Tracking: a pastime with varied purposes

2/6/05

Tracking: a pastime with varied purposes

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

While I was walking through the woods with my 5-year-old son Jared recently, we were checking out animal tracks. The day before, he had asked me when we were going back into the woods.

Jared and I have been tracking since he was 3. Tracking is an activity for both young and old, but especially for kids because they are so curious. That leads to the question: What is the goal of tracking?

Tracking can have nothing to do with hunting or trapping, as it is so often thought. However, that skill is useful for both. The first goal of a tracker should be to identify the animal and then try to figure out what the animal is doing. Consider how it walks, where the tracks lead to, then maybe even track the animal for a while. Winter is an excellent time to do this because there is snow on the ground.

Tracking is useful for identifying animals in your area. The first step is to make a list of all the animal tracks you find in one outing. A good book on tracking, such as Peterson’s field guides are great places to start. These books illustrate the tracks and help you identify them. Next, get a book on good techniques of tracking, like one by well-known survival writer Tom Brown Jr.

The most important thing is just get out there and learn the easy tracks like rabbits and deer, then identify as many more as you can. The rest will follow.

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