Is Tracking Necessary?
Tracking, a highly once sought after skill continues to disappear with the modern survival movement. We have taken self-reliance and survival and made it trendy, marketing it with tons of gear and supposed know how. We have become a generation dependent on stuff, and have left many of the old world ways behind. A great divide is taking place in every aspect of civilization. We see it in religion, politics, and even now in the survival community. Primitive verses modern techniques continue to be the divide on hot topics such as fire craft, trapping, herbalism, and even skills like tracking. We have convinced ourselves that we can have one without the other, and we are setting ourselves up for failure.
We need to harness a balance of skills if we ever expect to be well-rounded woodsmen (woodswomen for all the ladies out there). We need to stop focusing so much on labels like survival, wilderness living, primitive skills, prepper, naturalist, and what ever title you tend to give yourself. It is time we encompass ourselves with the knowledge that it is going to take to keep our asses alive, no matter what the circumstances. Not living in fear of the unknown, but embracing the adventure of knowing you have what it takes to survive anything.
We all tend to specialize in one area or another, but for many of us we consider ourselves a jack of all trades. However, in my observation over the last few years the one skill I see lacking in most people’s toolbox is the ability to track. Having even the slightest tracking skills will significantly increase your odds of survival, whether it be tracking down an animal to put food on your table, or having the ability to track enemies in hostile environments to avoid detection or capture.
The beautiful thing about tracking is it has a way of connecting us to the land. We begin to see the flow of the earth, and we allow an animal like instinct to kick-in in our minds as we put ourselves in our target’s shoes. We learn to heighten our observation skills and we begin to fine tune our nature awareness. When tracking, your senses begin to become one with nature. The smell in the air and even the taste on your breathe will be more aware. I’m not talking about any type of mystical tracking principles of taking on the energy of the wolf or anything like that. I am simply trying to point out the necessity and wonder of tracking. Don’t cheat yourself from learning this amazing skill.
For those interested in learning more about tracking I want to share with you the 6 Rules of Tracking and the 8 Disciplines of Tracking. These fundamental principles will begin to help you develop your skills. At the bottom of this article I will also add a tracking exercise video for you to begin to get out and train in tracking.
6 Disciplines of Tracking
- Who Made the Track? – Track Identification (Track Features: Track measurements, trail width, track patterns, pace, scat, hair, sign, behavior)
- What Happened Here? – Track Interpretation (Interpretation: Pressure releases, pattern, sign, drags, rubs, scrapes)
- Where was the target going? – Track Trailing (Trailing: Behaviors, motivation, speed, direction of travel, changes of direction)
- When was the track made? – Track Aging (Aging: Wind changes, direct sunlight, temperature, dew, rain – keep a weather journal)
- Why is the target here? – Track Ecology (terrain, resources, etc.) (Ecological: Seasons, time of day, water, food source, predatory pressures, population pressure, mating, survival needs – shelter, fire (for human), water, food)
- How was the target feeling? – Track Psychology (Psychology: Educated conjecture, experience with other disciplines, connectivity to nature, nature awareness)
8 Rules of Tracking:
Trail the right target
Record all trail evidence and sign
Actively stay behind the trails leading edge
Careful not to disturb trail/substrate
Keep confirmation of the trail with the primary sign (10 stick method *See video below)
Intentionally always be aware of your surrounding and know where you are
Never lose the trail or visual contact of your team
Get into the mind of your target and tune yourself to your surroundings
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Justin “Sage Juan” Williams
Director of Operations / Lead Instructor
Sigma 3 Survival School HQ