The science of: Tracking.
Part 1: Tracking has long been a grey area in the UK as a hunting skill, but I know from experience how valuable it can be from seeing routes rabbits take from bury to field to finding the best spot for deer or fox. In the USA many hunters have the heritage of the native Indians as a guide to tracking. Many communities had Indian families so tracking was passed around and the knowledge was kept going. However in the UK, not many hunters can track. It is a skill that is slowly dying out like so many old country skills. Knowing your land is a valuable skill but knowing how the animals move through it is a big bonus! Looking over a field and just seeing hedges trees and grass is ok, but being able to read the signs that are not at first visible will help you, there are several books around on tracking these days, old skills are being re-born to today’s modern world. Many of you will look at this and think he’s talking nonsense but learn from a tracker, I can show you where a rabbit will run to for feeding or where its emergency tunnel is. There are many other benefits to learning tracking skills, from following an injured animal, to being able to track an animal’s route through your lands. As a tracker (still sounds strange calling myself one) I can look at the ground and build up a picture of the activities of the local wildlife. If you take the fox, he will enter a field in a gap he has found or made, He then will normally walk the edge of the filed where he can hunt and hide at the same time, always looking for an opportunity for a meal. He will only cross the middle of the field if he knows there is a better area over there and straight across is the fastest way there. People have lost a major connection with animals is the sense that we are animals, we are not the biggest or fastest but we do have the most evolved brains. As humans we lost some of our animal skills we originally had, our sense of smell has been lost, we no longer need to smell the air for danger so have evolved more for complex smells as opposed to basic ones. Form this I mean, animals can smell a dog or cat or fire smoke from a long way off. But we can smell a fresh cake and tell there are apple sultanas, nutmeg and cinnamon in the cake. The only exception to this is the dog’s nose with 7 million more sense receptors in it; they can tell the cake has Granny Smith apples, Spanish sultanas and Middle Eastern nutmeg. But have no way of conveying this to us. Unfortunately there are people who say they can track when all they can manage is looking at some foot prints in the mud and saying “oh a dog went through here”, there is more to it than that how big was the dog? How heavy was it? Was it walking, trotting or running? As a tracker I can see where it has come from, where it paused to sniff, why it sniffed, the dog’s weight and size, and the most important thing how long ago all this happened. There are several native tribes across the globe that has expert trackers; these folk can tell you a story of the tracks. There are the Hadza people of Tanzania, Who are infamous in the tracking world; they are known to follow big cat tracks from where the animal rested up to its kills. There was a TV documentary a few years back following the tribe out hunting. And they came across some leopard pug marks (technical name for paw prints). The lead tracker almost as soon as he saw the tracks went into a zombie state and just started following the pugs, He then rounded a brush area to a clearing and went onto all fours, and the TV host asked what he was doing, so the tribe leader said it was the animals killing ground, The leader showed the camera man the pugs in the loose dirt, and showed how the leopard had crouched, then just like a house cat, tensed its muscles as could sort of be seen in the dirt, then pounced .It cleared nearly 15 feet in one bound and landed upon an antelope, they showed how the antelope stumbled forwards a few steps then was pulled down and the fatal bite was administered. And the cat then sat for a few minutes then dragged the antelope off into a thicket to eat. The fact remains that they became the cat to interrupt its movements. The Native American Indians are another people who believe in animal spirits, and become them for tracking. They believe that all animals have a spirit and this can be kept happy, made angry etc. In the modern world many people just do not have a bond with nature, I am teaching my children these values, much of the time to their amusement, but in my heart I know they know I am being serious, it’s like the old saying of throwing a stone in a pool, it creates ripples. Those ripples will go from where the stone impacted the water to the outside edges; these ripples are like the natural balance in nature. By stopping and listening to the sounds of nature, it will tell you so many things, the sound of the magpies cackling and the chirp chirp chirp warning call of the blackbird will tell you that danger is about. Whether it’s a cat on the prowl or a fox out hunting… These signs and clues are there, the same as tracking, look at a beach, you will see lots of footprints in the sand, but knowing if it was a man or a lady made them, how they walk, do they limp or in a lot of cases Ladies walk toe down first, as most men place there heel down first. A good way to start is at the beach as you can see how your tracks leave an impression to compare with the other tracks.