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Tracking?

earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,145 Senior Member
I consider myself a poor tracker. I have had some success at tracking and some failures.

Ive always been fascinated by the idea that a person might be able to tell things like when the track was made, what or who made it, size and weight, possible intentions, health or disability, etc., and so on.

I successfully tracked a bull elk once. Because the dry surface of the dirt concealed moist ground just beneath it. I was able to tell he was just ahead of me. I failed realize how near I was to him and made a combination of blunders that lead to gaining experience rather than a bull elk. Another time I saw a swath of freshly matted grass in the moon illuminated ground cover I was traversing at pre-dawn to get to a favorite dawn location. The way the grass was matted down and other clues like smell and sound alerted me to elk in the area and I managed to get a successful shot from just feet away as light replaced dark. And then there's been many short tacks of wounded game
 Fortunately, all hit hard and fell quickly.

The thing is. Im never absolutely positive about what Im seeing on the ground. Its just my best guess. I'd like to possess the skill of complete confidence.

Can you guys track good?
Do you know any tricks or methods? Are you familiar with any good books on the subject? Right now Im not hunting. I don't know for how long. But I'd like to be a good tracker. I intend to spend time in the woods and field to the extent that I can until I succumb to the eventual infirmity of old age. Whether I shoot anything or not, I intend to hunt.

Replies

  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 24,787 Senior Member
    I do quite a bit of tracking, a lot actually. Been to a couple schools and what not. The best advice I can give you........practice. A lot!  That’s how you get better. 
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 24,787 Senior Member
    And detail. Fine detail. 
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,145 Senior Member
    I figured you'd for sure have some experience and knowledge. The practice will give me plenty to do and look for. I just wish I had more oppertunity available.
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 6,718 Senior Member
    Zee said:
    And detail. Fine detail. 
    This!!!  Be methodical and look at everything from every angle.  Use light to your advantage.  Flat grass from above is a distinct footprint from a low point of view.
    Old West Saying: God created men, but Col. Sam Colt made them equal.

    General George Patton:  “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,214 Senior Member
    edited February 2020 #6
    Back when I was doing Search and Rescue I attended a few man tracking courses put on by some Border Patrol guys...I have always been pretty good at tracking critters especially blood trailing...but what I learned in those classes really opened my eyes and vastly improved my skills.
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • Diver43Diver43 Senior Member Posts: 11,324 Senior Member
    Do not forget to look above the ground. There may be a lack of prints, but plenty of sign.  Bent or broken grass and branches, blood on a leaf, if an animal is wounded.  Stripped branches or fruit if trailing a feeding animal.  Another thing easy to miss in low light but can be as easy to follow as sighs is lack of or disturbance of dew on ground, grass and leaves.
    Logistics cannot win a war, but its absence or inadequacy can cause defeat. FM100-5
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,145 Senior Member
    Good tips guys. I might poke around a bit and see what kind of classes or training is around.
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 24,787 Senior Member
    I figured you'd for sure have some experience and knowledge. The practice will give me plenty to do and look for. I just wish I had more oppertunity available.
    You got a boy.........send him on a route with a GPS/Phone. Lay a trail and then track him. His GPS or phone app should Lat a track down on the map so you/he can see if you’re on the trail. 

    That’s how we practice. 
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,214 Senior Member
    Simple tools also help...Measuring and marking the stride of what/who you're tracking on your walking stick can be helpful finding a lost track. 

    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,318 Senior Member
    Warning: SARCASM ahead.

    I prefer to spend my time practicing shot placement and sharpening my skinning knife.

    You were warned.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,145 Senior Member
    There's some content on youtube.

    One particular instance that revealed my inadequacy was when I got a winter cougar tag some years ago. 

    I took an online tutorial of sorts that was required by the Game & Fish here. It gave fairly detailed info on the difference between big and small cat tracks. It was real hard to guage size and age of the tracks in snow that was in a state of constant change. I let my imagination convince of what I should have known better. After quite a distance and great deal of time following tracks. I found where the cat had slept. The imprint in the snow was made by a cat much smaller than an adult cougar. 

    It was still enjoyable. Id like to spend more time doing that sort of tracking and searching. Hopefully retirement or even vacation time will allow it.

    The heck with shot placement. If I take up elk hunting again, Im going for live capture. March em' back to the truck at gun point. :D
     
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,318 Senior Member
    Snow has amazing properties, for sure. What is an absolute for sure deer track at freezing daybreak sure can look like a big bull elk track after a bit of mid-morning sun hits it.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    I do pretty well with blood tracking.  Never did try to actively track an animal on the move for the sake of bagging game, but I may give it a go at some point.  

    With blood tracking, I found the biggest mistake I made early on was looking at the ground exclusively for sign.  The reality, especially in tall grass, is that blood can easily be a foot or more above the ground on various stems, branches, leaves and stalks.  Never get tied up on the flat earth itself and always scan vertically.  You're far less likely to lose the trail that way.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,145 Senior Member
    Deer are much harder to track than elk. An elk on the run can tear up the ground pretty good. Ive seen deer that appeared to levitate well sneaking.

    I have yet to see an elk leave blood. Even with two 50cal holes.
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,318 Senior Member
    Here's a tip, if hunting the palmettos of Louisiana or Florida. Deer running through palmetto sound just like they're running through water. 

    If you whack one in palmetto, but it sounds like he made it to the bayou crossing.....search the palmetto hard first.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    Here's a tip, if hunting the palmettos of Louisiana or Florida. Deer running through palmetto sound just like they're running through water. 

    If you whack one in palmetto, but it sounds like he made it to the bayou crossing.....search the palmetto hard first.

    Mike
    Very interesting.  I had never heard that before (and probably would've been duped by the sound accordingly).
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • Big Al1Big Al1 Senior Member Posts: 8,039 Senior Member
    I once followed these tracks, buy was I in for a surprise!!
    See the source image

  • bisleybisley Senior Member Posts: 10,798 Senior Member
    I read a couple of books by a guy named Brown (Tom?), back in the seventies or maybe eighties. He was a little bit 'out there' on what I considered 'mystical crap,' back then, but there was no question in my mind about his tracking skills. He did it full time, from early childhood, and was supposedly a master at finding lost children, pets, etc. I don't remember if he was a hunter, but I think not. I picked up a few things from his books that I tried to practice some while doing my daily land surveying work. My hunting opportunities were few and far between during that time, but I was getting a full exposure to nature in many of the places I was surveying.

    The best thing I learned to apply to hunting was just to go back and start over, when all of the sign had disappeared. I have found a few 'lost' whitetails by simply squatting down and panning the area from the last place I found clear evidence. Mostly, they would be laying dead, within about 30 yards. Of course, I was hunting at short range and had stopped taking low percentage shots many years before, so none of them went far.

    As far as tracking a deer that had been wounded with a poor shot, I was never really good enough to find one that remained on its feet for several minutes. That usually turned into a grid search, and if found at all, it would often be because somebody practically tripped over the body.
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 22,394 Senior Member
    I've got one big handicap with tracking. I'm color blind to blood. Greens and reds throw me for a loop. If you show me a big shiny red firetruck I can tell you it's bright red. No problem. But red blood on leaves or dirt and I'm lost, for all I know it's squirrel pee. I've come to deer bedding areas plenty of times and knew exactly what they were. I've even smelled their pee as I had just flushed them out. Down here that's a big problem. The brush can be so thick you make noise no matter who hard you try to be quiet or how stealthy you want to be. You perpetually flush the game in front of you as you try and slip along.

    Now if you're not trying to sneek up on them you will invariably walk right up on them and both you and the deer are so shocked that you don't get a shot. You're so flustered and the deer puts it in overdrive and is over the hill and through the woods before you get a chance to catch a breath. Hogs are even worse.

    I do ok looking for deer I've shot that ran by lookng for where they ran if it's just through grass. I can see where they've cut through the brush well enough. I shot an 8 point one morning that shot like a water melon seed through the trees.  I saw which way he ran and tracked him to a creek bed that forked. I picked one fork and followed it a ways, like maybe 50 yards to no avail then back tracked and came back where I started and followed the other branch and sure enough he hadn't made it 30 yards and there he was, on the side of the creek. I've got pretty good instincts about that. It's mainly when I can't see any grass or brush moved that I get in trouble. Once I shot a big deer right next to the blind I was hunting in and he shot like a slingshot. I got out of the blind and went the way he ran, but he had run on a rocky road and left no tracks and the rocks which were smooth river rocks didn't leave any sign of which way he ran. I never found him though I know as well as I'm typing this I hit him just behind the shoulder. Here was a good example of my color blindness letting me down. That happened before I starting using the load I do now. I think I had loaded with a speer bullet.They didn't seem to expand as well as game kings which I started using about two years after that. Since then I've only lost one deer. Most of them are bang flop kills. Usually, if I'm shooting Game Kings or Combined Technologies Ballstic Tips it's a dead deer deal. You've got to create havoc in the boiler room to put 'em down quick.



    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 22,394 Senior Member
    snake284 said:
    I've got one big handicap with tracking. I'm color blind to blood. Greens and reds throw me for a loop. If you show me a big shiny red firetruck I can tell you it's bright red. No problem. But red blood on leaves or dirt and I'm lost, for all I know it's squirrel pee. I've come to deer bedding areas plenty of times and knew exactly what they were. I've even smelled their pee as I had just flushed them out. Down here that's a big problem. The brush can be so thick you make noise no matter who hard you try to be quiet or how stealthy you want to be. You perpetually flush the game in front of you as you try and slip along.

    Now if you're not trying to sneek up on them you will invariably walk right up on them and both you and the deer are so shocked that you don't get a shot. You're so flustered and the deer puts it in overdrive and is over the hill and through the woods before you get a chance to catch a breath. Hogs are even worse.

    I do ok looking for deer I've shot that ran by lookng for where they ran if it's just through grass. I can see where they've cut through the brush well enough. I shot an 8 point one morning that shot like a water melon seed through the trees.  I saw which way he ran and tracked him to a creek bed that forked. I picked one fork and followed it a ways, like maybe 50 yards to no avail then back tracked and came back where I started and followed the other branch and sure enough he hadn't made it 30 yards and there he was, on the side of the creek. I've got pretty good instincts about that. It's mainly when I can't see any grass or brush moved that I get in trouble. Once I shot a big deer right next to the blind I was hunting in and he shot like a slingshot. I got out of the blind and went the way he ran, but he had run on a rocky road and left no tracks and the rocks which were smooth river rocks didn't leave any sign of which way he ran. I never found him though I know as well as I'm typing this I hit him just behind the shoulder. Here was a good example of my color blindness letting me down. That happened before I starting using the load I do now. I think I had loaded with a speer bullet.They didn't seem to expand as well as game kings which I started using about two years after that. Since then I've only lost one deer. Most of them are bang flop kills. Usually, if I'm shooting Game Kings or Combined Technologies Ballstic Tips it's a dead deer deal. You've got to create havoc in the boiler room to put 'em down quick.and not have to track. That's the best option.





    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,214 Senior Member
    bisley said:
    I read a couple of books by a guy named Brown (Tom?), back in the seventies or maybe eighties. He was a little bit 'out there' on what I considered 'mystical crap,' back then, but there was no question in my mind about his tracking skills. He did it full time, from early childhood, and was supposedly a master at finding lost children, pets, etc. I don't remember if he was a hunter, but I think not. I picked up a few things from his books that I tried to practice some while doing my daily land surveying work. My hunting opportunities were few and far between during that time, but I was getting a full exposure to nature in many of the places I was surveying.

    The best thing I learned to apply to hunting was just to go back and start over, when all of the sign had disappeared. I have found a few 'lost' whitetails by simply squatting down and panning the area from the last place I found clear evidence. Mostly, they would be laying dead, within about 30 yards. Of course, I was hunting at short range and had stopped taking low percentage shots many years before, so none of them went far.

    As far as tracking a deer that had been wounded with a poor shot, I was never really good enough to find one that remained on its feet for several minutes. That usually turned into a grid search, and if found at all, it would often be because somebody practically tripped over the body.
    Met Tom when I lived out in Utah...strange duck but that guy could track a mouse across a parking lot...
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,155 Senior Member
    edited February 2020 #23
    Snake brings up an interesting situation - color blindness - that I'm glad is not an issue for me.  That must make life a helluva lot harder.  I take for granted that I can see blood extremely well.  More than once, a pinhead-sized drop of red on the ground has all of the difference in recovery.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
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