I have a newsflash for you. That nicely outlined track with lots of tread pattern in it. The one with all sorts of detail that gives you loads of information. Yeah, about that. It rarely occurs out there.
Rarely during any tracking event will you get one nice big beautiful track, particularly in a wooded environment with lots of ground leaf litter. In an arid environment with lots of sand, yes. Not in my neck of the woods you won’t. For those who track for tactical, SAR, hunting or just for the enjoyment in my area of the world, we must look to other means to help give us the information we are looking for.
Tall vegetation will help this tremendously to assist in determining direction of travel. Hopefully you watch a lot of Joel’s shows, in it you will see him while he is evading others, doing counter tracking to ward this off. For those of us that are simply tracking a quarry that is not purposely employing counter tracking measure, we can get a lot of indicators when we change from one strata to another or go from one type of vegetation to another.
Vegetation, particularly grass, will offer us “pointers”. In essence what happens is grass and other taller vegetation will follow along with your feet or lower legs as you walk through it. It will then get caught up, mixed up or otherwise twisted upon other pieces of similar vegetation. In this manner the grass will “point” in the direction of travel.
Let’s consider this from a naturalist’s perspective. Grass and other vegetation grows towards the sun. It will never purposely get entangled upon itself because it is always reaching upwards to the sun. Therefore if you trailing or tracking a quarry and you see grass that is not doing that, you should note this. It is what we call inconclusive sign. Meaning that it suggests that something has made the grass appear in that manner, but without more detail it does not tell us we are on the trail of the quarry we are after. If we get a good direction of travel, then hopefully we can follow it to more conclusive sign that tells us we are onto the quarry we are after.
Any good observer knows how to recognize the absence of the normal or the presence of the abnormal. I have studied the human condition from a hunter’s, hand-to-hand, and tracker’s perspective for many years, and I regularly come across this mindset in all that I do. I wish I knew who originally stated it. It is so true when it comes to tracking. If you are looking at some tall grass and you see that there are no pointers, you can surmise it is less likely your quarry passed in that direction. By so doing you eliminate that travel corridor as an area to investigate for further sign. If however you see one blade of grass that is out of place, you at least know it is more likely and you can focus your attention there when looking for more sign.
Nearly always in tracking our goal is to close the time and distance gap between our quarry and ourselves. By finding some grass “pointers” we can certainly save time in doing exactly that.
Until next time, come one, join in, let’s learn together!
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.