Beginner Tracking - Tips?

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THOaken

Native
Jan 21, 2013
1,299
1
27
England(Scottish Native)
Hello, everyone. I think I'd like to start tracking. This year seems a good year for it as finally I feel comfortable in nature and have moved to a place abundant in woodland habitat.

I've always been inspired by tracking and I thought it's something I'd like to do one day, but I didn't feel comfortable or knowledgeable enough about the outdoors at the time. I think I can say my position has changed in that regard and I feel ready at the start of the new year to researching tracking. I can imagine reading sign of a deer and following it across the woods to find a group standing in a clearing and it's a very pleasant thought. Tracking is obviously very hard to do, but I'm willing to put the effort in and it seems a very rewarding part of Bushcraft or woodland skills at large.

Would anyone be willing to provide resources or tips? I believe there is a certain book that Mr. Mears used when he started, but I can't quite remember the name.

Thank you very much in advance.
 
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Will_

Nomad
Feb 21, 2013
446
3
Dorset
I'm no expert, but if we get snow down here again this year it should make for some really easy tracking, you'll pick up fresh tracks easily, move more quietly and be able to see things like deer more easily because they wont blend in with the snow :D
Last year I was blown away by how my local forest came alive with tracks, I followed them and found all sorts of places and paths that the animals frequent, and I saw so many deer!
When there's no snow, I've found following a set of tracks to be really hard, especially if you're planning to do it fast and quietly enough to actually catch up with the animal!
But finding tracks that are used every day (routes down to water or places where they jump ditches/fences etc.) is quite a good way to spot them. Either wait quietly in a good concealed spot for a few hours, or just keep coming back to the same area, stopping 200 metres short and then creeping in.
I say get out and start practicing :D Most of all, don't be disappointed when you don't see anything. That's what makes it so special when you do see something, right? Otherwise we'd just go to the zoo!
 

THOaken

Native
Jan 21, 2013
1,299
1
27
England(Scottish Native)
I'm no expert, but if we get snow down here again this year it should make for some really easy tracking, you'll pick up fresh tracks easily, move more quietly and be able to see things like deer more easily because they wont blend in with the snow :D
Last year I was blown away by how my local forest came alive with tracks, I followed them and found all sorts of places and paths that the animals frequent, and I saw so many deer!
When there's no snow, I've found following a set of tracks to be really hard, especially if you're planning to do it fast and quietly enough to actually catch up with the animal!
But finding tracks that are used every day (routes down to water or places where they jump ditches/fences etc.) is quite a good way to spot them. Either wait quietly in a good concealed spot for a few hours, or just keep coming back to the same area, stopping 200 metres short and then creeping in.
I say get out and start practicing :D Most of all, don't be disappointed when you don't see anything. That's what makes it so special when you do see something, right? Otherwise we'd just go to the zoo!

Thanks, Will. I was wondering about snow. I had read it's quite good tracking conditions when it snows, but now I'm a little disappointed that it doesn't really snow in the south. However, surely mud is an decent preserver of tracks? Despite the weather, I think I'll just buy Animal Tracks and Signs and give it a go anyway. Oh, and I know that I probably won't see anything for a while.

:)
 

THOaken

Native
Jan 21, 2013
1,299
1
27
England(Scottish Native)
Thoughts on Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking to pick up as well? Apparently it's a good book to get you into the tracking mindset.

Edit: Also, I've read that Animal Tracks and Signs, the 2006 edition, has errors. Can someone please link to an updated version? I can't find it anywhere.
 
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stuart f

Full Member
Jan 19, 2004
1,397
11
53
Hawick, Scottish Borders
Hi THOaken, the animal tracks and sign book is a good book, for patterns and gait etc, but not much on getting started in tracking. The Tom Brown book you mention above is a good book and one i'd recommend, also another book i'd get is "The complete guide to tracking " by Bob Carrs, which you can pick up on Amazon cheaply, theses 2 books will give you a good grounding in the art of tracking.

What these books keep emphasizing is "dirt time", in other words spend as much time looking at tracks as possible.

Anyway i hope that helps.
Cheers Stuart.
 

THOaken

Native
Jan 21, 2013
1,299
1
27
England(Scottish Native)
Hi THOaken, the animal tracks and sign book is a good book, for patterns and gait etc, but not much on getting started in tracking. The Tom Brown book you mention above is a good book and one i'd recommend, also another book i'd get is "The complete guide to tracking " by Bob Carrs, which you can pick up on Amazon cheaply, theses 2 books will give you a good grounding in the art of tracking.

What these books keep emphasizing is "dirt time", in other words spend as much time looking at tracks as possible.

Anyway i hope that helps.
Cheers Stuart.
Thanks very much. There's Animal Tracks and Signs by Bang and Dahlstrom, Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking by Brown, your reccomendation by Carrs and also another one I've heard that's very good is Animals: Trails, Tracks and Signs by R.W Brown. That's a lot of reading, however I think I should limit myself to two books for now. I have to do some comparisons. Any help?
 

Goatboy

Full Member
Jan 31, 2005
14,956
13
Scotland
It's a good hobby and skill. Being able to read and intemperate the landscape as to what's been where is a wonderfully immersive skill to have. You get so much more from a simple wander. Stalking is also good fun, either with a rifle, camera or just yourself. Best stalk I ever had was managing to sneak up on two deer feeding in a forest ride. Though I did feel slightly guilty at the startled look on their faces as I stroked their backs. Took quite a while and a fair bit of cunning but was worth it. (Thank heavens for quiet clothing).
 

stuart f

Full Member
Jan 19, 2004
1,397
11
53
Hawick, Scottish Borders
The, Bang and Dahlstrom, and Animals: Trails, Tracks and Signs by R.W Brown, are very similar, i have both, so if i was you and your limiting yourself, then pick one of the 2 as they over lap each other. As for the others, i'd go for the Tom Brown book first. The reason is that the Bob Carrs book deals with more military sided tracking, but it is a good book none the less.

I hope that helps you out a bit.
Cheers Stuart.
 

THOaken

Native
Jan 21, 2013
1,299
1
27
England(Scottish Native)
The, Bang and Dahlstrom, and Animals: Trails, Tracks and Signs by R.W Brown, are very similar, i have both, so if i was you and your limiting yourself, then pick one of the 2 as they over lap each other. As for the others, i'd go for the Tom Brown book first. The reason is that the Bob Carrs book deals with more military sided tracking, but it is a good book none the less.

I hope that helps you out a bit.
Cheers Stuart.
Thanks, Stuart, much appreciated. The reason I'm limiting myself is due to money. Much though I like Mears and know that he reccomends Bang and Dalhstrom, I may go with the R.W Brown book if that is similar to it because I've heard the Bang and Dalhstrom book has quite a few errors. So R.W Brown and Tom Brown it is then, I reckon.
 

Hibrion

Maker
Jan 11, 2012
1,231
4
Ireland
Ray Mears has a book on tracking that is worth a read. Your best bet is to have a look at amazon and pick a few books and start reading. I've found that many of them tackle the topic form a different perspective. I remember reading one written by a military guy on tracking people and evading tracking; it gave a unique insight into tracking that I didn't get from reading books on animal tracking, or even tracking animals in the wild.

After you do some reading, an interesting thing to look out for is animal carcasses: small birds, rodents, etc. When you come across them it can be interesting to try discover what killed it, what has been feeding on it, and if there are tracks leading to/ away from it. It's quite an exciting place to start.
 
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shaggystu

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Nov 10, 2003
4,345
30
Derbyshire
...I've read that Animal Tracks and Signs, the 2006 edition, has errors. Can someone please link to an updated version? I can't find it anywhere.

The errors aren't massively important (and mainly obvious), if you do get an older version (with the errors) let me know and I'll let you know the corrections.

Biggest piece of advice I can give you for tracking - slow down, really really slow down.
 

THOaken

Native
Jan 21, 2013
1,299
1
27
England(Scottish Native)
The errors aren't massively important (and mainly obvious), if you do get an older version (with the errors) let me know and I'll let you know the corrections.

Biggest piece of advice I can give you for tracking - slow down, really really slow down.
Thanks. Good advice. I think that's why I'm definitely going to pick up Tom Brown's book about observation and tracking.
 

Stringmaker

Native
Sep 6, 2010
1,891
1
UK
I spent a day with a local stalker a couple of years ago and he used these terms which have stuck with me:

Highways
Byways
Footpaths

What he meant by that were the differences in scale between well worn obvious paths used by a number of animals, going down to subtle but still visible evidence of an individual. I managed to find a deer scrape used the previous night and was very happy.

On a very basic beginner level (like me), just look for gaps in hedgerows at ground level and you'll be amazed by what you will then find. As others have said, if you do get snow then go out and be astounded at the foot traffic that you'll find.
 

Goatboy

Full Member
Jan 31, 2005
14,956
13
Scotland
Like Stringmaker says snow can be good when you're beginning tracking as it shows tracks and prints, though thawing can produce oddly scaled sized tracks. Another good place for the beginner are remote sandy fore-shores. You'd be amazed at the amount of track sign left by visitors at low tide from beasts you usually wouldn't associate with the beech. But as there is an abundance of food there it gets many visitors and the sand leaves good impressions.

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Will_

Nomad
Feb 21, 2013
446
3
Dorset
I had read it's quite good tracking conditions when it snows, but now I'm a little disappointed that it doesn't really snow in the south. However, surely mud is an decent preserver of tracks?
Hi THOaken. Mud is probably way better at preserving tracks. Snow doesn't capture the shape of the footprint as well as mud, it melts, and fresh snow falling will cover tracks very quickly.
These same issues also make trying to follow fresh tracks in snow is a lot easier though.
When trying to follow tracks in mud, I've found that the trail often gets muddled with numerous other trails, and it's beyond my skill to decipher which one I was originally trying to follow.
I guess that is where the real art of tracking is found though...

This thread has made me want to get more into tracking! :D
I really liked the Highways Byways Footpaths advice, the dirt time advice, and the slow down advice.
 

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