The first Wide Game a Troop plays may seem a fiasco; in spite of very careful preparations, the scouting element in the game may have been faulty or wanting. In talking over the game with the Patrol Leaders, the Scouters will be able to point the moral--the Patrol Leaders will probably have seen it for themselves--that the Scouts lack the necessary skill in stalking, planning movements, and so on, and that it is, therefore, essential that these Scouting activities should be developed. If this is done, each successive game will prove increasingly successful and thrilling.
One of the primary requirements of a Wide Game is ability to move fairly speedily through the countryside without being noticed. This requirement even enters into the following of a treasure trail or into a man-hunt. In the former case, too much noise or obvious movement may give away clues to opposing Patrols; in the latter, the fugitive may be lying in wait in order to catch his pursuers unawares. Animals, including the human variety, are apt to do this when least expected, so it is best to be wary and on the alert at all times. Games of the raid or cordon-breaking type obviously entail the exercise of a good deal of stalking.
It is impossible to make a list of the activities in which practice is required in any kind of order of importance, but here are some of the subjects about which knowledge is required in order that a Wide Game may be really enjoyed by those taking part in it, and that it may be of benefit to them and develop competence in Scouting:
Stalking; Following a Trail; Tracking (men, animals, vehicles); the Use of Cover, Camouflage or Protective Coloring; Disguises; Observation; Deduction; Pathfinding; Knowledge of Countryside; Map-Reading; Starmanship; Woodcraft; Weather-lore.
This is a comprehensive list, and it is obvious that one should not prevent a Scout from taking part in any Wide Game until he has had training in each and every one of these subjects. Two of them may, however, be regarded as essential to a successful game--Stalking and Pathfinding.
I propose to take each of these subjects separately and say a few words about each.
STALKING: Camp Fire Yam No. 14 in Scouting for Boys contains a number of suggestions in regard to the practice of this art, and should form the basis of the training in it that is given to the Troop. Supplementary information and advice can be gathered from Chapter XII of Scouting Out-of-Doors and from Chapters VI, VII, and VIII of Training in Tracking.
The points to bring out specially in stalking practices are balance and quiet movements. Stalking itself is the ability to move as speedily as possible from place to place without being seen and without being heard. Training can be started indoors with various forms of blindfold and other games, as, for instance, "Listening game" (p. 26, Gilcraft's Book of Games), "Sleeping Pirate " (p. 38), "Night Attack" (p. 42), and "Granny's Footsteps" (p. 107). Such games will train Scouts to move quietly and in a balanced kind of way so that their movements are always under control which is essential to good stalking. Practice can also be started indoors with the various progressive methods of Stalking as detailed in Chapter VII of Training in Tracking.
Out-of-doors training can be continued by means of the games suggested in Camp Fire Yarn No. 14. In order to be able to stalk adequately a good deal of practice is required and a good deal of patience on the part of both Scoutmaster and Scouts, but too much time should not be spent on training exercises. The training should be put to the test in a game as soon as possible, and the Scouts will then quickly learn the wisdom of what they have been taught and will prove to themselves, by the mistakes they make, the value of paying more attention to advice, and of putting into practice the suggestions received.
FOLLOWING A TRAIL: Camp Fire Yam No. II deals with this subject, but it needs to be supplemented by the information contained in Chapters IX and X of Training in Tracking. Training indoors can be given through any game which calls for quick sight such as "Thimble Finding " (p. 135, Scouting for Boys). Outdoors training will start with the practice given for the Second Class Trail Test. This is of a simple character as are all the alternative suggestions contained in "Follow the Trail" (p. 136, Scouting for Boys). Training in this subject should be given progressively so that the Scouts proceed from the following of simple trails to those which come under the heading of Tracking. The trails used should not be too long, and should be under the supervision of a Scouter, Patrol Leader, or of a Rover Scout who is giving a helping hand. Here the various Treasure-Hunt (and American Treasure Hunt) Wide Games will, in themselves, give a considerable amount of practice if applied progressively.
TRACKING: We have already so much information on this particular art available that it is best to say next to nothing about it here. Camp Fire Yarn No. 12, Chapter XIII of Scouting Out-of-Doors, and Training in Tracking from Chapter X onwards, contain a mass of suggestive information, games, and practices. "Track Memory," "Track Drawing," and "Spot the Thief" (p. 148, Scouting for Boys) are good games to --start with. From the point of view of speed in bringing the two sides of a Wide Game into contact, it will be found that any tracking exercises brought into the game must be of a simple character.
More attention might be paid to the tracks of vehicles and the tracks of a motor down little-frequented lanes and across fields may well add to the interest of a game.
The Use Of Cover: Here again the suggestions given in Camp Fire Yarn No. 14 are of real value. This subject may be regarded as the negative side of Stalking, the positive side being the actual movements made to get into contact with the other side or at close quarters with one's quarry. Practice, apart from lying quiet behind different types of obstacles, must be given outside in the open as it involves the study of ground.
The Scout has to learn to take advantage of undergrowth, ditches, folds in the ground, and he can only learn by having these advantages demonstrated to him. The natural tendency to crawl down a path through the woods or long grass must be conquered and such open places left severely alone. Tigers, leopards, and other stalking animals teach us the lesson of moving alongside such open places, but just under cover. The use of cover involves the qualities of patience and self-control, as the Chief Scout well illustrates on p. 159 of Scouting for Boys:
CAMOUFLAGE: The value of camouflage, or protective coloring, was completely demonstrated during the Great War, when it was used with good effect both on land and at sea. Here again Camp Fire Yarn No. 14 gives a number of suggestive practices and demonstrations. These suggestions should be actually demonstrated out-of-doors to the Troop, using both single Scouts and a Patrol at a time. Incidentally any such demonstrations will show how the slightest movement attracts the eye and focuses attention on that spot. This particular subject draws attention to the fact that anything shiny or gaudy about a boy's Scout uniform renders it more difficult for him to engage in Scouting out in the open. That is a point to which Scouters would do well to pay attention when they are considering the adoption or alteration of uniforms for their Troops.
DISGUISES: We all like dressing up; that is why we frequently affect departures from the normal Scout uniform perhaps! Boys especially like playing a part, and disguising is very good practice for them, both in observation and self-assurance. If one is self-conscious when one has dressed a part, or if one has failed to study the characteristics of that part, the chances are all in favor of the disguise being penetrated. "Dispatch Runners" (P. 53, Scouting for Boys) shows how disguises can enter in to a Wide Game of the cordon-breaking type.
Some advice in regard to practice in disguises is given in Chapter V of Training in Tracking, but the best way to get Scouts keen on the job is for the Scoutmaster to show them the way. Rover Scouts differ considerably in their attitude; some will need a considerable amount of encouragement; others will require none at all, rather the reverse.
OBSERVATION: I think all Scouters now realize the importance of observation in the training of the Scout. Scouting for Boys is full of it from cover to cover. Observation entails not only quick sight but an almost unconscious habit of noticing things. Camp Fire Yam No. II is specially useful in illustrating this.
Indoor practice starts with almost any kind of sense training game, is carried on through Kim's Game, the Shop-Window Game, and many others too numerous to list. The only advice I can give now is to start small and not expect the boy to remember too much at a time. The whole of the training should be done through games and competitions so that interest is kept alive. It is also a good plan to encourage a boy to notice things about which he himself is keen, be these things motorcycles, airplanes, birds, or people. Variations of "Far and Near" (p. 136, Scouting for Boys) are excellent practice at all times.
Observation, again, belongs to the negative side of stalking, and is of great importance if any base is being defended against attackers. It also enters into all forms of trails, treasure-hunts, and man-hunts.
DEDUCTION: Deduction follows closely on Observation. We are an inquisitive lot; we notice some " sign," we want to know why it is there, who made it, when it happened. These three questions: Why?, Who?, When? are the foundations round which our deductions should be built.
Deduction is fully dealt with in Yarn No. 13, and the information contained therein can be supplemented from Chapters XV and XVI of Training in Tracking. Deduction will enter mostly into the type of Wide Games that are classed as Treasure-Hunts. Practice indoors and outdoors can be given in any of the interesting ways suggested by the Chief Scout, the use of Sherlock Holmes' tales and of a sand-track or sand-tray being found of special value.
From the character training point of view it is worth while emphasizing the benefit of observation and deduction in securing intelligent and reasoned thinking in our Scouts.
PATHFINDING: In talking on the subject of "Finding the Way" the Chief Scout says: "Among the Red Indian Scouts the man who was good at finding his way in a strange country was termed a 'Pathfinder,' which was with them a name of great honor, because a Scout who cannot find his way is of very little use " (p. 65, Scouting for Boys).
A certain amount of training can be given to the Troop on the lines of Camp Fire Yarn No. 5, so that when they get out into the open country on a Wide Game they can be allowed to work in pairs, or even singly, with some chance of their not being lost. This training is mostly of a theoretical nature, and so should be strengthened by actual practice in the open in different types of country, and Wide Games themselves will provide opportunities for this practice. I should, however, like to stress the need for the theory being taught to Scouts as well as the practice being given them. Most of the books on Explorers and Adventurers will provide illustrations of the need for a sense of direction, and it is this sense that we want our Scouts to acquire.
The Pathfinder badge can be used as an incentive, and the more work done by individual Scouts in connection with this badge the better. The new Climber and Explorer badges may also be utilized in order to encourage individual study in Pathfinding. This subject leads us to the various ways by which we can become Pathfinders, e.g. knowledge of the countryside, map-reading, and so on.
KNOWLEDGE OF THE COUNTRYSIDE: Apart from what has already been said in regard to Pathfinding, games like "Spotting the Spot" (G. B. G., P. 30) can be utilized in training. Expeditions, in pairs or by Patrols, along given routes in the neighborhood will also be found useful. Such expeditions can be combined with other Scout activities--Nature study, the taking of plaster casts, rendering of reports, making of sketch maps, etc. Trails and Treasure-Hunts can both be organized so as to take the Troop through various parts of the neighboring country which would normally lie undiscovered. The importance of compass directions and of fixing on landmarks should be taught and demonstrated.
MAP-READING: The Scout who is able to read a map property and find out his position and his route from it is at a great advantage when it comes to Wide Games and other outdoor activities. A good deal of advice on this subject will be found in Exploring, which seeks to expound the advice given on "Exploration" in Yarn No. 5:
Later each pair of Scouts should be asked to follow a map trail. Quite good point-to-point races can be arranged in this way, Patrols starting at intervals and speed being restricted to Scout's Pace. " Games in Pathfinding " (p. 72, Scouting for Boys) gives this idea.
STARMANSHIP: Romance can be introduced into Pathfinding by night by setting a route by the stars. Although Wide Games by night will be of very occasional occurrence so far as Scouts are concerned, there is no reason why they should not mark a development, and be more frequently used, for Rover Scouts. There are possibilities 'here which are as yet unexplored.
WOODCRAFT and WEATHERLORE can be taken together as being inter-dependent. The influence of ground, time, and weather on tracks is treated on in Chapter XXIII of Training in Tracking. In Wide Games Woodcraft can be chiefly applied to watching the behavior of animals and birds, since they may give warning of the presence of a member of the other side. Particular attention should be paid to the alarm notes of the Blue Jay, Blackbird, and many others. The trouble is that such birds may warn the other side of your approach, and that calls for more careful and wary stalking on your part.
I have said quite enough for the Scoutmaster to realize that the practice of Wide Games can serve to encourage a study of many Scout activities, and that the study of such activities will lead to a greater enjoyment of these games and to their being of more value in the training of the Scout. We must see, however, that too much time is not spent on preparation and training. It is the game itself that appeals to the boy. Scouters should realize its training value, Scouts should see its fun. The two are by no means incompatible with each other.
The whole art of Scouting for Boys lies in the admixture of the two together, and this chapter has been written with the express purpose of giving the Scoutmaster a few suggestions as to how this can be done so as to secure the best result.
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Last modified: October 15, 2016.