Visual tracking is nothing more than being able to be more aware of what is going on around you at any given time. If you want to be able to see more tracks for tactical/self-protection or for hunting reasons, being aware of all that surrounds you is important, not just the tracks. Simply by placing yourself in the position as it relates to the sun, could mean the difference between you seeing some tracks and you not seeing those tracks.
It is easy for someone that is new to awareness training to get focused in on simple tasks and not take in the big picture of a situation. For example, you have interest in tracking a deer, and you have your head down and looking at the tracks. You could easily miss the deer directly in front of you. Consider it from a tactical perspective. You go into a house to clear it, and you enter rooms, opening doors, covering your sectors of fire but fail to look up. What if the “bad guy” had climbed up into the ceiling or was upstairs in a two story building, or similar?
Your awareness for both your own self-protection in your daily life and especially as an outdoorsman requires you to have 360 degrees of awareness around you at all times. Consider yourself being in a bubble and your attention spans out in all those directions that cover you in the bubble. In our tracking classes at Nature Reliance School I the importance of this skill in the following manner. When we cover micro tracking, sometimes referred to as step-by-step method, I typically hang a training “red gun” in a tree near head height along the track line. The students will inevitably get focused in on the tracks and walk right past the training weapon pointed right at them and never know it was there. When I take them back and point it out, it leaves an impression that is not easily forgotten, which is our purpose.
Beyond Cooper’s color code of awareness, which is a sociologicial understanding of your surroundings, we can use an understanding of nature to help and assist us as well. For example do you understand that most animals, including humans, will use the path of least resistance when moving through an area? Understanding this will help us as we track others for our self-protection or animals for food. For example, if we see that the prey that we are tracking is not following this pattern then it is probably due to certain issues:
- They are stressed and not making sound movement strategies.
- They are using counter-tracking measures.
- They are moving in the dark, and cannot see what they are walking into.
What role does the sun play in your ability to track in an environment with leaf litter as baseline? Is that different from what you might see in an arid environment without such ground debris?
Questioning yourself in such situations, particularly in training, are the ways in which you start to see more that surrounds you. For example, last year, I spent several weeks studying the skin prints within turkey tracks, because I did such intensive study on a small aspect of the track I now regular see these indentations as I walk through a forest area. Not just the the scratching, or the track, but parts inside the individual track.
About the Author
Craig Caudill is the Founder and Chief Instructor of Nature Reliance School. He leads wilderness/urban survival, land navigation, scout/tracking, defensive tactics classes and more for private, public and agency sponsored events on the federal, state and local level. He has an incredibly active online school with students worldwide in which he teaches many of these same skills as well. He has been interviewed numerous times for TV programs on the topics of survival and preparedness. He actively writes for several blog sites, magazines, as well as does free instructional videos for two youtube channels. Craig also has advanced rank in both Judo and Aikido and continues to teach and train after 20+ years of training in each and is also an avid student of all things gun. Forever a student, Craig always attempts to find ways to help others to develop their mindset and critical thinking skills so they can think on their own and for themselves.