Tracking, what to look for.....

edited November 29 in Training
Most folks have no clue where to begin or even what to look for. Contrary to popular belief, tracking in the suburbs or town is next to impossible if you ain't hunting "Hansel and Gretel", targets don't generally leave breadcrumbs behind. Unless their vehicle is leaking something or has some type of mechanical issue causing the tires to leave marks, you ain't finding them without the use of technology of some type, period. So, this is about the wilderness. Here are a few signs to look for when either hunting food, or chasing fleeing enemies. First off, footprints. We ALL know how to follow those. Down side is, it's only a matter of time before the wind blows leaves, grass, or dirt over them hiding them beneath dead foliage. OR, your target crosses a stream, or worse yet, moves up or downstream in the water. So footprints will only get you so far. There are other tiny little signs that will show you which direction your target went. They aren't fool proof, but, you WILL be following SOMETHING. Snapped limbs, twigs, or sticks. Whether in the tree/bush/weeds or on the ground itself, they ALWAYS lead the way. Learning what a freshly broken stick looks like compared to one broken a few days ago is half the battle. An older break will be somewhat darker in color than a fresh break. It will also have dirt/dust/mud/debris/etc. on the break as to where a fresh one would not. Look for broken or bent limbs and branches on trees, shrubs, and bushes. Rocks and pebbles are a dead give away. If you see a tiny little indentation in the dirt/dead leaves, odds are good that a small pebble that used to sit there is now lodged in the tread of your target's boot. Odds are good that you will find it in some weird, out of place location further ahead. Leaves, both on the ground or on the branch are probably the most obvious clues that you are heading in the right direction. Leaves on the ground can be blown around by the wind, however, it takes a pretty good puff to move last year's leaf collection. Even on a hot summer day, leaves on the ground will be darker in color and somewhat moist on the ground sides. Especially that second layer and below. If you begin to notice even one leaf every 20 feet or so flipped, you got a flight path. Live leaves still on the bush. A tell tale sign, and a more recent one at that. Y'all ever notice that within an hour or so before it rains, the leaves flip upside down? Same in thick bush when something brushes against them. When running through thick bush, any branches pushed out of the way will cause the leaves to flip. Without rain on the horizon, it only takes a few minutes for the leaves to flip back right side up. You start seeing a line of flipped leaves, you know something tore ass through there within the last five minutes or so. Weeds/tall grass. They point in the direction your target traveled in. The feet steps on them and they generally fall forward. Takes a blade of grass roughly an hour to stand back up. Yes, I've spent to much of my life on the forest floor, lol. This leaves me to the last small tip of the day. And it's a good one that MOST trackers overlook. It's almost invisible yet is so obvious, even a dummy can't miss it. COBWEBS. Yep, spiders. Those evil little 8 legged creatures WILL be your demise if you are the one being tracked. I know, I know, "Stop bantering Scout and tell me friggin how!" Well, if you don't know the answer by now, you haven't spent enough time in the boonies to even begin to plan a bug-out route through the woods, you best be practicing more while you can. Take a walk through the woods, then come back the exact way and you'll have your answer. COBWEBS WILL KILL YOU. I'll go ahead and tell you how because some folks who want to live are simply too far from the woods, or, too busy with life to get the opportunity to find out for themselves. "Come on Scout, spit it out already!" Ok, ok, you ready? This is going to be hard to understand, so keep up, here goes..... If you are walking through the woods and you are swatting, waving, or wiping cobwebs out of your face, you going the wrong damn way. Your target did NOT run through here in the last 30 minutes or so, period. Any cobwebs tore down will generally be replaced by the engineering spiders within minutes of destruction. Spiders gotta eat too, it's like reloading your weapon once the ammo is depleted. Spiders are, for the most part, nocturnal. They work at night. You see a trail of spiders respawning webs during the day, you gots a trail. That being said, small game or crawling snipers won't destroy webs above about waist high, so, watch the lower levels of limbs and branches much closer than the waist/chest/face levels. Well, these are the simplest of tips I can muster. There are MANY more, but, most are complicated. I'll let some of the hunters here add those if they choose. But, these should get you started. Hope it helps, Scout out!


  • Border Patrol has some very fine modern day trackers.
  • But, you forgot about Tracking in the Snow......

  • edited December 1
    If you have a morning dew foliage and ground that has been disturbed will be moisture free. I don't know how best to describe how you can spot these areas, other than they look different than everything else. They don't have that shiny dew look to em. Hopefully someone else knows what I am talking about and can maybe explain it a little better.

    In areas with a lot of traffic the definition of the print, amount of debris in print, and soil temp/moisture help determine age of track.

    If you have had dry weather and find a small patch of wet ground or foliage less than 4 feet high somebody/something took a piss.
  • edited December 1
    I got ya Red. It's when the moisture pellets from the dew are stepped on, they push away from their original location making a flatter wet spot dull in color instead of glistening in the light. On branches and whatnot, the water beads simply run off when shaken or moved. Leaving a simple, flat, wet spot instead of pellets of water.
  • Scout_one wrote: »
    I got ya Red. It's when the moisture pellets from the dew are stepped on, they push away from their original location making a flatter wet spot dull in color instead of glistening in the light. On branches and whatnot, the water beads simply run off when shaken or moved. Leaving a simple, flat, wet spot instead of pellets of water.

    Much obliged.
  • Thought of another few things while driving to work this morning. Listen to your environment. Animal warning calls, quail flushing or animals running through brush, even bugs like crickets can give you a clue.

    Ever tried to find that annoying cricket in your house? Little bastards won't shut up until you get close then silence.

    Deer, birds, squirrels, and coyotes have warning vocalizations. Good to know what they sound like it.

    Animals fleeing an area will normally flee downwind of perceived threat. What your tracking may be upwind of the direction they ran.

    Hunting/Tracking becomes less difficult when you can decipher the clues nature is sending you.
  • edited December 2
    Excellent stuff Red, those are some of those complicated ones I was referring to. Looks like I ain't the only one who's spent to much of their life in the boonies. Haha! And to complicate things even more, the wilderness has certain smells, that ain't human, and humans have smells that the wilderness can't produce. I ain't even going to try and explain that one, words fail me. Lol
  • I'm guessing this may be some of the words that fail you scout.

    Human shit don't smell the same as animal shit.
  • Hahaha! Well yeah, for a lack of better terminology. That and deodorants, colognes, perfumes, and the lack thereof. Hygiene is important for long stints in the field. Most folks s crew up and either use those products to clean themselves up, or, they just go nasty. Going nasty is harder to detect..... at first. Just hope that some human isn't smart enough to know how to keep themselves clean using only natures elements. It gives them more of an animal scent, could be quite confusing if they cross the trail of a deer you're hunting. ;)
  • Out here we have Yucca plants that grow wild all around and you can make a soap/shampoo from pulverizing the root. Gotta keep your beard clean and shiny and your feet and crotch from rotting off.
  • Well I thought of a few more little tips y'all might find handy.

    Two of the biggest mistakes I see other folks doing when we're tracking are:

    1.) Their eyes are looking strait down.

    2.) They walk in the tracks they are following.

    3.) They move too fast, and after losing track they wonder around instead of walking a pattern.

    Keep your eyes scanning about 10 yds in front of your position scanning from the ground up to the height of whatever you are tracking. If your following something it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to stare at your feet.

    You would think not walking in the tracks you are following would be common sense, but experience has taught me it ain't very common. Treat it just like a crime and keep the evidence from being destroyed in the event you need to back track and take a second look.

    Tracking isn't a race so take your time. Stop and analyze the area in front of you, listen to your surroundings, and try to think like your target. Quickly moving from track to track does work in a lot of instances, but it's not close to as efficient as taking your time. If/When you lose the track do not start wondering around. Either walk in concentric circles or a parallel line zig zag type pattern. I like to put a high vis marker at my last sign then scan the surrounding area looking for easily identifiable land marks. This helps you walk a more accurate pattern, and the direction of your marker if you lose sight of it.
  • Good video Chappy, I was kinda waiting for someone to scream "BS!" on that "keeping clean with only natures elements" statement. That's actually a WHOLE different training conversation that needs posting. Red mentioned feces earlier. That's actually another topic. Knowing what scat from different types of animals looks like will give you a pretty good idea of WHAT you are tracking. That's something that takes practice and study. Coyote makes pretty identifiable scat, till it's sitting next to Bobcat shit. Better know the difference, cause a coyote will generally run from you, a Bobcat will ball up on your ass and bleed your jugular if you're alone on HIS turf. Which also adds to Red's point about not staring at the ground. Bobcats spend more time in trees than on the ground. They love pouncing down on unsuspecting prey. Now, most of y'all are probably thinking Bobcats are pussies, (pun intended) but they ain't. They'll kill your 110 pound german shepherd in about .006 seconds, so, don't underestimate them. I've seen them weigh in at 70 pounds. That's ALOT of cat for you city dwellers. And my particular AO is wrapped up in them. I've told you all before, I wouldn't last long in the ghetto because I don't know it as well, the ghetto wouldn't last 10 seconds in my backyard. The environment that Red speaks of, it DOES "talk", you just have to know how to listen. Animals will tell you when excitement passes through THEIR particular AO. Tracking is actually relatively simple if you pay attention. Now, I'm not one of those guys who can lay his ear to the ground and say "he went thatem way!", but, I can find it if it's recent. All of the tips we've covered so far are just simply paying attention, no skills required. Maybe one of these days a pro will come along and teach us something intelligent. Till then, you just gotta make due with what simple tips we can get out there to you. Good luck, and happy hunting. Lol
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