Tracking can be a powerful skill if you know how to use it properly. Part of understanding tracking, is by practicing and utilizing the “super seven” characteristics to examine a track. Along with those seven items, there are a few more things you can do to really hone your tracking skill. Before you can really begin honing your tracking skill, you will need to learn the fine art of actually seeing the track. From there, you will soon learn how to see all the little details about the track.
One method of viewing a track is, sun-track-you. Basically, you are looking at the way the light hits the track. Typically, the sun is going to be your light source. Because of this, your position in relation to the track is crucial. You need to be able to see the entire track. Casting a shadow with your body could interfere in the process.
Using Light to View a Track
When examining a track, you want the track between you and the sun. This allows you to see those super seven characteristics that are so important in identifying a track. Remember, you want to look at the texture, outline and shape of the track you are examining. You need uninterrupted light to do this accurately. If the sun is impeded, you can apply the same method to a flashlight or other light source. Place the light on one side of the track and yourself on the other, creating a sandwich effect with the track in the middle. If you are carrying a compass or signal mirror, even better. You can use the mirror to reflect light onto a specific area of the track for closer examination.
Get Down and Dirty
Tracking is not all about simply standing and observing. You are going to need to get low and possibly, dirty. It is imperative you look at the track from various heights. This allows you to see more detail than you would if you simply stared down at the track. This is especially important in your early days of training. As a beginner, you will likely need the added viewing angles in order to see everything your track is telling you.
Once you spot a track, don’t get all excited and rush right into the examination of the track. There are a few basic steps you should do before you begin your perusal.
- Spot the track
- Examine the track from your current location and take in the surroundings.
- Go for it! Begin your track examination
Taking the time to get your bearings and examine the whole site is the key to not contaminating the tracking site. Remember, a track is only part of the equation. You are looking at the surrounding environment as well. Not to mention, you may inadvertently cover an existing track with your own. Part of your tracking process is to look for a rhythm to the tracks. If you interrupt this rhythm, you are hindering yourself. It is entirely possible the track you spotted is not alone. Taking the time to examine the area before you go traipsing in will help you to spy other tracks that may help you in your process.
One of the last, and probably most important tips of tracking, is remembering to keep a notebook with you at all times. Be prepared to make sketches of what you see and take plenty of notes. This practice is a tracking basic. Nearly every trainer or school will teach you this important lesson. Don’t worry about your artistic ability. Sketching tracks is essential to honing your skill. You are not trying to make some grand piece of artwork. You are simply sketching what you see. Keep in mind, only sketch what you actually observe, not what you think or envision is there.
Craig Caudill shares his knowledge of survival techniques at www.dansdepot.com. When he is not tracking or blogging he is an instructor at the Nature Reliance School.
Continued from Tracking - An Essential Skill The Super Seven