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Archive for the ‘Tracks and Tracking’ Category


Allan A Macfarlan writes the following under Indian Hunting Secrets with concerns to reading tracks and foreseeing animal moves. Page 205. Survival Wisdom & Know-How.

After a boy or a man has taken a fair share squirrels and rabbits and has scored on a few deer as a lone stillhunter, he begins to develop something akin to the skill of an Indian hunter or frontiersman. He starts doing the right thing at the right time without thinking too much. That type of skill can’t be learned from any book, but there are some useful things that a book can point out.

The tracks in this book appear on the page as they would in soft snow, damp sand, or mud, though clear prints are rare on the leaf-strewn forest floor or on hard, dry ground. The experienced tracker going into a new region seeks out likely areas where he can clear prints in order to take his own census of the animals in the area. Good trappers are expert at it, and Indians hunters were good too. The trapper doesn’t think in terms of exact number, but somehow, the tracks that he finds tell him whether or not there are enough pelts in the area to make running a trapline there worthwhile.

I wanted to share this excerpt with you because this is the kind of writing and knowledge that needs to become part of you as a hunter. This book compiled by Amy Rost is a true prize. I will also include one of the many tracking tips from Mr. Macfarlan:

Changing the Angle of Vision:
The light is very important because of the shadows it throws. From one angle, the tracks may be almost invisible unless you look closely. From another angle with favorable light, the line of slight depressions or disturbed earth or leaves is clear because or leaves is clear because of the shadows that they cast. If tracks fade or disappear, try the Indian trick of moving from side to side to get the light right.

These pictures are identical with different light, notice how the hoof mark in the top or darker image is more visible.

Survival Wisdom & Know-How: Everything You Need to Know to Thrive in the Wilderness. From the Editors of Stackpole Books. Compiled by Amy Rost.

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2 Hounds and Bear

I wanted to thank the author Olaus J. Murie and everyone who assisted him in producing this great book from the “Peterson Field Guide Series” on animal tracks. It has now joined the rest of the books I have read on my OKB page, which I consider to be a digital treasure shelf.

I also wanted to include a quote that Olaus put in his book by Henry David Thoreau: “If I were to make a study of the tracks of animals and represent them by plates, I should conclude with the tracks of man.” Now I am pretty sure what he meant as a philosopher, was indeed his interpretation of the evolution of man. I wanted to share this quote from the book because as a tracker it is important to have an open mind, add some flavor of philosophy and abstract thinking to your skill.

Tracks are signs of life and confirm the presence of a species in its respective geographic area, basically its habitat. Animal tracks ignite a curiosity in all of us, and as a hunter it does for me even if it means that sometimes I may not harvest even though I have found a set of tracks. It is the joys of constant learning!

Droppings, tracks, scrapping on trees, small nibbling off a bush all tell a story. My belief is that a good tracker can piece together clues and then interpret actual events and if you are also a good hunter ultimately you could potentially find the game that you are pursuing.

So when hunters type the following key words in a search engine “Small Game Tracks” what is it they are looking for? Technical information or the philosophy behind tracking? If this question can be answered but also be understood, then they may start the hunt following animal tracks and conclude the hunt with the tracks of man.

Check out my Photo Gallery page for my growing collection of animal tracks and droppings.

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My experiences in the woods have taught me that tracking is used before and after the shot, first in finding the game and then during the retrieval process. Every sport hunter knows the importance of that first shot and wish for it to be quick and effective, insuring that the game does not wander too far before night fall and most of all does not suffer.

The author Ian Sheldon writes that tracking is a skill that will grow with you as you spend more time in the pursuit of game. This is so true and it is so rewarding to see your skills grow and ultimately improving your chances of being successful in seeing game and your hunt. 

Here is a collection of tracking tips and searching for wounded game: 

-Conduct research on the game that you are pursuing and learn its habits for feeding, resting or even traveling. Learn the time of day you are more likely to see them and most importantly learn their habitat and type of forest and the terrain where the game might be found.

-After firing the shot, allow yourself to calm down and collect your thoughts, so that when you end up at the spot where the game was located, you are able to find clues such as blood trail indicators based on the color on the ground and in the bushes nearby. Look for overturned stones, dirt and leaves that has been displaced. 

-Once you have found some prints look at the type of the print, count the number of toes, check for claw marks, for spacing between the toes and see if there is a heel. Do not limit yourself to one set of prints but use many of them as I have found sometimes they will lead you right to a Snowshoe hare hiding spot. Follow Snowshoe Hare and Cottontail runways or other small game and it might give you clues as to whether they are climbers or live near fallen trees and recesses in the ground. 

-Get yourself a good pair of binoculars and do not just focus on clues but also for the animal itself. 

-Look for indicators of presence of game such as fresh droppings, fresh beds and feeding spots and for recent digging or little chew marks on small tree stubs. 

-Most of us have been reading from a young age using the left to right method and our eyes may at times skip a word or two as a force of habit, this can also happen while scanning the woods. Therefore try scanning the woods from right to left and your eye will notice movement or something out the ordinary more easily. 

-When scanning the woods or fields or different types of terrain, break up the area into zones starting closest to you and moving away toward the horizon. Scan each zone carefully looking for movement and using the sun to your advantage allowing you to notice different colors with better precision. 

-While still-hunting walk very slowly and avoid all types of obstacles being careful not to make too much noise or break branches. Try walking on the outer edge of your boot and avoid rubbing the inside of your hunting pants, from time to time get down on one knee and look around very carefully.

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Contrary to what one might believe still-hunting is not about remaining in the same spot, it is all about the art of stalking. Instead the hunter is spending most of his time moving at a very slow pace through the wilderness scanning for signs that an animal was there. I had an instant attraction to the practice of still-hunting from the time that I started the sport. Is the author Larry Koller right in stating that sitting on a stump or sort of blind waiting for the game to come is not hunting? I believe that whether you have harvested two hare or twenty deer using different hunting methods, most of us deep down agree with Larry, as do most authors that are not afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. However, this might only hold true for small game and some big game. During my hunters course my instructors advised me that stalking black bear was not permitted and most hunts were conducted from controlled blinds or tree stands.

Larry Koller wrote the following in his book: “Currently, the term still-hunting –as used in most whitetail deer country –has no such connotation of skill. Today’s still hunter forgoes the niceties of careful woodsmanship. Instead he plants his butt on a stump, log or rock, and waits there, still enough, to be sure, until a deer wanders by. This may take hours, days, even weeks, depending on how carefully the waiting spot has been chosen. It is a successful way to kill a deer (or other game) if the shooter has the patience enough to wait and is warmly enough clothed to keep from freezing. Strictly speaking, however it is not hunting.

A substitute term for still-hunting is the ancient hunter’s word of stalking. The American big-game hunter and varmint shooter does a great deal of stalking, but only in rare instances would he be likely to stalk a whitetail deer in timber country. The man who stalks his game is the one who has spotted it at a distance too far for him to make a killing shot, and who must make a closer approach, using whatever method he can to conceal his presence until he closed the distance for the kill.” (Koller, 1965, 112)

Koller, Larry (1965). Treasury of hunting. A Ridge Press Book, 112

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