by Kyt Lyn Walken
In a world overwhelmed by technology, some ancient techniques may appear time-wasting and useless.
The mere fact that it needs commitment and time to master them could be discouraging, but it is unrealistic to think that you can gain a skill in a blink of an eye.
Personally speaking, I am not a misoneist for sure. I just believe in the good, old ways. They actually worked for ages, and they can still come in handy when we run out of batteries or when WIFI connection is missing.
In recent years we assisted to a brisk birth Schools and Associations which promote a true come-back-in-style of such skills. They teach friction fire, how to realize primitive weapons, how to set a shelter just using only natural materials, land navigation and how to track animals, especially those who are native to your Country. In the case of Australia, the Outback offers the possibility to spot and to identify tracks by kangaroos, sand goannas, and even venemous snakes and saltwater crocodiles.
Tracking animals to hunt and to survive
Learning how to identify and come along animal tracks provide you several benefits in an emergency scenario.
For example, coming after fresh animal tracks allows you to locate the proximity of a river to get water to filter and purify.
It is also a remarkable aid when it comes the necessity to move your shelter from one spot to another, enabling you to avoid being in close contact with some predators' areas.
Additionally to this, it is useful to know the habits of animals (bedding and feeding areas, for example) in order to understand the more suitable places where to set traps or to start hunting activities.
About Animal Tracking
To the neophytes, Animal Tracking consist in detecting, reading and following animal tracks.
It is pretty obvious how ancient this skill is, if we think about primordial hunters.
Currently this ability is mostly gained and applied in Wildlife Conservation, Antipoaching activities (as we will discover in an upcoming article) as well as in Hunting.
Long-time hunters, in fact, have always relied on their ability to find and to follow tracks, with or without the aid of hound dogs.
Being able to reckon a species from another, and, basically, to know where to look for is far from an easy expertise that anyone can apprehend in one day or two.
The essential rules of Tracking small game
The starting point related to Animal Tracking is the deep knowledge not only of the local fauna, but also the flora. In fact, they are intrinsecally related to the area you are in.
This Art consists of four phases:
The "tools of the trade"are at anyone's reach. They are actually pretty useful when you start to approach to detecting tracks.
- a measuring device, like a ruler
- a torch (mostly a hand torch) to enhance details of tracks, especially in shady areas or at night
- tweezers (in order to remove any debris on the tracks)
- note paper, pen and pencil
Your expertise in Animal Tracking is determined by how many hours you spend on the field, with different soils, different vegetation, different weather conditions as well as different – personal – mental and physical conditions. Never understimate all of them.
Being a good Tracker requires a lot of patience, especially when you are tracking small game.
In the same measure, making mistakes is compulsory, as they lead to a consistent growth.
Senses in Tracking
When we track, we use all our senses but taste. Even if our sight has the biggest task, the sense of smelling and hearing are important too. You track by hearing, seeing, smelling every details around you.
When you hear a sudden noise: you put yourself in alert.
Your brain starts to make deductions about the source and the author of the noise. Animals do the very same, but their sense of hearing is more sharp than ours.
Think now to detect a distinctive wild animals smell. It surely does not belong to any domestic dog: few steps and you run across into the droppings of a roe deer.
Then you know your deduction was perfectly right.
Touch is another important sense. By gently touching the soil that may have been transited by an animal. You may be able to detect if the soil has been "altered" from its natural state. Perhaps that portion of ground is, for example, no more covered by debris (leaves, twigs, ..). The terrain will appear darker.
Variation of the natural state of the environment
The passage of different subjects (animals, humans or even vehicles) can be easily assessed as a distinctive variation of the natural state of an environment.
This happens to be a dogma in Animal and Mantracking, and the key to success in our follow-up.
In such a way, tracks and signs can be considered and treated as disturbances - a common word inside the terminology of Tracking.
The disturbances can present themselves in a wide range of forms.
- Never forget a crucial point: they depend on the terrain they have been left on.
- They can appear as compressions (on a dry leaves).
- They can be flattening or bending (on a grass field).
- They can be seen as transfer (of material, such us mud, which has been remained kind of glued beneath hoofs and claws, for example).
- They can be pebbles or rocks disloged.
- They can also be broken, torn off or bent vegetation.
- Last but not least, they can be droppings.
- Or even hair, sweat, food remains nor blood.
Where to look for animal tracks
Track traps are areas in which it is most likely to spot tracks.
These are mostly sandy, snowy or muddy areas.
Staying close to river beds may be a valuable manner to reach locate a sign of animal activity.
It is not only important where to look but also how to look.
First of all, what we should do is to accurately look at the whole area, evaluating any alteration of the natural state (a broken twig, tracks compressed on the ground: anything that looks like "out of balance").
Being methodic, inquisitive will pave the way to be a good Tracker.
Keep in mind that while men are moved by a specific purpose, animals behave by instinct. The direction of travel of animals follow specific smells and habits, and it may be extremely winding.
How to start
As mentioned before, experience is the main thing.
Let me underline that buying books on local fauna and watching videos on YouTube is certainly a starting point, but I stress out that tracks are in 3d! You need to pay extreme caution while in the Great Outdoors.
By that, you simply need to gain much more experience on what is so defined "dirt time on ground".
Possibly, be paired by an experienced Tracker who will correct your mistakes and help you to do better in your personal path into this Art.
You will be amazed by the successes you will achieve in a short time, if you dedicate to Animal Tracking with humility and passion.
The second step, hunting, is surely based on the type of weapon you chose. No doubt this influences the proximity you need to gain with the animal you are tracking.
Mantracking paired with Animal Tracking when hunting
In an emergency scenario, your Tracking abilities may require a focus on human activity in order to understand if the area you selected as bug out place has been interested by any alien infiltration.
This is why Mantracking can be successfully paired with Animal Tracking. Let me stress out that this is exactly what happened in primitive communities who were focused to protect their borders from predators as well as from hostile tribes. If we are familiar with a certain area, we are mostly like to interpret correctly tracks left by wombats, wallabies, and so on.
Putting yourself in this mental approach will determine a more effective application of your abilities when it comes
- to hunt
- to protect your bug out place
- to defend your family and goods
- to understand how to leave minimum signs of your passage in order not to give away your activities and position
Tracking small game is a matter of patience, dedication and will to learn.
As any other skill to gain, you cannot jump out of the bed one day and claim to be an expert Tracker.
The presence of thousands of people, all around the world, who are truly devoted to Animal Tracking may help you to be paired by a professional located in your area, and to start conquering the first, essential steps into this Art.
About the author: Kyt Lyn Walken is the official European representative and instructor for Hull's Tracking School (Virginia, USA), and she is a certified Wildlife Conservation Ranger for C.R.O.W. (Conservation Rangers Operations Worldwide). She has been an outdoors and tracking enthusiast since childhood.
Kyt currently lives and works in Europe while often traveling overseas.
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