by Kyt Lyn Walken
The skill of tracking people and animals is an ancient and fascinating one that has been passed down through generations and has evolved with the advancements in technology. This art has maintained its authenticity and consistency over the years and is applied in various fields ranging from tactical and search and rescue operations to wildlife conservation and forensics. It is an incredibly versatile skill that has stood the test of time.
In an emergency situation, like the one suggested by the title of this article, tracking can truly and deeply make a difference. Way before knowing how to cover your tracks, you must become, a proficient Tracker, putting yourself on the field and applying your acquired abilities in detecting and following tracks, with under different conditions:
– the type of soil
– weather conditions
– the gear you have on
Being track aware is important for both Tracking and Anti tracking techniques.
The approach to this Art relies on one essential element: observation.
Visual investigation not only brings you into the development of a fundamental awareness of any context you are in (I am talking not only of the Great Outdoors, but also of any urbanized area), but it also gives you all the crucial elements to understand what really happened in a specific place, at a specific time frame.
This is, essentially the goal of Tracking activities and the core of this entire Science, as often experienced Trackers define her.
Tracking is, long story short, like solving a puzzle: you pick up all the pieces, then you analyze them and, ultimately, you then get the whole picture.
If this sounds easy for you, putting yourself "dirt time on ground" may surprise you.
Certainly, some terrains are more likely to contain and retain tracks (so called “track traps” in the Tracking terminology,) like muddy, sandy soils, or on snow, but Tracking reaches her high levels surely on tough surfaces like dry bed of leaves (or pine needles), craggy slopes or freshly bush hogged praires. The more a terrain appears to be arid, the more challenging following tracks will turn to be.
In fact, those tracks – entire or partial – that you can clearly see on a specific soil, mostly rich of humidity, elsewhere can appear to be quite impossible to detect. Especially for Novice Trackers.
But if you apply your common sense, mated with the critical ability to “take risks early“, as Special Air Service always recommends, you will do good in this Art. To respect and never understimate the terrain is the very starting point, especially if you find yourself in a bugging-out situation.
Relating antitracking and counter tracking tecniques that may be applied in such a condition, let me quote you this sentence:
"Of all the specialist activities relevant to the prosecution of a counter-insurgency campaign, none is more important than the provision of trackers.” – Frank Kitson, British counter-insurgency practitioner, and theorist
The expression “counter tracking” stands for all the techniques and strategies employed to reduce the effectiveness and speed of the Tracker and/or the whole C.T.U. (Combat Tracking Unit) or even to defeat him.
All the books related to combat tracking emphasize the fact that the tracker must always stay vigilant and be 100% aware if any of these tecniques has been engaged.
There are three main categories of the most common Counter Tracking techniques used:
In the pursuit to apply some antitracking techniques, (British Antitracking Principles), we must avoid
- walking if we can step over
- leaving the geometry of our pattern (even a portion of it) on “track traps”
- laying on soft terrain
- bending what we can move
- breaking what we can flex
- cutting, starting fires and so on
- using deodorants
If we find ourselves needing to cover our tracks, the toughest deception techniques to identify (and those which often involve a significative loss of time and resources) consist of:
– splitting of a party/more parties (where you have more than one person in your group).
– changing direction at a certain point, like a tree, or a river
– cutting the corner of a trail
– slipping a stream (entering and traveling along a watercourse for a period)
The approaches to Antitracking are not only extremely various, but they all also depend on the scenario we are in, the features of the whole situation and our abundance (or lack) of resources. Knowing which one appears to be the best to apply is up to our experience and to our considerations and analysis of what the emergency situation requires.
About the author: Kyt Lyn Walken
- Certified Wildlife Conservation Ranger at Conservation Ranger Operations Worldwide
- Official Representative & Instructor at Hull’s Tracking School
- Directora de Rastreo Humano por Dynamic Tracking (Spain)