Some of the earliest artwork by humans is of animals. Bulls, mountain goats, sometimes birds of the marshes. The artmaking was tied up in huntng, yes. In fact the hunters were often depicted as well. There was an element of prophecy, though. The depictions weren't simply of animals the tribe had killed, or planned to kill. The images made a reality unto themselves.
The above picture is by Cassie Marie Edwards, and more like it can be seen here and here. It's a painting of a figurine, obviously. Meaning that it's two steps away from life: the panther wasn't real to begin with. And yet the eyes convey a feeling. Is this nostalgia for a lost way of making things? Or something else?