Tracking Rules




Search  Inquiry Net

Back ] Home ] Up ] Next ]

What Is It All About?
General Training of the Senses
Observation Indoors
Observation Outdoors
Training in Tracking
Human Footprints
Booted Tracks
Human Tracks
Human Tracks: Characteristics
Tire Tracks
Animal Tracks: General
Animal Tracks: Characteristics
Bird Tracks & Snow
Tracking Rules
Author's Note
Scouts Cubs

Scout Books

Site Contents

By Gillcraft

To become proficient in the science of Tracking it is necessary to bear in mind always a few fundamental points that will help us to follow the track as well as to make an exhaustive study of the form of each animals foot, and of his actions under varying circumstances. When tracking an animal, therefore, not only should we be able to identify the animal from the marks he leaves, but we should be able to follow the track wherever it may lead.

The fundamental points that we have to bear in mind when we are out tracking may be summarized thus:

bulletLook into the eye of the sun.
bulletSketch, and memorize, one single print.
bulletGet a comprehensive view of the whole track.
bulletThink with the mind of the hunted.
bulletWhen a track is lost, mark the spot, and cast round in a wide circle.
bulletKeep down wind of your quarry.

Take your landmarks when you start, and look back occasionally as you go along. I will elaborate these points one by one.

The first point - Look into the eye of the sun - has a limited application only, and it would be a mistake to follow it too closely all the way. When studying a track, or a series of tracks, in order to identify the animal that made it, and to deduce all the other points that have already been mentioned from time to time, it is necessary to know how to set about studying. If the sun is shining, it will be found that it casts a shadow on the track, small or great according to the depth of the impressions. If you stand with your back to the sun, you will be handicapped in your scrutiny because the shadows will not show up. If, however, you face the sun, you will see a mass of detail which would not be so obvious from any other angle. You follow this point then in order to be in a position to carry out the second point.

It should be obvious that you would not follow out this advice as you proceeded along the track, and endeavor to keep the track always between yourself and the sun. You have naturally to proceed in the direction that the track runs! I would not waste your time stressing this point, if it were not for the fact that I have known boys glibly repeat, "Look into the eye of the sun," and think that that applied to the way in which they were to walk!

Too much importance cannot be placed on the study of the track when first it has been noticed. It will well repay you to make a careful, patient and prolonged study of the first clear impression that you come across. If you can sketch it all, it is worth while to sketch that impression in your notebook, putting down measurements, length and breadth, and any particular peculiarities that you may notice. In any case you should try and keep the appearance of the impression in your memory.

You will remember how the Khoji was trained; the careful study of an impression was the first point that was rubbed into him You will find several instances in Scouting for Boys of the ease with which a trained tracker can pick out the track of one particular animal from that of others, and that is what you may have to do at any moment on your track Animals are not so considerate as to avoid any marks made by other animals, and frequently you will find that the track you are following crosses other tracks, or is crossed by them. You will then have to pick out the particular track you are following from the others, and, unless you have made a careful study of, and remember, the exact picture that one impression makes, it will be impossible for you to distinguish one track from another at all.

The third point - Get a comprehensive view of the whole track - is as important as the second, but for a different reason. It is obvious again that if you had to go along studying each mark that the animal had made on the ground, it would take you ages to progress any distance at all. Speed in tracking is of some importance, if you hope to come within close distance of the animal you are tracking, and so you want to get the pattern of the track into your mind's eye. By doing this you can follow your track quicker because a glance ahead will show you where your track goes. It is an interesting fact that usually it is more easy to see a trail, a series of tracks, by looking some distance ahead than by looking at it from more or less straight above. This is especially the case on hard ground, on grassy land, or when the dew is on the grass or road.

When I was not quite so "old and feeble" I used, as I have mentioned, to do a lot of paper chasing on horseback, and a very fine form of paper chasing it is too. I was not a particularly good rider; my horse was not a particularly speedy animal or fine jumper, but we worked together. In addition to that, both of us used to look well ahead. In fact as often as not my mount was the first to spot that the paper turned, and I could feel him gathering himself together to take the turn. He used to go along moving his head slightly from side to side. As a result, between the two of us, we used to hold our own fairly well against much better riders and against horses that were worth two or three times as much.

So much for following the track along, but now we come to a point when we are in doubt as to which way the track goes. The marks we have been following seem to peter out all at once without any warning, even although the character of the ground may not have changed. It almost seems as if our quarry had disappeared into thin air. First of all then we should try to follow the precept - Think with the mind of the hunted. It is exactly the same advice as was given when we were dealing with the Detective and Deduction. We want to try to look at the problem from our quarry's point of view, and to ask ourselves, "Now, if I was a donkey, say, and was being chased, where would I go when I reached this spot?" If it was a rabbit, he might dart into a nearby coppice. If it was a hare, he might go straight on. If it was a man, obviously he would try to get under cover. By following out this policy it is possible frequently to go straight in the direction that you consider the hunted animal would have gone, and to pick up his track again on some favorable ground. In Yarn 12 of Scouting for Boys you will find a very apt illustration of this point.

It is not only when you have run off the track that you should keep this point in mind, but all the time, because if you know the animal's habits, and ask yourself what it would be likely to do as you go along, you will know where to look for "sign" which, again, will help you to follow the track all the quicker.

If the track has been lost, and your essay to place yourself in the position of the animal has failed, then the next point comes into play - Mark the spot and cast round in a wide circle. If you begin to tramp round about indiscriminately you can give up the track at once, for ten to one you yourself, or your companions, will obliterate any "sign" that there may be about. Place a hat or staff, or some other prominent object, on the spot where you first realized that you had run off the track. If there are a number of Scouts with you, it is not a bad plan to place a reliable Scout there, as then you can go farther afield and keep in touch with the spot by word of mouth. At any rate, when the spot has been marked, go right out to a flank, 10, 20, 50, 100 paces - it all depends on the type of country you are moving through and the animal you are tracking - and then start to walk round the circumference of a circle of which the marked spot is the center.

Move ahead first of all, but do not stop until you have completed the circle - unless you have found the track - for your quarry may have doubled back on its tracks. If there are two of you, each can move out to a different flank, and each make a circle. If there are more than two, let the others halt and stay where they are without moving. If you are unsuccessful with your first cast round, don't give up; move farther out and try again. You will remember the story of the Australian tracker, Tiger, and how he cast round the fencer's camp in order to find the tracks of the runaway again. The camel story in Yarn 12 of Scouting for Boys, which I have already quoted, is another excellent illustration of this particular point.

It is not necessary for me now to elaborate the point - Keep down wind of your quarry - for it has already been discussed in the chapter on Stalking - Points to Observe. But it is a question where you bring this point into play. Just as a track does not always lead into the eye of the sun, so it does not always go up wind. You may have to track down wind in order to follow your quarry, but, if the "sign" tells you that the animal is near at hand, you may have to leave the track altogether and cast round in the hope of getting down wind of the animal before you are noticed.

Then the last point - Take your landmarks when you start, and look back occasionally as you go along - is of extreme importance whenever you are out in the open, in strange country, or even, in country you know when it is getting dark or misty. The reason for the observance of this point is that you should be able to find your way back to your starting-point wherever your track may have led you. Even in this country it is possible to get lost - I remember when at school losing the whole of my XV for several hours during a training walk on the moors when the mist came down - and no Scout should set forth on an expedition unless he is quite certain of his bearings, and turns round every now and then to have a good look at the country he has passed through.

Frequently as we go along we see a tall tree in front of us, and say to ourselves, "Oh, we'll remember that tree when we are on the way back." Having passed the tree, we fail to turn round and have a look at it from the opposite direction. If we did, we might quite likely find that the tree did not stand out from the others at all. We may have been coming down a slope, or there may have been other fairly tall trees on the near side. Most of us have experienced the same sort of sensation when out hiking. On returning along the same road as we went out, suddenly an uneasy feeling has seized upon us that we have taken a wrong turning somewhere. We don't recognize the road, it looks entirely different; and then we turn round a corner and see an inn which we remember passing on the way out, and are reassured.

In that delightful book, Jock of the Bushveld, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick tells how he and Jock got lost at the end of an unsuccessful chase after a herd of koodoo:

"I had not once noticed our direction or looked at the sun, yet when it came to making for camp again the idea of losing the way never occurred to me. I had not the slightest doubt about the way we had come, and it seemed the natural thing to go back the same way. . . . So off we started for camp and jogged along for a good time, perhaps half an hour. Then, little by little, I began to feel some uncertainty about the way, and to look about from side to side for reminders. . . . At the first puzzled stop I tried to recall some of the more noticeable things we had passed during the chase. There were two flat-topped mimosas, looking like great rustic tables on a lawn, and we had passed between them; there was a large ant-heap, with a twisty top like a crooked mud chimney, behind which the koodoo bull had calmly stood watching us approach; then a marula-tree with a fork like a giant catapult-stick; and so on with a score of other things, all coming readily to mind.

"That was what put me hopelessly wrong. I began to look for particular objects instead of taking one direction and keeping to it. Whenever a flat-topped thorn, a quaint ant-heap, a patch of tambookie grass, or a forked manila came in sight, I would turn off to see if they were the same we had passed on the way out. . . . When it comes to doing that sort of thing your judgment is gone and you have lost your head; and the worst of it is you do not know it, and would not believe it if anyone could tell you so. I did not know it; but it was nevertheless the fact."

The two of them actually made two complete circles in opposite directions trying to find their way back, and then Fitzpatrick gave it up and decided to settle down for the night. When wood had been gathered, Jock scented something he knew, moved a few paces in a direction they had not been, and began to wag his tail gently from side to side. Fitzpatrick walked over to him, and looked over his head, and there, about three hundred yards off, were the oxen and the herd boy in his red coat.

Training in Tracking

Outdoor Skills






Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
What Is It All About? ] General Training of the Senses ] Observation Indoors ] Observation Outdoors ] Training in Tracking ] Human Footprints ] Booted Tracks ] Human Tracks ] Human Tracks: Characteristics ] Tire Tracks ] Animal Tracks: General ] Animal Tracks: Characteristics ] Bird Tracks & Snow ] [ Tracking Rules ] Appendix ] Foreword ] Author's Note ] Scouts Cubs ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
Activities ] Archery ] Axe, Boy Scout ] Axe, Saw, Forestry ] Axe, Saw,  Knife ] Axe Use: Beard ] Axe Use: Seton ] Axe Use: Traditional ] Axe Throwing ] Beds, Woodcraft ] Bedding Materials ] Bicycle Maintenance ] Birch-Bark Torch ] Birds ] Bird Houses ] Blocks Tackles Purchase ] Blood Red Cross ] Broom: Camp or Witch's ] Buttons ] Campcraft ] Camp Hygiene ] Camp Planning ] Campfire Programs ] Catapult ] Chainsaws ] Checklists ] Chuck Box Riddance! ] City-Craft ] Compass Bear Song ] Compass, Home-Made ] Cooking ] Cotton Kills Bear Song ] Deduction in Tracking ] Deduction & Detective ] Drum ] Dyes ] Edible Plants ] Equipment, Leader ] Equipment, Personal ] Equipment Maintenance ] Equipment, Lightweight ] Equip, Pickle Bucket Camp ] Estimation ] Field Signals ] Fire-Building ] Fire Building ] Fire Laying ] Fire Lighting ] Fire Starters ] Fire: Rubbing-Stick ] Fire Types, Wood Types ] Fire Council Ring ] Fires: Woodcraft ] First Aid ] First Class Journey ] Flint & Steel ] Flowers ] Forest ] Gesture Signals ] Ground to Air Signals ] Handicraft Stunts ] High Adventure ] Hiking ] Hike Planning ] Indian Sundial Clock ] Insect Collecting ] Insect Preserve ] Indian Well ] Knife & Hatchet ] Knots, Bends, Hitches ] Knots: Diamond Hitch ] Knots: Lashings ] Knots: Rope Work ] Knots: Seton ] Knots: Traditional ] Knots & Whipping ] Lashings ] Lashing Practice Box ] Lace or Thong ] Learn by Doing ] Leave No Trace ] Leave No Trace ] Lights ] Local Knowledge ] Log Ladders, Notched ] Log-Rolling ] Logs: Cut Notch ] Logs Split with Axe ] Loom and Grass Mats ] Lost in the Woods ] Manners ] Maps ] Map & Compass ] Maps: Without Compass ] Measurement ] Measurement Estimation ] Menu Worksheet ] Menu (Adult IOLS) ] Mosquitoes ] Mushrooms ] Night Tracking ] Observation ] Old Trails ] Paints ] Pioneering, Basic ] Pioneering Models ] Plaster Casts ] Preparations ] Proverbs ] Rake ] Rope Care ] Rope Making ] Rope Spinning ] Scout Reports ] Signal & Sign ] Sign Language ] Silent Scout Signals ] Smoke Prints ] Snakes ] Spanish Windlass ] Spoons ] Staff/Stave Making ] Stalking Skills ] Stalking & Observation ] Stars ] Stools ] Story Telling ] Stoves & Lanterns ] Summoning Help ] Sun Dial: Scientific ] Survival Kit ] Tarp Poles ] Teepee (4 Pole) ] Tent Care ] Tent Pitching ] Tom-Tom ] Tomahawk Throwing ] Tomahawk Targets ] Totem Making ] Totem Animals ] Totem Poles ] Training in Tracking ] Tracks, Ground, Weather ] Tracking & Trailing ] Trail Following ] Trail Signs & Blazes ] Trail Signs of Direction ] Trail Signs: Traditional ] Trail Signs for Help ] Trees of the NE ] Wall Hangings ] Watch Compass ] Weather Wisdom ] Wild Things ]

The Inquiry Net Main Topic Links:
 [Outdoor Skills]  [Patrol Method [Old-School]  [Adults [Advancement]  [Ideals]  [Leadership]  [Uniforms]

Search This Site:

Search Amazon.Com:

When you place an order with Amazon.Com using the search box below, a small referral fee is returned to The Inquiry Net to help defer the expense of keeping us online.  Thank you for your consideration!



Amazon Logo



Scout Books Trading Post

Dead Bugs, Blow Guns, Sharp Knives, & Snakes:
What More Could A Boy Want?

Old School Scouting:
What to Do, and How to Do It!

To Email me, replace "(at)" below with "@"

If you have questions about one of my 2,000 pages here, you must send me the "URL" of the page!
This "URL" is sometimes called the "Address" and it is usually found in a little box near the top of your screen.  Most URLs start with the letters "http://"

The Kudu Net is a backup "mirror" of The Inquiry Net.  

2003, 2011 The Inquiry Net,  In addition to any Copyright still held by the original authors, the Scans, Optical Character Recognition, extensive Editing,  and HTML Coding on this Website are the property of the Webmaster.   My work may be used by individuals for non-commercial, non-web-based activities, such as Scouting, research, teaching, and personal use so long as this copyright statement and a URL to my material is included in the text
The purpose of this Website is to provide access  to hard to find, out-of-print documents.  Much of the content has been edited to be of practical use in today's world and is not intended as historical preservation.   I will be happy to provide scans of specific short passages in the original documents for people involved in academic research.  


Last modified: October 15, 2016.