India has been identified as a source country for the illegal international trade in endangered pangolins, “scaly mammalian anteaters”, widely considered as the “world’s most trafficked mammal”. In this study, we investigated the involvement of hunters belonging principally to three locally prominent tribes (Biate, Dimasa and Karbi) in Assam State, Northeast India. Based on the results of interviews with 141 individuals, we conclude that all three tribal groups engaged in pangolin hunting between 2011 and 2016. Although pangolin meat is used locally, we found that hunters largely targeted pangolins for their scales and that substantial commercial gain via urban middlemen has now supplanted low-level traditional use as the primary driver for this activity. On average, each hunter captured one pangolin per year with the potential to earn 9,000 INR (135 USD) for a single animal (equating to approximately four months average income). The majority of hunters (89%) stated that pangolins were less abundant than they were five years ago, which suggests off-take is unsustainable. All hunters interviewed appeared to hunt pangolins occasionally, regardless of tribe, demography or income, which suggests that any mitigation strategy should focus on rural hunters. Whilst interventions to reduce poverty are no doubt required, we argue that such interventions alone are unlikely to be effective in reducing pangolin hunting. Rather, there is a need for co-ordinated packages of mutually reinforcing interventions to address this pangolin hunting in a more comprehensive manner. In particular, implementing a demand reduction strategy targeting urban consumers is urgently required.