end, it is over their shared flaws instead of mutual respect. Even Kenny being shot is treated as an actual tragedy instead of a life-obstacle to be overcome:
Tub shot from the waist. Kenny jerked backward against the fence and buckled to his knees. He folded his hands across his stomach. "Look," he said. His hands were covered with blood. In the dusk his blood was more blue than red. It seemed to belong to the shadows.
(Wolff, "Hunters in the Snow," classicshorts.com)
The serious nature of the narrative, combined with the seeming unconcern of Tub and Frank for Kenny once they realize that they have bonded, shows human nature as flawed instead of heroic, and as embarrassing instead of humorous. There is nothing to laugh about in this story, and the end is as bleak as the winter snow itself.